From new venues to innovative social media outreach programmes, Taiwan is doing what it can to keep raising its appeal as a business events destination, reports Paige Lee Pei Qi
When Meet Taiwan launched its four-year Taiwanâs MICE Industry Pilot Program in 2013 it had in mind a single aim to steer Taiwanâs MICE industry to a shining position on the global stage through the rapid development of related facilities and services.
Lily Su, senior manager of Meet Taiwan, said: âWe are now elevating the quality and efficiency of MICE services to sharpen Taiwanâs international image and competitive edge as a MICE brand.â
Aiding Taiwanâs branding effort is a successful meeting app called Shake and Share, which took home the Best Marketing Award at the ICCA Congress in 2012. It invites event delegates to play the role of destination promoters by sharing photos of their time in Taiwan through social media channels.
According to Su, the app has been used by 13 international conferences and more than 30,000 attendees from 60 countries.
âIt is getting increasingly competitive with so many countries fighting (for events) so we must keep up and make sure we can stand out from the rest,â Su said.
Having said that, Su opined that Taiwan is already very competitive in the global conference market.
âWe have a track record of hosting more than 100 ICCA qualified events every year, which demonstrates our extensive practical experience in this area. Delegates can be confident of hosting conferences in Taiwan.â
According to ICCAâs 2013 ranking of destinations by the number of conventions hosted a year, Taipei took 27th spot on the global chart with 117 qualified events in 2012. It ranked eighth across Asia that year.
Su said key congresses held over the past few years include the 2011 International Design Alliance Congress which pulled in 3,000 visitors, the International Real Estate Federationâs 64th annual congress in 2013 with 1,000 delegates, and the Asia-Pacific ITS Forum and Exhibition 2011 that involved 568 participants from more than 20 countries.
Louis Su, general manager of Taiwan Investment & Business Centre, told TTGmice that Taiwan is recognised especially for its âimpressive levelâ of research and development in medical, technology and scientific sectors.
Sharing similar sentiments is Adam Cheng, executive director of Dongda International Development Consultant, who organises conferences. He said: âTaiwan is quite advanced in research and development, so it attracts a lot of conferences in health and science industries. Such conferences are good for our economy because the attendance for one event can range from 1,000 to 10,000.â
Besides Taipei, Taiwan Investment & Business Centreâs Su said Taichung, Kaohsiung and Taitung are cities that are hotting up as destinations for congresses now.
Kaohsiung Exhibition Center which opened its doors in April and the TWTC Nangang Exhibition Hall 2 in Taipei, to be completed in June 2016, are two new venues that Su expects will create new opportunities for Taiwan in the Asian MICE industry.
Emphasising Taiwanâs overall appeal as a business events destination, Cheng said âthe beauty of Taiwan is that we have convenient transport routes linking city to city, allowing event delegates to explore other parts of Taiwan (beyond Taipei)â.
He added: âTaipei is a convenient and practical option (for business events) but if organisers or delegates want a more unique experience, like a destination with stronger culture for instance, Tainan can be considered.â
Tainanâs effort to restore old buildings and preserve historical monuments in recent years has helped to create a distinct local cultural and artistic space. Almost like a testament to its efforts, Tainan elbowed its way into the ICCA rankings for the first time in 2011. The following year, Tainan was placed the 82nd city in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East ranking, having hosted five meetings.
According to Meet Taiwanâs Su, most conferences in Tainan are hosted by pharmaceutical companies. It is also common to see conference groups in Taipei extending south to Tainan for a local cultural tour.
Kaohsiung, which also made it to the ICCA rankings for the first time in 2011, came in at 36th spot with 14 congresses in 2012.
Encouraged by their entry into the prized ICCA rankings, Tainan and Kaohsiung now have big plans to enhance their event infrastructure in the near future.
As these cities enjoy a cooler climate than their northern sisters, conference activities need not be confined to indoor venues but can be extended to the outdoor environment, rendering more flexible use of available spaces.
Meanwhile, even more is being done to further enhance Taiwanâs brand value. Last December, Meet Taiwan unveiled a new graphic design with the message, Love at First Sight, as the overall conceptual image of the Meet Taiwan programme.
It joins current branding messages Come Together in Taiwanâs Exhibition for the exhibitions sector, Listen to Your Idea for the meetings and conferences sector, and Encounter Taiwanâs Splendid Life for the incentive sector.
