In focus - Forgotten child no more
ASEAN tourism leaders are finally paying collective attention to the business events sector, reports Xinyi Liang-Pholsena and Marissa Carruthers
In mid-January at the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), where tourism leaders of member nations have largely focused on the joint development of leisure tourism in South-east Asia, winds of change are finally bringing long overdue high-level and collective attention to the region’s business events industry.
Leading the charge in this development is the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), which is taking the existing Thailand MICE Venue Standard (TMVS) – adapted from international ISO quality standards – and remodelling it for use at the regional level as the new ASEAN MICE Venue Standard (AVMS).
Nichapa Yoswee, TCEB’s director of MICE capabilities development department, who spoke to TTGmice on the sidelines of the 45th Meeting of ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) at ATF on January 16 in Singapore, said: “TMVS is a tool used to incentivise business event operators to upgrade themselves. It already sees more than 400 meeting rooms certified in Thailand.”
The TMVS covers three categories – meeting rooms, exhibition venues and event events – with the meeting rooms standard further subdivided into three groups of hotels and resorts, convention centres and public facilities (e.g. stadiums, provincial halls, museums, etc).
According to Nichapa, the 45th Meeting of ASEAN NTOs will see the adoption of the final version of the AVMS (in the category of meeting rooms in hotel settings) as well as its Audit and Certification Manual. However, as of press time, there has been no further update.
Even more will happen come March this year. The ASEAN NTOs will have to discuss whether to expand the AVMS certification into exhibition venues or event venues next. And following an audit training, auditors from each member state will nominate certified venues in their country for the inaugural AVMS Awards at ATF 2018 which Thailand’s Chiang Mai will be host to.
Said Nichapa: “This is the first business events award at the ASEAN level and will mark a good first step for the industry to have stronger presence in South-east Asia. We hope to get at least 10 nominees from each country, but of course this depends on their readiness.”
ATF 2018 will also see the launch of the MICE Forum, which will feature seminars and a small exhibition to raise awareness of South-east Asia’s business events industry, according to Wiparat Tharateerapab, director, government and corporate affairs department, TCEB.
Another region-wide development on the business events front is led by the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism, as the coordinator for Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professional (MRA-TPA). It has already drawn up proposals to adopt and incorporate MICE competency standards at the ASEAN level.
Ani Insani, director for tourism institutional relations at the ministry, said: “Discussions are still ongoing and there needs to be workshops held with each of the countries. Having these standards means there is a minimum requirement so visitors to each of the 10 ASEAN countries know they can get the same service.”
These concerted efforts are matched by individual attention paid to the business events industry at the country level.
Said Baby de Luna-Landan, who helms the MICE department at the Tourism Promotion Board: “MICE and Events Tourism is (one of the priorities) of the National Tourism Development Plan of the Philippine Department of Tourism.”
Singapore, one of the most advanced business events destination in South-east Asia, has had its Business Events in Singapore fund, offered by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), expanded to support industry-driven business development initiatives and provide funding for local association members to start lobbying activities prior to biding for events. STB also recently collaborated with online platforms such as CNN and Bloomberg to establish Singapore as a premier MICE hub anchored on thought leadership and business opportunities.
On the other hand, Manivong Sounh, director general of Laos’ Tourism Marketing Department, says going niche is the way for his country to pursue its business events ambitions.
“We do not have the capacity or resources to cater to big events (so) we will focus on small-scale events and develop the relevant skills and knowledge,” he said.
Lending a hand to Laos’ MICE plans is the 2017 Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF), which will be organised by Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MCTO) in Luang Prabang this June.
Said Jens Thraenhart, executive director of MCTO: “We wanted to look at how smaller destinations can compete with cities for big events, so we came up with the answer of (showcasing) experiential events at MTF.
“This can be done by creating lots of smaller events such as ‘nature-based’ sessions at a waterfall. This will make meetings more experiential and could really make a difference to developing MICE destinations in a different way.”
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