The General Manager of the Radisson Blu Palace, Djerba is certainly one of the best placed professionals to talk about MICE in Djerba, having worked on the island for over 30 years. He talks about recent developments and the positioning of the Radisson chain – which seems to be adapting well to the Tunisian market, with new hotel memberships announced (including the Laico in Tunis).
In 2023, you were voted the best MICE hotel in Tunisia outside the Tunis region. Is this the effect of the hotel’s renovation?
First of all, I’d like to situate the MICE activity within our hotel. We handle around 90 MICE operations a year, including ten or so with more than 250 participants, mainly medical congresses. Indeed, in recent years, Djerba has become a serious option for this type of congress, in the same way as Tunis, Sousse or Hammamet were in the past.
In terms of volume, MICE represents some 10% of our overnight stays, and 12% in terms of sales. But what’s most important for our hotel is that this volume is generated during the low season, between November and March, when MICE sometimes accounts for 30% of our business volume. This is the main contribution of MICE: it enables us to extend the season and maintain good performance in winter.
Pharmaceutical company event at Radisson Blu Palace, Djerba
To come back to your question, our teams were very proud to win two prizes at the 1st Tunisia MICE Awards. They are reinforced in their quality approach towards specialized agencies and companies. The hotel’s renovation has also had an impact on the appreciation of the hotel by professionals, but also by individuals, since our satisfaction rating on the main booking platforms is now maintained at a very good level.
Renovation: the Panoramic Junior Suite
This improvement is commensurate with the investment made, since all 296 rooms and suites were renovated. A long three-year project (with no closures) has seen our rooms reborn in a new, more modern and more urban style, and has enabled a more rapid post-Covid recovery than at other establishments in Djerba.
That said, the Radisson Blu Palace Djerba has been a leader in the MICE market since it opened in 2006.
Wasn’t there also a “Francophonie summit effect” for Djerba?
Certainly. The success of the summit (November 19-20, 2022) convinced skeptics that Djerba had the means to host an event of this scale. Skepticism also existed among hoteliers, starting with myself. But in the end, Djerba rose to the challenge with flying colors. Our hotel hosted 14 delegations, as well as the gala dinner for the heads of state and government.
Gala dinner of the heads of state and government at the Francophonie summit
Today, Djerba benefits from the improvements made to its infrastructure during the summit. The Grand Casino de Djerba, which was used for the meetings, is now a must for major congresses, thanks to its capacity of up to 1,500 people.
After 2011, there was an almost total halt in MICE demand from Europe, although we continued to receive groups from the Radisson group. This lasted until 2019, when the international market picked up again.
After Covid, we can now speak of an upturn in demand, both from agencies and European companies. Even so, three-quarters of our business is with Tunisian DMCs.
The second MICE Award you received at the Tunisia MICE Awards was for Best Value for Money. Does this Award reflect the positioning of your hotel, and more generally that of the Radisson chain?
Customer satisfaction through good value for money is a strategic focus for the entire group and its 1,700 units and ten hotel brands. This is even truer for the Radisson Blu brand, whose operating slogan is “Every moment matters”, which isn’t just a slogan.
Event at the Turquoise restaurant, Radisson Blu Palace
At Radisson Blu, we focus on the “top quality/price” ratio. In the event of strong price pressure, which is sometimes the case in Djerba, we never compromise on our quality standards, while striving to remain competitive.
In this respect, I can confirm that if we lose a MICE contract, it’s always because of price, and that we prefer not to give in on rates rather than compromise the balance between quality and price.
As you may have noticed, for some Tunisian observers, MICE is sometimes confused with major conventions, and there would be no MICE without a major convention center. What’s your take on this?
MICE can be a laboratory inviting 40 doctors to Djerba for a half-day meeting without overnight accommodation; For us, it’s an additional revenue stream.
MICE can be anything from a 6-person meeting to a major congress, like the one we hosted recently with 1100 cardiologists spread over several hotels.
The plenary hall
It’s a total mistake to restrict MICE to large-scale conventions, especially as Djerba has a huge number of incentives. The most recent was the Talan event, which involved 360 participants.
As I mentioned at the start of this interview, out of the 90 or so events we host every year, there are only ten or so of more than 250 people. The others are all the more interesting for us as we have the necessary accommodation capacity in winter.