by Marta Szkaradkiewicz, Jakub Chruscinski, Paulina Druzynska, Paulina Plociennik & Witold Osak, Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences
The paper is a preprint of the article submitted by the authors to The Tourism Journal. The research was co-funded by Norway Grants, under agreement No. FSS/2013/IIC/W/0008/U/0023 between the Foundation for the Development of the Education System – responsible for the Scholarship and Training Fund, Inter-Institutional Cooperation and the University of Lodz.
Business tourism plays an important role in the tourism industry of Lodz. However, compared to other Polish cities, there are relatively not many MICE meetings organised. The purpose of this article is therefore to analyse opportunities and limitations of MICE tourism development in Lodz comparing to the city’s potential. The results indicate the most important strategic actions that should be taken in order to improve the situation of business tourism in Lodz. Key words: MICE, Lodz, business tourism, meeting industry.
Business tourism has a relatively short history, in the United States and Europe dating back roughly sixty years. While in other parts of the world this history is even shorter (Bartoszewicz et al., 2003). In the recent years the pace of change in this tourism sector in Poland has been very dynamic. The main reasons for that are political-economic transformations which occurred in Poland after 1989 (Bartoszewicz et al., 2003) and Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004 (UNWTO, 2006). These events led to a huge increase in the number of touristic trips to the country which directly and indirectly affects the economic development of Poland. The tourism industry has begun to play an important role in the creation of new work places and therefore impact economic-business competitiveness of cities and regions in Poland. In the era of globalization large urban centres have become the main beneficiaries and the generators of demand for more and more dynamically growing tourism industry, including one of its types – business tourism (PCB, 2015).
In the available literature of the subject one may find a wide range of different definitions of MICE tourism. One of the most directly related to the subject of business tourism is the definition provided by Rob Davidson in 1994 which states that “business tourism is concerned with people traveling for purpose which are related to their work. As such is represents one of the oldest forms of tourism, man having travelled for this purpose of trade since very early times.” (Swarbrook & Horner, 2001). Medlik (1995) defines business tourism trips as those “made by employees and others in the course of their work, including attending meetings, conferences and exhibitions.” Business tourism nowadays is most often equated with the term derived from the first letters of words: “Meetings”, “Incentives”, “Conferences” and “Exhibitions”. MICE term is used in relation to the type of tourism, where in advance large groups of people usually purposely are connected to each other via well-planned events focused around a specific topic. Published by the International Association of Professional Congress Organizers (IAPCO) in collaboration with the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) Meeting Industry Terminology book serves as a dictionary for this segment of the industry. The definition of each word of the MICE acronym is provided (CEC & IAPCO, 1992):
- Meetings – the act of meeting several people in one place, in the purpose of confer or carry out a particular action. The frequency of meetings may depended on the needs of the moment or occur periodically in the established form, such as general meetings, committee meetings, etc.
- Incentives – motivating event included in the program, which is offered to the participants as a reward for efficient work results. Apart from the clients and contractors, incentives may also focus workers’ families.
- Conferences – a meeting during which participants hold consultations or discussions leading to the establishment of the facts or solving problems. Compared to the congresses, conferences are organized usually in a smaller scale. Specialists are gathered that facilitates the exchange of information on a specific topic. The term “conference” has got no specific connotation regarding frequency.
- Exhibitions – events during which products and services are exhibited or presented.
In addition, initiatives of such rapidly growing segment of the industry have occurred to move away from the present concept “MICE market” and replace it wider description covering all above-mentioned aspects, which is Meetings Industry.
The aim of the article is the analysis of the selected factors influencing development of MICE tourism. The determinants are grouped in two areas: infrastructure and image. On the basis of this analysis the most important strategic activities aiming at increasing the attractiveness of the city of Lodz in the business tourism sector have been distinguished.
Determinants of MICE tourism development in Lodz
Annual surveys of tourist flow in Lodz show business tourists constitute the most numerous group in the total number of tourists in the city (Włodarczyk, 2012). The development of tourism depends on the tourist potential, i.e. the stream of goods creating conditions of the development of tourism in the area (Pawlicz, 2008). The tourist potential has a significant influence on determinants of the development of tourism. The activities necessary to create high feasibility strategy of the MICE development consist of tourist potential analysis, its objective assessment and business tourism development factors identification (Leśniewska, Moterski & Żek, 2012).
