[photopress:warriors.jpg,full,alignright]If this blog has a true purpose in life it is education of the readers in acronyms.
You will, of course, recall that MICE stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions. Now you must add to that SMERFS and there will be questions on this in the term paper.
SMERFs stands for Social, Military, Education, Religious, and Fraternity and these are groups traveling Asia and offering extra potentional travel sales. Our illustration is of a very early SMERF group visiting China.
This is appropriate for SMERF especially applies in China to second tier cities with second tier hotels. Forget Beijing and Shanghai and the super-luxury hotels. SMERFs are not to be found there. They have lesser ambitions and lower budgets.
The SMERF reasons for traveling in a group vary widely — study and learning, fraternizing, group bonding, whatever — but their most important characteristic is that when the times get tough the SMERFs get traveling. They are very cost conscious and when prices drop they appear as if by magic. They do not mind gathering in non-peak times if it helps to keep costs down.
Don Birch, president and CEO of Abacus International, says that despite being budget conscious, the SMERFs collectively form a huge market and have vast untapped potential for Asian travel markets. (Abacus International is owned by Sabre and a consortium of Asia’s leading airlines including All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, EVA Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Dragonair, Philippine Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, SilkAir and Singapore Airlines. Thus we are in the right area.)
He works his figures based on an accepted US formula that ‘the SMERF market is equivalent to about one third of the total MICE market.’ Remember the equation: three SMERFs equals one MICE.
He said, ‘Whereas their better known cousins the MICE are serviced by specialist divisions within major hotel groups, travel agencies and dedicated Government programmes, the SMERFS are often below the radar and therefore harder to measure.’
He said, ‘We used to think about SMERF groups as a market niche for budget hotels and hostel-style accommodation, now they use convention and conference centers, university facilities, suburban hotels, downtown hotels, resorts and even unsold apartment complexes.’
Don Birch of Abacus says there are some commonly accepted issues in targeting the SMERF market. For example recent hotel cost increases are not good news for SMERFs. He said, ‘More meetings and higher hotel prices can limit options for SMERFS, but SMERF planners can still find open arms in markets such as second and third tier cities eager to lure back budget groups.’
The internet plays a key role as both a research and communication channel for both SMERF planners and sales and marketing teams.
Don Birch said, ‘The internet clearly improves the chances of buyers and sellers in the SMERF universe finding a good match on location, venue and the experiences to be offered during the period of travel.’
Remember the word SMERF. We will be dealing with it again later in the term.