Outlook 2018 – part 1

Malaysia Petronas Twin Towers
Malaysia Petronas Twin Towers

Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) has a healthy forecast for business events in 2018 and forward.

Its CEO, Zulkefli Sharif, said: “Most exhibitors will only consider bringing their exhibitions to countries with a strong economy and strong government support, thus Malaysia is very attractive in 2018 and beyond.”

The opening of Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) – the country’s largest exhibition centre with over 45,000m2 of gross exhibition space – is also expected to boost growth in the exhibitions segment.

Also in Malaysia’s favour is her hosting of UFI Asia-Pacific Conference 2018 in March, which will bring in exhibition organisers from around the world.

Gunther Beissel, MITEC CEO, revealed a 1H2018 event calendar that is packed with large-scale trade fairs, such as MITA Travel Fair 2018 with 10,000 attendees; Malaysia International Furniture Fair with 15,000 attendees; Malaysia International Halal Fair and Defence Services Asia Exhibition and Conference with 20,000 attendees each.

It will be a good year for Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre too, with 30 high-profile events on its 2018 calendar. These events will attract close to 440,000 footfalls to the centre, according to general manager, Alan Pryor.

New air routes between India and Malaysia and the introduction of friendly visa policies for Indian passport holders will further spur the growth of business events from India to Malaysia, opined inbound agents.

Tourland Travel’s managing director, A Aruldas, revealed that events from India grew 15 per cent in 2017. He has projected further growth in 2018 due to improved air connectivity.

He added that AirAsia’s Kolkata-Johor flights which commenced in November 2017 had made Johor state a new destination for incentives.

Arokia Das, senior manager at Luxury Tours Malaysia, is anticipating new demand from Jaipur, India once AirAsia X kicks off its Kuala Lumpur-Jaipur services in February. – S Puvaneswary

Vietnam rice terrace

Vietnam is hoping to keep the momentum rolling for business events after showcasing the country’s offerings during its hosting of APEC 2017.

Pham Ha, CEO of Luxury Travel Vietnam, said Asia is expected to drive the sector in 2018 – most notably Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the domestic market, with Central Vietnam – especially Nha Trang and Danang, which hosted APEC last year – predicted to shine.

Jeff Redl, managing director of Diethelm Travel Vietnam, said 2018 already looks “promising”, with up to 700 pax confirmed for the first four months of 2018. He said: “With APEC organised in Danang and large interest from international investors, Vietnam has recently become a place to organise company meetings or conferences.”

Jose Gregorio Manzo, general manager of Asian Trails Vietnam, said 2018 has brought with it an increase in demand from longhaul markets, including South Africa, Spain, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Industry players expect pharmaceutical, automobile and financial industries to drive Vietnam’s meeting and events sector, while incentives and conferences will go for the country’s developing coastline and Phu Quoc island, where quality facilities continue to open their doors.

However, Kai Speth, The Reverie Saigon’s general manager, expects no major hike in business events for 2018. – Marissa Carruthers

Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rain, Thailand

Recognising business events as a critical contributor to Thailand’s economy, the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has set a 2018 target of 1,340,231 international business event visitors and an economic value of 109.8 billion baht (US$3.4 billion).

To achieve its goals, TCEB has launched a new marketing campaign for every business event segment, each with different levels of support. Organisers of meetings and incentives should watch out for the Meet by Design campaign; for convention organisers, look for the Convene in Paradise campaign; and exhibition organisers, the Thailand Extra Exhibition.

TCEB’s president Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya pointed out that the bureau has also aligned its efforts with the national government’s new Thailand 4.0 economic policy, which is aimed at transforming the country into a high-income, value-based economy.

Under Thailand 4.0 are several major projects that will elevate Thailand’s competitiveness in the global business events arena. These include the improvement of air-sea-land connectivity to the Eastern Economic Corridor and new developments for U-Tapao International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport; establishment of an incentive programme to attract international organisations and corporations to open offices in Thailand; tax reduction for meetings expenses; and removal of work permits for speakers and international business events operators.

“We are also discussing (the possibility of a new MICE Visa,” revealed Chiruit.

Besides the five appointed MICE Cities (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya and Khon Kaen), TCEB will now also develop and market a selection of second-tier cities, such as Chiang Rai, Korat, Udon Thani, Phitsanulok and Songkhla.

In terms of source markets performance for 2018, Chiruit expects Asia to continue to lead, followed by Europe, America and Oceania.
For David Barrett, chief executive of events specialist PIGS Co, 2018 is set to be a “bumper year for Thailand’s MICE”, as his company kicked off the new year “with a very promising start, which is representative across the industry here”.

“Enquiries for meetings and incentive trips are steadily coming in as Thailand’s reputation remains strong,” he said. “South-east Asia remains a major feeder market for us, with longhaul markets, the UK, Europe, the US and South Africa, showing increased interest in staging their events in Thailand.”