According to Nawrocka (2013) the most important factors in the development of business tourism include: tourist attractiveness, higher education and research institutes, diverse cultural offer, sports and recreation facilities, good transport accessibility, high standard of tourist accommodation and congress infrastructure.
For the purposes of this study selected factors were grouped together into two areas: infrastructure and image. The infrastructure group includes transport accessibility, accommodation facilities and congress infrastructure. The term image should be understood as the outside image of the city, perceiving the city by his residents and the promotion of the city as a place for MICE events. The above mentioned factors were juxtaposed with the potential for development of creative human capital and the promotion of industrial heritage of Lodz which being appropriate managed could become distinguishing elements compared to other urban centres in Poland.
Infrastructure is the basic requirement in the planning process of MICE events. Transport accessibility, quality of hotel services and capacity of congress facilities are the elements constituting a competitive advantage to one destination over another. Cities compete with each other for becoming destination of great events and the arrival of guests. Some urban centres can build their advantage on the specific conditions associated with the location (e.g. Gdansk), with history (e.g. Cracow), with performed administrative function (e.g. Warsaw). Lodz despite its central location and rich industrial history cannot easily jump the gaps in the development of business tourism.
1.1 Transport connections
Lodz is located in a central part of Poland, at the distance of 110 kilometres (about 1 hour 45 minutes by car) from Warsaw. In the distance below 300 km from Lodz there are 7 polish agglomerations: Warsaw, Bydgoszcz, Poznan, Wroclaw, Katowice, Cracow, and Lublin. Figure 1 shows the biggest cities in Poland and Europe which are accessible up to 5 hours by car from Lodz. Within that distance cities of all agglomerations of northern, western, and southern Poland and also Berlin are located. Accessibility of Lodz by car is undoubtedly a positive, strong factor enhancing MICE tourism development in that city.
Fig. 1: Polish voivodeships capital cities and European cities in the distance within 5 hours by car
Source: Authors’ own study.
In case of railways, time distances are also being reduced. It is the mostly observable in case of connections with Warsaw: in 2 hours one can travel there from Lodz. It takes about 2.5 hours to get to Poznan or Krakow, and about 3 hours to Gdansk. Travel to Wroclaw takes about 3.5 hours. According to Master plan for Railway Transport in Poland till 2030 (Ministerstwo Infrastruktury, 2008), priority tasks in the field of railway network development are:
- Creating high-speed lines between the biggest agglomerations in country;
- Creating lines missing in current railway network;
- Creating connections between city centres and their airports.
Especially first and third tasks are the keys to MICE tourism development in Lodz. Those tasks may contribute to improving connections between Lodz and main Polish centres of MICE tourism. They can also fasten connections with neighbouring countries, and also raise the standard of connects between airports and travel destinations. Master plan provides also that by 2030 Lodz will be connected with Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw, and largely with Cracow, Katowice by railway allowing speed 201-300 km per hour. Moreover, speed limit higher than 141 km per hour will be available between Lodz and other cities e.g.: Szczecin, Gdansk, Bydgoszcz, Torun, Bialystok, Lublin, Rzeszow, and also on lines going to borders with Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Travel time from Lodz to the biggest agglomerations in Poland and country’s western and southern neighbours will significantly shorten. Domestic railway connections might become time-competitive to flights by offering higher comfort for lower price. Additionally, trains emit less CO2 to atmosphere which makes them more environmentally friendly mean of transportation than plains. Environmental protection seems to become a trendy issue in MICE industry recently. Together with innovative investment and promotion actions, such as promotion of New Lodz Fabryczna near New Centre of Lodz, cumulative impacts of described factors can cause an increase of interest of Lodz as a place for MICE events.
