Secondary Asian cities can score events with different tactics: industry leaders

Secondary destinations like Borobudur in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, are slowly gaining

Despite the challenges of air connections, secondary cities in Asia are seeing success in attracting business events through innovative means, noted industry leaders at the third BE@Penang conference last week.

Nichapa Yoswee, senior vice president – business, Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), said the movie, Hangover 2, which had scenes shot in Pattaya, had improved demand among European and American corporate meeting planners.

Secondary destinations like Borobudur in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (pictured) are slowly gaining ground with clients looking for off-the-beaten track and fresh destinations

She said: “It is not a brand new movie but it puts the destination in the minds of organisers and delegates who connected with it.”

Nichapa added that TCEB has also enjoyed success with social media marketing campaigns that employed plenty of destination pictures to promote the various business events cities outside of the Thai capital Bangkok. This appealed not only to the millennials, but people of all ages are looking for “Instagrammable destinations”.

Mona Abdul Manap, CEO of Kuching-based events specialist Place Borneo, has found that Sarawak’s off-the-beaten-track reputation has earned it favour among Asian and European meeting planners as well as younger event delegates, such as those in the IT and technology sectors, who seek adventurous experiences that they can brag about to friends or on Instagram.

Citing an example, Mona said a four-wheel drive experience which involved travelling on dirt logging roads as well as a boat ride from Long Terawan was deemed the highlight of the programme for an incentive group from Poland.

For Sarawak, success in attracting global business events had also come from the state’s hosting of ICCA Congress 2016, said Mike Cannon, former managing director at Sarawak Convention Bureau, who was on the panel of Second Tier Destinations: To reinvent the wheel or to follow the proven way? at the BE@Penang conference.

Cannon said: “The on-going benefit was that we were recognised by our peers and in turn, their clients by default. It made it so much easier for us to win bids because we had credibility and recognition.”

A deeper hunger for winning business compared to their peers in capital cities has also given secondary cities a stronger position, opined Ajit Singh Sikand, president and CEO at HBC Luxury MICE Consulting.

He explained: “Once they understand the client brief, they will deliver accordingly. We once did a champagne breakfast on a hot air balloon for an incentive group of 20 people in Borobudur, Indonesia, yet another second-tier destination now on the map for clients looking for new and fresh destinations.”

In China, emerging cities have been able to use cost comparison to their benefit, according to Alicia Yao, deputy secretary-general, MICE Committee of China Association of Travel Services.

Yao said convention bureaus in emerging Chinese destinations offer sponsorship to attract business groups, something that main cities Shanghai and Beijing do not do.

As well, prices are more competitive in emerging Chinese destinations. Citing an example, she said staying at an international five-star hotel brand with meeting facilities was 30 to 50 per cent cheaper in Suzhou as compared to Shanghai and about 30 per cent cheaper in Hangzhou. She said: “Both cities also offered authentic experiences where delegates can see the real China in terms of culture, history and attractions.”

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