Buyer Q&A: Unique Experiences, Sustainability and Tech Lead to Success

Looking to gain fresh insight into the MICE industry as we enter a new year, Meeting Spotlight turned to its Luxury MICE Buyer Council to get a firsthand look at what they are seeing. In a return to our Buyer Q&A series, we spoke with John Dirba, managing director of HelmsBriscoe, who told us that utilization of technology, incorporating sustainability and creating unique experiences are the key to a successful event in 2024 and beyond.

See our full conversation below:

Do you think the luxury MICE market is different from the overall MICE market? If so, why? 

John Dirba
John Dirba, managing director of HelmsBriscoe (Photo courtesy of John Dirba)

"Luxury" is the buzzword. Everyone is looking for experiential trips these days and adding in luxury to the mix can typically make a trip go from memorable to unforgettable. Not only is the luxury category different by offering upgraded or exclusive venues, but often it’s the small touches, such as attention to detail, that push the experience into a luxury category.   

What makes a meeting or incentive “luxury” in your experience? Is there an example of a luxury service or a “special touch” you’ve created or experienced?

High-end venues, personalized service and elevated food. I love having a butler. I never use their services as it’s still new to me, but having this now a couple of times makes me feel very special.

Do you have or have you had a mentor relationship? How has this impacted you? 

Of course. I think everyone benefits from a mentor relationship [and] that goes both ways. I have had a few people mentor me throughout my career and they are still there for me whenever I call. It’s also expanded as I get older and someone steps in to aid me for “that time in my life.” I’ve also had the experience of being someone’s mentor. Whether that was done consciously or not, it was a relationship that I valued, as I felt like I was giving back. It also gave me a fresh perspective on my work at hand, as often these were younger colleagues than myself, or newer to the industry, so it gave me the opportunity to stop and reflect in a new, more modern way.

What do you believe will be a game-changer for the MICE industry in 2024?  

It feels as though the leisure market is resetting from post-COVID levels. That increase in the market made rates out of hand. Although rates are at an all-time high and look to remain that way for the coming future, it will allow the MICE industry to find acceptable dates available and patterns that best fit the customer. These past few years, clients have had to make exceptions to locations, patterns and dates in addition to paying a higher rate.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career? 

Patience and communication. They often go hand in hand in my experience but being able to be patient and communicate (which also means to listen) has been an invaluable lesson for me.

What is your vision for the MICE Industry?   

The future of the industry may involve increased integration of technology for seamless event management, enhanced sustainability practices, and a focus on creating unique and engaging experiences for participants. Adapting to changing trends and new technologies and prioritizing sustainability could shape the evolving landscape of the MICE industry.

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