However, in order to improve competitiveness of Lodz on European MICE market, it is necessary establish permanent and robust flight connections. Lodz Wladyslaw Reymont Airport is located in the south-western part of the city, about 6 km from the centre. Regular connections from Lodz Wladyslaw Reymont Airport are offered to 6 european cities – Amsterdam, Dublin, East Midlands, London Stansted, Munich and Oslo Rygge (www.airport.lodz.pl). Airport doesn’t offer domestic flights. Each week, there are 17 international flights. In 2014 overall traffic decreased by 45% in comparison to 2012. Low availability of international flight network limits MICE tourism development in Lodz.
If number of MICE events is taken into consideration, Lodz is far behind other Polish MICE tourism centres. Among cities which are comparable in population with Lodz – Cracow, Wroclaw, Poznan and Gdansk – each hosted more MICE events than Lodz in 2014. With almost 4000 events, Cracow was the leader. Warsaw held 3586 meetings in the same year. To add more, simple analysis of number of possible flight destinations for airports in each mentioned cities shows that each of them offers at least five times more connections with European cities and also several domestic flights. Lodz has 7th position with almost 3 times lower score than the leader – Cracow. It is easy to notice, that Lodz significantly stands out in terms of number of domestic flight connections.
Table 1. MICE tourism leaders in Poland in 2014
|City||Number of meetings||Number of flight connections (including domestic flights)|
As it was mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, infrastructure is the basic requirement organising MICE events. Lodz has relatively good road connections. However, if Lodz is as available by plane as other MICE tourism leader cities, it might take place in a close top. Therefore, city authorities should endeavour to improve airport offer with main objectives being capital cities of European countries and – necessarily – the biggest interchange centres.
1.2 Accommodation services and congress infrastructure
Business tourists is a group with high requirements compared with other groups. This applies both to the type of expected service and their quality. Mostly business visitors decide to stay one or more days, related to a specific event. Due to the limited time, it is vital for such clients to be provided with comfortable accommodation, access to the restaurant and proximity to the place of the meeting, the train or the airport. This kind of amenities and high quality services are appreciated. According to the report by the Institute of Tourism and Activ Group Company (IT & AGC, 2012) in 2012 every tourist who come to Poland for business spent an average of 415 USD. This is from 10% to 45% more than what tourist arriving for health or tourism purposes spent. Business tourists is also the only group whose expenses in 2012 increased relative to the previous year.
31 hotels were located in the city of Lodz in 2013. The largest group constitute three-star hotels (about 42%), i.e. hotels with an average standard. The city does not host any 5-star hotel. However, there were five 4-star hotels (CSO, 2015). According to Poland Meetings & Events Industry Report 2014 (PCB, 2015), which was prepared by Poland Convention Bureau, Lodz has got bottom places in the ranking of Polish cities. Among the 191 meetings of international associations in Poland in 2013, only 4 took place in Lodz. Taking into account total the number of meetings and events in Polish cities in 2013 only 3.2% of the meetings took place in Lodz (Celuch, 2014). According to the CSO report average annual occupancy rate of hotels in 2013 was at the level of 35.2%, 44.4% in Poznan and 54.5% in Wroclaw. It should also be noted that these two comparable cities occupy places in the top four in the ranking of MICE tourism leaders.
Another element of the infrastructure for MICE tourism are meeting places – convention centres, conference rooms and halls, fairs and exhibitions centres. Due to the fact that meeting is the direct motive for this type of tourist activity, capacity and quality of such facilities are extremely important. Not only technical conditions are considered, but also transport accessibility and hotels’ proximity. The characteristics of the capacity and quality of conference objects are different for Lodz and Poznan thanks to historical implications (see Table 2). Poznan has got a long history of trade fairs organised since 1925. That is why, International Fair Trade Centre and recently built Inea Stadion constitute biggest congress and conference locations in the city. Total number of seats in conference halls and rooms is almost twice as big as in Lodz. Inea Stadion with capacity of 44 thousand people makes the average number of seats in conference halls and room in one establishment very high. However, the average number of seats in conference halls and rooms offered by one establishment, excluding Atlas Arena in Lodz and Inea Stadion in Poznan shows that Lodz has got less but bigger hotel and congress fascilities to offer. The same is proven for luxury hotels (see Table 2). Though there are 5-star hotels in Poznan, together with 4-star hotels they do not provide such spatious congress rooms as only 4-star hotels in Lodz.
