Outlook 2018 – part 2

Most Asian specialists for inbound and outbound business events are forecasting clear, blue skies ahead for the New Year. (Part 2)

Tian Tan Buddha at Po Lin Monastery Hong Kong
Tian Tan Buddha at Po Lin Monastery Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has closed 2017 on a good note, and a “strong line-up of events scheduled in 2018” is expected to keep the good vibes going for Hong Kong’s business events industry, said an HKTB spokesperson.

The spokesperson revealed that direct selling companies are one of the biggest drivers of business events into the destination, with Hong Kong welcoming its first Unicity Global Leadership and Innovation Conference this year. As well, scheduled to sweep onto Hong Kong’s shores is Nu Skin Greater China Convention 2018. Both events will bring about 35,000 overseas delegates to Hong Kong.

Medical events are going strong too, with at least 10 such gatherings won for 2018, eight of which are new to either Hong Kong or Asia.
China is expected to top the source markets chart for 2018, based on its strong performance in 2017.

“Overnight MICE arrivals from China grew 7.6 per cent year-on-year in the first three quarters of 2017,” said the HKTB spokesperson, who added that the Chinese made up half of Hong Kong’s overall business events arrivals for 2017.

Business positivity extends to the supplier side.

The Park Lane Hong Kong, a Pullman Hotel expects significant growth in 2017 to flow into 2018. Stella Gillera, vice president, sales and marketing, sees bright spots in meetings and incentives, particularly from longhaul markets. However, regional source markets and Hong Kong will continue to dominate the supply of business event leads.

Gunther Homerlein, general manager of Destination China, believes that growth will be driven mainly by pharmaceutical companies.

However, he expects business to be harder to come by unless venues and hotels “become more reasonable and realistic” in their pricing.
He said: “Our hotels, restaurants and venues…do not realise that we have much more competition in the region (where destinations are priced) more reasonably. Even Shangri-La Hotel in Paris offers a better priced lunch than a middle-of-the-road restaurant in Hong Kong.” – Prudence Lui

Tokyo Tower, Japan

Japan’s MICE arrivals are climbing in tandem with the booming leisure sector, with the total of 26.2 million visitors in the first 11 months of 2017 likely to be surpassed in the new year.

“We anticipate that conventions will be our strongest sector in 2018 as university research institutes and the national government are strengthening support programmes for congress organisers,” said Etsuko Kawasaki, executive director of the Japan Convention Bureau.

“Local authorities are also putting into action plans to upgrade existing facilities and construct new convention spaces before 2020, including in Yokohama, Okinawa and Kumamoto,” she added. “That is helping to create an environment in which it is possible to cater to large-scale business events.”

Science, technology and the medical sciences will remain the major drivers in 2018, while there are also expectations that robotics and artificial intelligence will become increasingly important.

Hiromi Murayama, head, sales promotion division of Pacifico Yokohama convention centre, is focused on “attracting conventions and meetings from European markets due to the high concentration of associations’ headquarters there”.

Jared Stenhouse, managing director of Destination Asia Japan office, projects a strong incentive segment in 2018, “as buyers look forward to the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympic Games the following year”.

“Surprisingly, we are seeing a rise in business from Latin America – Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, in particular, thanks to the recent addition of direct flights between Mexico City and Japan,” he said.

“For us, maybe Europe has peaked but we are seeing strong demand in the automotive and retail sectors from other parts of the world,” he added. – Julian Ryall

St Paul’s Ruin, Macao

Macau’s continued tourism development and intense destination promotions worldwide are expected to extend 2017’s growth in business events into 2018, according to Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM).

Notable events coming to town include the 4th World Cashew Convention and the 47th Skal Asia Congress.

An IPIM spokesperson revealed that corporate meetings made up the strongest segment in 3Q2017 (56.2 per cent of all business events in Macau). Association meetings (28 per cent) and government meetings, incentives and exhibitions (15.8 per cent) followed next.
Asia is the strongest of all source markets, said the spokesman. “The region remains economically stable and the MICE industry continues to be buoyant.”

MCI Macau, director of business development and events, Olinto Oliveira, is excited about 2018. He said: “2017 was a bounce back from a forgettable 2016, and I think 2018 continues that trend (especially due to) more event spaces opening up (to cater to large gatherings).”

Oliveira expects continued growth in exhibitions but weaker revenue generation from smaller meetings and incentives. And for the new year, he is keeping an eye on South Korea, as the market “came through at a higher clip than traditionally”.

Sands Resorts Macao, senior vice president of marketing and brand management, Ruth Boston, is also confident of healthy business in 2018. “We believe this growth will be driven by a number of factors including the increased (accessibility of) Macau and the continued expansion of Macau’s hotel room inventory. We will see growth in incentives and meetings. In addition to the US, China has a lot of room for growth in both conferences and incentives,” she said. – Prudence Lui

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