Small, focused meetings and tailored experiences see greater demand

Unique experiences are gaining favour among event planners; hot air ballooning over Nam Song river in Vang vieng, Laos

Some South-east Asian event specialists are observing a rise in personalised and focused corporate event programmes, which they project will take centrestage in inbound MICE business next year.

Chris Vethaviyasar, client services director with Singapore-based The DMC Collective, said clients from Europe, India and Asia are sending smaller groups of 20 to 150 attendees to South-east Asia now, all demanding for “out-of-the box incentive ideas offering a wow factor”.

Unique experiences are gaining favour among event planners; hot air ballooning over Nam Song river in Vang Vieng, Laos pictured

New destinations that can deliver memorable experiences are favoured by corporate clients of Indonesia’s My Duta Tour, said managing director Budijanto Ardiansjah, who added that MICE cruises are now being considered as a new way of rewarding top performers.

The rise in preference for unique, memorable events has prompted Resorts World Genting to focus on growing its inbound MICE business through customised experiences.

When asked for an indication of 2020 event budgets, event specialists are split in their observations.

Vethaviyasar noted that current client spend has risen only slightly. For the year ahead, he expects clients with smaller budgets – startups and SMEs – to be drawn more to “emerging destinations such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar” where hotel are flexible with rate negotiations.

“Being relatively unheard of, these destinations will also win clients over with customised activities that cannot be found on Google,” he added.

Budijanto, who has offices in Jakarta and Bandung, shared that corporate event budgets for 2020 are up as much as 20 per cent, and clients are desiring incentive destinations farther away, such as Australia and the Middle East.

Painting a different picture, Winston Teh, sales manager, Sunway International Hotels & Resorts, foresees reduced budgets for gala dinners and teambuilding activities, especially among SMEs that are affected by the US-China trade war.

“However, there are no signs of MNCs cutting costs,” Teh said, adding that there have been enquiries from Europe on South-east Asia, “which is seen to be an exotic destination that is also affordable”.

“It is still too early to tell if these enquiries will materialise into bookings though,” he said.

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