Table 2. Congress and conference infrastructure in Lodz and Poznan in 2015
|Number of seats in conference halls and rooms||33341||66807|
|Average number of seats in conference halls and rooms offered by one establishment||775.4||1060.4|
|Average number of seats in conference halls and rooms offered by one establishment, excluding Atlas Arena in Lodz and Inea Stadion in Poznan||459.9||355.9|
|Number of seats in conference halls and rooms offered by luxury hotels||4955||3995|
|Average number of seats in conference halls and rooms offered by one luxury hotel||825.8||285.4|
2. Image of Lodz in the MICE sector
It is necessary to create attractive image of a city to encourage tourists to visit the city. Shaping positive image of a place is a very complex process since there are many factors which need to be considered. In very basic terms, image can result from a friendly environment built among others by cultural heritage, natural conditions and events organised in the certain place. In the case of Lodz, both of these groups of factors, cultural heritage and events, constitute a chance to positively affect improving the perception of the city.
Creating strong positive brand and image of a city is nowadays an important factor to build its competitive advantage (Boryczka et al., 2010). The main motives for which tourists decide to visit a city are tourist attractiveness and trade understood as all events and meetings (Mundt, 2001). The attractiveness of the Lodz is significantly affected by industrial heritage, but the Lodz Voivodeship as well as Lodz does not have popular touristic image (Włodarczyk, 2012). Despite of the Lodz’s huge potential it is currently difficult for Lodz to compete with other Polish cities in terms of leisure tourism and city tourism. The first motive related to the tourist attractiveness of the city is still insufficient for leisure and city tourism. Lodz offers post-industrial architecture and technical monuments tourism which is a relatively new phenomenon in Poland and thus less popular (Jędrysiak, 2011). However, the unique character of Lodz can support the MICE tourism development, where the main motives for coming to the city are meetings, incentives, conferences, congresses, exhibitions and other events. MICE events taking place in renewed post-industrial spaces together with high quality tourism infrastructure may become unique Lodz’s tourism product aimed at business visits.
The primary goal of marketing is to know and understand the customer needs to sell the tourism product (Panasiuk, 2013). With the use of marketing tools, the increase in the number of tourists in the field of group business tourism in a city is possible (Pawlicz, 2008). Lodz Convention Bureau is engaged in promotion of incentive and conference tourism in the city. This organization has operated within the structures of the city authorities only since 2013 year. Its aim is mainly to support meetings industry and existing and potential customers, so as to increase the number of international congresses and conferences organised in Lodz (www.convention.lodz.pl). Lodz Convention Bureau implements a project entitled “Business tourism as a branded tourism product of Lodz” with the support of EU funds. The project includes such activities as preparing internet website on tourism for business in Lodz in many languages, publishing a catalogue, organizing the meetings for Lodz MICE industry and PCO, arranging reporters’ visits, conducting promotional campaigns in media, representing Lodz on the largest business tourism fairs, like EIBTM or IMEX. The other bodies responsible for marketing activities related to tourism in Lodz are Promotion, Tourism and International Cooperation Office operating at the City Hall and the Tourist Information Centre.
In order to strategically develop MICE industry in Lodz, citizens’ potential should also be strengthen. Currently, the image of the city is strongly influenced by young people who are full of ideas and who break stereotypes of Lodz as “city of old people and old tenement houses”. Building creative industries and supporting young entrepreneurs is included in the Integrated Development Strategy for Lodz 2020+ (UMŁ, 2012a) and Lodz’s Brand Strategy (UMŁ, 2012b). Promotional activities recorded in the strategic documents strive to change the city’s image of the bankrupt textile industry for a strong centre with a vibrant creative sector (Nowakowska & Szkaradkiewicz, 2013). In fact, young inhabitants notice and easily list the strongest aspects of socio-economic development of Lodz. By far the strongest of them young people consider higher education as well as entertainment and culture. This is confirmed by the results of the surveys described in the report Lodz in the eyes of students of public Universities in Lodz (Boryczka et al., 2010). Undoubtedly, the high level of higher education is a strong asset for Lodz and triggers scientific conferences and congresses market. In Lodz, there are 23 universities, 6 of them are state schools and 17 are non-state institutions. The largest and most important universities in Lodz are University of Lodz and the Technical University of Lodz. The number of scientific conferences organized by the Lodz’s universities in the last five years amounted to 184 (own study based on the portal bazakonferencji.pl). University of Lodz organizes most conferences in the field of humanities and economics. Cultural events city hosts are for instance Lodz Design Festival and Fashion Week and a number of festivals, including the City of Four Cultures.
