Think outside the box

With an abundance of event venues on the market, hotels now have to yield to trends, transform spaces, push creativity, and go beyond their four walls to win business

Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul’s grand Turkish bath is a unique event venue

Depending on how one sees it, hotel spaces can be regarded as uninspiring function areas bounded by four walls, or stand as a blank canvas on which event planners can paint their masterpieces on.

As experiential and festivalisation event formats gain traction, hotels with function rooms cannot afford to fall into the first category. They have to find ways to be more creative in transforming their spaces while working closely with event planners.

Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul’s grand Turkish bath is a unique event venue

Liow Qixin, senior account manager, experiential events, Pacific World Singapore, said clients were avoiding conventional venues and reaching for creative options instead – and some would bluntly state that they were not looking for a hotel space.

As such, Liow opined that it is important for hotels to work closely with event planners to dispel the myth that hotel spaces are boring.

Slowly disappearing are run-of-the-mill indoor sessions, complete with tables and chairs. Instead, indoor spaces are now sporting beanbags and wooden pallets to encourage informal networking. Gardens are being transformed into carnival grounds with live cooking stations and a DJ corner.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in clients wishing to create their own festival atmosphere when planning events,” shared Michelle Sargent, director, CWT Meetings & Events, Australia & New Zealand.

Citing examples, Sargent said exhibition have been conducted on a golf course, and pop-up food stalls or massage stands have been included in conferences and conventions.

For hotels to deliver on such out-of-the-box ideas, Amanda Elder, chief commercial officer, Kempinski Hotels, said it was important that hotel representatives be “extremely familiar with all of their property’s event options and spaces” and be ready to offer creative suggestions that can optimise the use of available spaces.

She related an example from the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul. The historic building regularly holds conferences for 1,500 guests. To push the envelope, staff came up with the idea of transforming the hotel’s Turkish Bath into an event space for cocktail parties, coffee breaks and dinners.

“With its towering ceiling, engraved wall decorations, ornaments, and columns of pure marble, this one-of-a-kind venue…is hard to beat,” shared Elder.

Ramesh Daryanani, vice president, global sales, Asia-Pacific (excluding Greater China), Marriott International, said “making serendipitous connections…is among the greatest benefits of attending large-scale professional events like conferences”.

Therefore, he stressed the significance of setting an intimate and relaxing conference atmosphere.

When the St Regis brand first entered Shanghai, the team at The St Regis Shanghai Jingan set out to transform the hotel’s spaces into something creative but fit for glamorous occasions. Starting out with a mood board, the team put together modern design inspirations, and went on to completely transform the hotel’s champagne bar.

Featuring an elegant green and marble interior, complemented by soft, pink and velvety chairs, the design brought home a fairytale setting for the hotel’s grand opening.

Both hoteliers and event planners have a part to play to bear impressive event ideas to fruition, opined Elder. She said the hotel team would provide event planners with valuable support in the planning phase and in ensuring attention to aesthetic details.

Due to the pandemic, however, events that have people mingling in close quarters are on hold, and a different kind of creativity is now required.

Milton Rivera, vice president, global business development, global client group & APAC region for meetings and events, American Express Global Business Travel, stressed the need for hotels to beef up their technology capabilities, as virtual events will probably hold sway for the time being.

He elaborated: “Virtual/hybrid events are built on new and exciting technologies that are creating the next level engagement for all attendees. We are in the early demand phase and are finding great benefit bringing speakers and moderators together in a hotel venue, and broadcasting to broader audience groups or hybrid hubs.”

Rivera emphasised that much of the energy at live events come from the speakers and the audience. “Creating two-way interaction (online) is challenging, and that is where the venue and technology providers really need to work hard to come up with creative approaches,” he added.

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