Su noted that Taiwanâs brand image was further boosted by a New York Times listing that placed the country number 11 on its list of 52 Places to Go in 2014, published earlier this year.
A day in Danshui
Kick off your morning with a 40-minutes ride to Danshui from your hotel in Taipei city centre.
Head to the traditional market in the heart of Danshui, where locals purchase their daily supplies. Watch farmers trade produce in a lively atmosphere.
Next, pay the famous Danshui Longshan Temple a visit and continue onwards to the nearby Danshui Master Temple. The latter is home to several statues of divine beings as well as exquisite carvings.
Walk on to Danshui Old Street, where traditional buildings are constructed with red bricks. Hear how the government of Taiwan had planned to rebuild this area at one time and how the local residents â together with history and culture experts â joined forces to preserve the architecture. Today, this authentic street has become one of Danshuiâs most unique attractions.
Your exploration of Danshui continues on to the Little White House, the former home of the Danshui Tax Division, and Fort San Domingo, a red fort built by the Spanish. Here, consider how each colonial building portrays Danshuiâs different eras and offers an interesting juxtaposition to earlier sights.
Amid the walking, donât miss the opportunity to sample Danshuiâs most famous and authentic dish â ah gei, made with a sheet of beancurd stuffed with bean thread noodles and eaten with sweet or spicy sauces. In addition to fish ball soup, enjoy other local snacks such as grilled squid, local biscuits and an array of delicious desserts.
Itinerary by Etravel Connect
Need to know
A grand new stay in Taipei
Scheduled to open this month, the luxurious Mandarin Oriental, Taipei is a grand structure in the business district on Dunhua North Road. It offers 256 rooms and a versatile range of event spaces including the Grand Ballroom, a 960mÂ˛ space with 7.3-metre high ceiling. This venue can accommodate up to 1,200 guests.
For event planners who require smaller venues, the Mandarin Ballroom is good for up to 550 guests while each of the five Oriental rooms can be configured in different layouts for 10 to 110 guests.
Other facilities include an array of quality dining destinations and a two-storey spa.
Easier ways to get connected
The Taiwan Tourism Bureau has updated its popular iTaiwan free Wi-fi scheme, making it even easier for international tourists to take advantage of free Internet connection across the country.
Whereas in the past visitors to Taiwan had to queue at the airport for an iTaiwan username and password, today they can conveniently apply for the same online, ahead of their arrival.
The iTaiwan scheme is open to any international tourist visiting the country and access to free Wi-Fi is valid for up to 30 days, with the possibility of extending to 90 days thereafter.
Visitors can register via the website http://itaiwan.taiwan.net.tw/.
Privileges in a card
Created specially for foreign event delegates to Taiwan, the Meet Taiwan Card offers cardholders perks at more than 200 merchants with almost 4,000 branches close to meeting facilities or exhibition venues nationwide.
Participating merchants include restaurants and retailers located within the Taipei World Trade Center Exhibition Hall 1, TWTC Nangang Exhibition Hall and Taipei International Convention Center.
The latest version of the Meet Taiwan Card comes with smart phone applications that dish out special deals and supply cardholders with shop information, a GPS service, a taxi guide and links to social media recommendations.
Contact the Taiwan MICE Project Office at (886-2) 2392-0788 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on the card.
Regent Taipei tunes into needs of Muslim travellers
Muslim business travellers to the Taiwanese capital will feel at home at the Regent Taipei, whose restaurant, Azie, was recently awarded the âMuslim-friendly Restaurantâ certification.
The hotel has also rolled out a package to offer the Muslim community the signature Regent experience. The Muslim Guest Accommodation Package provides guests access to guestrooms that come with a prayer rug, a compass, a Quran and Salat schedules. Restrooms in these guestrooms are furnished with âsmartâ toilets with built-in bidets.
Kaohsiung Exhibition Center is now open
The Kaoshiung Exhibition Centre swung open its doors in April, offering event planners access to an exhibition hall with capacity for 1,500 standard booths, a conference hall for 2,000 people, two conference halls for 800 people each, and 10 conference rooms for 20 to 40 people. The waterfront multifunctional exhibition and convention venue, operated by Uniplan Group, is expected to serve over 800,000 event visitors in 2014 and generate NT$3 billion (US$99.6 million) in revenue for the destination.