Clark means business

The city’s beehive of construction activities has reached frenetic proportions, paving the way for it to become one of the Philippines’ most sought-after MICE destinations

major events like the 2019 SEA Games will show off the city’s prowess

Major developments in Clark are opening the doors to future business events.
For example, Clark International Airport is now undergoing significant modernisation and expansion. By next year, it will open a new terminal that is expected to triple passenger capacity from four million to 12 million.

When completed in 2021, the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road will radically reduce travel time between industrial hubs Clark and Calamba in Laguna, and the Subic-Clark Cargo Railway will connect Clark’s airport to Subic Port in 2022.

major events like the 2019 SEA Games will show off the city’s prowess

This is amid an increasing number of investments pouring into commercial, industrial, trade and real estate projects into the Philippine city.

Emboldened by these developments, SMX Hotels and Conventions has started building the standalone 4,000m2 SMX Convention Center Clark, a departure from the usual SMX convention centres that are within an SM shopping mall.

Vice president sales and marketing, Maria Agnes Pacis, for SMX Hotels and Conventions expects Clark to see “a surge in domestic and international flights, and an upswing in numbers and size of corporate meetings and trade events.”

As such, SMX Clark will have three trade halls, three function rooms and 14 smaller meeting rooms with eco-friendly features. The company is also expanding its existing Park Inn by Radisson Clark, adding 100 more hotel rooms. Both developments are slated to open in 1Q2020.

SMX Clark is also seen as an option for northern Luzon clients to hold big conventions and other events, instead of having to travel all the way to Manila. Clark also has a handful of smaller venues, such as the ASEAN Convention Center and Quest Plus Conference Center.

In addition to Park Inn by Radisson, other hotels are moving in quickly to open international brands in the city. Hilton Clark Sun Valley Resort is expected to open in November this year, while the 350-room Hyatt Regency will open in 2022. The 260-room Marriott Hotel Clark also recently opened last year.

Meanwhile, homegrown hotel brands such as Quest and Royce are also expanding their hotel portfolios in Clark.

With these new developments, Clark has the potential to become a conference and exhibition hub, and possibly even serve as an alternative business events city to metro Manila, located about two hours away.

Darlene Achumbre, assistant sales and marketing manager of Midori Clark Hotel, noted: “We are seeing unprecedented infrastructure build up and scores of business, commercial and industrial establishments moving into Clark, reminiscent of the not-so-distant past when Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig strove to compete – successfully, it turned out – as metro Manila’s other CBD.

“Clark’s accessibility to major road networks and the growing number of domestic and regional airlines flying to and from Clark International Airport makes it one of the preferred MICE destinations,” Achumbre said.

Clark is also less congested than metro Manila and is renowned for being a safe destination.

“Clark is proving to be the elusive combination of a business and leisure destination without the traffic that characterises most urban destinations,” Achumbre added.

She said that the new point-to-point buses that leave hourly for Clark from Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Ortigas business centre, and Trinoma in Quezon City “are a big help” in further boosting Clark’s accessibility from Manila, in addition to the increased domestic and Asian regional flights to and from Clark.

Because of Clark’s tourism pull, Achumbre said there are no more high and low seasons. In February for example, her hotel enjoyed unusually high occupancies in the 90s.

The Clark brand launched late last year integrates its four districts, and highlights plans for a clean, green and vibrant city without the pressures of city life. Instead, it seeks to offer effective town planning that can mix business, pleasure and a relaxing lifestyle comfortably.

Colliers International research manager, Joey Bondoc, said: “Developers [should] expand their MICE facilities in Clark, because it is becoming a preferred destination for international events and conferences.”

In addition, neighbouring areas of Pampanga and Zambales also offer attractions for incentive travel, CSR activities, and pre- and post-tours.

JP Cabalza, inbound manager for Corporate International Travel and Tours said Pampanga is renowned for having the best cuisine in the Philippines. The cuisine is a medley of Spanish, Chinese and local influences that are unique to Pampanga, and would be a wonderful experience for delegates.

Cabalza also agreed that meeting planners can put together teambuilding events with sports activities and adventure destinations nearby such as Mount Pinatubo volcano, or the jungles and animal safaris in Subic. CSR activities can also be held with indigenous communities and farming communities in and around Pampanga and Zambales.

Come December, Clark will also reveal its hosting capabilities by hosting some of the 30th SEA Games events at its world-class sports facilities currently under construction in New Clark City.

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