He attributed the healthy business pipeline to Thailand’s stable economy and political scene as well as “the great work of TCEB”. – Karen Yue

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Hindu temple, Indonesia

Indonesia’s hosting of the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting 2018 in Nusa Dua Bali from October 12 to 15 is expected to bring with it global media coverage and intense interest among business event planners for years to come.

The meeting is expected to have 15,000 to 18,000 international delegates in attendance.

Susilowani Daud, president director of PACTO Convex, the appointed PCO of the meeting, said: “Based on our experience with the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in 2007 (of which PACTO Convex was the PCO too), a major world conference like this will have a huge, positive impact on Indonesia’s business events industry.”

Maria Lexantia Cindy, MICE manager of Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort, said the meeting “is a good chance to show that Bali is now even more ready to host conferences of various sizes”.

She pointed out that “many developments have taken place in Bali since the Climate Change Conference”.

In Nusa Dua alone, for example, there are now two convention centres instead of one. As well, many new hotels of various star-ratings have sprung up in the last decade.

Ketut Jaman, managing director of Melali MICE, said: “If all goes well and Mount Agung (volcano) continues to be calm, many more corporate and government meetings will come this year compared to the last.”

He added that news surround the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting 2018 have “created enthusiasm among different industries (and encouraging them) to come and hold their conferences here”.
In April his agency will bring in a 1,000-pax John Hopkins University worldwide conference.

Furthermore, the Indonesian government has pledged to hold its meetings in Bali to contribute to tourism recovery in the aftermath of Mount Agung’s eruption and disruption to inbound traffic.

Another expected boost for Indonesia’s business events industry is the inaugural DestinASEAN Plus travel mart, an event that will bring overseas business event buyers into the country. – Mimi Hudoyo

El Nido, Philippines

The Philippine business events sector bats for a better year in 2018 with the launch of its first-ever roadmap to chart a double-digit growth yearly and the commissioning of a study to develop a strategy for each business event segment.

While details of the two are not yet available as of press time, the business events sector is off to a good start with several confirmed international events to be held in the Philippines this year.

Teresita Landan, MICE manager of the Tourism Promotions Board, said an estimated 3,000 pax will grace the Asian Development Bank’s board of governors meeting in Manila in May while 600 will attend the joint conference of the Asia Oceania Geoscience Society and European Geoscientists Union in Tagaytay in February.

Landan added that the Asia Pacific Association for the Study of Liver is confirmed to hold its annual meeting in the country in 2019.
Carla Mariano, MICE and group manager at Blue Horizons Travel and Tours, is hopeful that 2018 will surpass the performance last year “with proper MICE promotions, new products and new attractions” planned for this year.

Mariano said requests are still coming in for 2018 and that in February or March, she might get requests for August and September.
Incentive trips remain the strongest performing event segment, followed by conferences.

Foreign events are starting to return after being hounded in 2017 by travel advisories and the war in Marawi in Mindanao that ended several months ago, indicating that peace and security issues are becoming less of a concern, said Jojo Clemente, president, Rajah Tours.

Matt Poonin, manager, Travelite Travel and Tours Manila, said a dampener is that the Philippines in general is more expensive than other South-east Asian destinations. For example, US$100 will fetch a four/five-star room in Danang but a lower category hotel in Cebu. – Rosa Ocampo

Singapore Merlion

To raise Singapore’s profile as a prime business events destination, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is doubling up on alliances with international partners.

For example, STB, which oversees the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau, has partnered with Maritz Global Events to create a product that appeals to meeting planners in the region. It will do so through Maritz Global Events’ proprietary Experience Design Labs technology and other methods.

STB’s efforts are already beginning to bear fruit. For example, Sands Expo and Convention Centre hosted a record number of 50 association meetings in 2017, of which five association meetings were major new-to-Singapore events, shared Mike Lee, vice president, sales, Marina Bay Sands.

He said: “As competition heats up globally and regionally, Singapore needs to constantly innovate our product offerings… Going beyond the basics of providing meeting rooms and accommodation, there is a need to ‘wow’ potential clients with experiences that they will not get anywhere else in the world.”

At the turn of the new year, longhaul markets are expected to open up for Singapore’s business events suppliers. For a start, STB has extended the In Singapore Incentives & Rewards Programme for Europe and North America to December 31, 2018, and added “more generous air ticket offers and engaging experiences”, revealed Jeannie Lim, executive director, conventions, meetings & incentive travel with the tourism board.

Eric Cheung, manager – business development, MCI Group Asia Pacific, Singapore, told TTGmice: “Swinging in strong is the Russian market. They have high spending power and even though Russians prefer to speak in their native language, Singapore is a safe country to visit and explore. There’s always something new to discover here.” – Pamela Chow

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