In the mentioned report, one may find advantages of Lodz that were identified by students: central location in Poland and city accessibility and development of service sector. The first two of these replies confirm the factors described in the preceding chapters. The third proves that service sector is perceived by young inhabitants as a huge opportunity for employment. If properly targeted this sector can be a very important pillar for MICE in Lodz. Investor Service Office is engaged in the preparation of investment offers of the city Lodz for investors creating new jobs, particularly in priority sectors, i.e. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), logistics, production of household appliances and IT. Lodz becomes more and more attractive city for companies that want to locate centre of modern business services in Poland. The largest centres located in Lodz belong to Infosys, BRE Centre Operations, Fujitsu Services, South Western, and Tate & Lyle. According to the report Business Services for the Financial Sector. Success Story of Poland (ABSL, 2013), employment in the foreign centres of the financial services sector institutions in Poland tripled in the period from 2008 to 2013 year. Cracow takes the first position in terms of the number of service centres belonging to the international financial sector institutions (8 centres) and in terms of employment (over 4 thousand people). Six of such centres are located in Lodz, and three in Wroclaw, Warsaw and the Tri-City. According to Lodz Convention Bureau, there were 430 business conferences in Lodz in 2013. In 2014, this number increased significantly up to 1,241 business meetings organized in 18 conference venues, of which 646 were conferences and congresses and 402 corporate events.
Conference and congress facilities, hotels and the unique character of them are related to the industrial heritage of Lodz. The remains of the industrial era, i.e. brick walls of factories, workers’ houses and palaces of wealthy entrepreneurs create the unique character of Lodz. Post-industrial real estates in the city, which undergo revitalization (e.g. Manufaktura and Ksiezy Mlyn), create a new space for tourism. Currently in Lodz, you can find more than 200 buildings that bear testimony of the industrial history of the city (Moterski, 2011). These buildings are revitalized and adapted for hotels with meeting rooms (e.g. Hotel Andel’s and Focus), museums (e.g. The Museum of Cinematography in Ksiezy Mlyn) and centres of art and culture (e.g. EC1). They are still, however, only spot locations surrounded by deteriorating urban tissue which are not able to change the overall negative image of Lodz. It is necessity to increased sense of security and improve the aesthetics of the city, so that MICE events can become a part of city’s regular rhythm.
Lodz bound by its heritage is struggling to attract MICE events. The most important limitations for MICE tourism development in Lodz that were identified in this paper are: poor flight connection offer, negative image of insecurity and ruins of industrial architectural heritage, low competitive position in terms of conference locations and hotels provision comparing to other big polish cities, lack of 5-star hotel infrastructure. Even though these limitations are difficult to overcome, there are a lot of possibilities that has potential to outweigh obstacles. Lodz has fast and convenient road connections to 7 Polish agglomerations. The MICE infrastructure is already developing at impressive pace and business processes are supported by specialised city offices. Old factories are being revitalised and the unique character if the city underlined. Change is Lodz is envisaged by strategic documents concerning its image and leading economic sectors.
Analysis of selected determinants of MICE tourism development in Lodz, their limitations, and most of all the opportunities made it possible to identify priority directions of activities in order to improve Lodz competitive position in MICE industry in Poland. Lodz has a possibility to become the city where all the big events, business meetings, congresses are organized regularly and become the place where the meetings provide unique experiences and inspiration, through effective and creative use of local potential based on city’s identity and its cultural heritage. Having the limitations and possibilities analyzed, the selected strategic courses of action that are key to achieving the described goals are: to improve train and flight accessibility of the city, increasing marketing effectiveness and targeting it at the MICE tourism, improving the quality of infrastructure and the standard of services offered in congress centers and hotels and most important of all improving the quality of unique events and business related services in Lodz.
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