Back to business: Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand

Asia’s key MICE cities are packing their event calendars with regional and international events. Here is a round-up on how busy they will be in 2023

Kuala Lumpur
The year 2023 is shaping up to become a much busier year for the capital city.
Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre general manager, Alan Pryor, shared that forward bookings are looking very positive. In fact, the Centre has already met 50 per cent of its targets – equivalent to 100 events secured thus far, comprising 33 exhibitions, 20 conventions and 47 corporate events.

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Hoteliers too are optimistic that this will be a good year, with domestic business taking on the lion’s share in bookings.

Based on forward bookings, Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s commercial director, Carmen Teo, expects a busy year, with domestic corporate business dominating at the start, while “foreign bookings will resume in 2H2023”.

Corporate business from Singapore and the region have been progressively improving, while longhaul bookings are also emerging from Central Europe and the US in 3Q and 4Q2023, she elaborated. As a result, group rates are expected to increase by 10 to 15 per cent this year due to stronger demand.

Similarly, Jeanne Chan, director of Commercial for Sunway City Kuala Lumpur Hotels, shared that a large number of forward bookings on hand are domestic corporates and government business.

Looking ahead to 2Q2023, Chan believes that corporate meetings and incentives from India and the Middle East are expected to resume, while group bookings will also surface from Taiwan, Singapore, and other regional markets.

However, manpower shortage remains a key concern.

Chan shared: “We have outsourced work to third-party companies, as well as run more in-house trainings. We also provide competitive wages for casual and part-time workers, and we are also scouting for new talents.”

Meanwhile, Pryor told TTGmice that the Centre is establishing partnerships with universities and colleges” to provide students with “professional exposure in an internationally recognised organisation”. – S Puvaneswary

Business events in Penang is forecasted to reach 2019 levels this year.

Francis Teo, head, Setia Convention Centres, told TTGmice that based on business leads and confirmed forward bookings, 60 per cent of the company’s planned revenue for the year has already been achieved, where business could reach 2019 levels this year.

G Hotel Gurney’s director of communications, Christina Tan, shared that forward business event bookings for 1Q2023 will soon reach the same levels as 1Q2019 with domestic, and corporate groups from Singapore and Indonesia forming the bulk of business events.

She said: “Demand for hybrid events continues to be strong in 1Q2023. Post-lockdown, market dynamics have changed to reflect stricter corporate policies on travelling; (an increase in) clients’ asking for the use of technology for conferencing, while safety issues remain of paramount importance.”

Meanwhile, Royale Chulan Penang’s director of sales and marketing, Eric Ng, shared: “This year, we have forward bookings for corporate groups mainly from the domestic and regional markets. On our part, we will also do more marketing activities and work closely with Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau, Penang Global Tourism and local inbound agents to add value to packages.”

Apollo Holidays Malaysia’s CEO, Amritha Dijith, is also optimistic about business in 2023, sharing that corporate bookings from India look promising, with five groups already confirmed from March onwards. – S Puvaneswary

Metro Manila

The Philippines
Metro Manila
Most indicators point to a rosy 2023 for business events in Metro Manila.

“Revenge events, similar to revenge travel, will probably spill over to 2023, said Agnes Pacis, vice president for commercial, SM Hotels & Conventions Corp.

Similarly sanguine is Bruce Winton, Marriott International’s multi-property vice president – The Philippines.

He said: “2023 should see significant recovery. We are thrilled that social and milestone events are starting back in full swing. Corporate meetings were also starting to recovery faster in 2H2022.

These revenge events are not limited to domestic, as there are many international events going on in Metro Manila, stated Tourism Promotions Board’s (TPB) deputy chief operating officer Charles Aames Bautista.

“It is hard to get a date at SMX Convention Center Manila or at the Marriott Grand Ballroom, as we are seeing lots of international conventions coming,” Bautista said.

And although there has been a noticeable price hike, Bautista said: “We are seeing a lot more curated services of hotels, resorts and restaurants giving value for money”.

Although China’s corporate travellers are still missing in tradeshows and exhibitions, Pacis said SM Hotels & Convention Center properties hope to achieve the pre-pandemic business levels in 2023.

Roberto Garcia, deputy general manager of the Philippine International Convention Center, shared that the venue will be completing its expansion next year, and is ready for the influx in association and corporate meetings. – Rosa Ocampo

Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore

With business travel to Singapore on the rebound, the city’s business industry continues to recover steadily and is poised to return to pre-pandemic levels between 2024 and 2025.

“According to Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) latest Brand Health Survey, Singapore is still the most considered destination in Asia Pacific for business travel in the next few months,” revealed Edward Koh, executive director, conventions, meetings & incentive travel, STB.

So far, a strong line-up of business events has been confirmed for 2023, including the inaugural SILMO Singapore from April 12-14; and Million Dollar Round Table Global Conference from August 27-30.

Many of these large-scale events will be held at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), which by the end of 2022 would have hosted over 2,000 events, where 439 were first-time events, shared Ong Wee Min, MBS’ vice president of sales and MICE.

September to November 2022 were “particularly strong months” for MBS, and Ong expects that this heightened demand for events will continue well into 2023.

Meanwhile, CWT Meeting & Events’ regional commercial director, South-east & Hong Kong, Petrina Goh, shared with TTGmice that she is seeing a “packed calendar with events lined until June 2023”, where some of the “bigger events will have as many as 2,000 attendees” as clients are raring to travel and host programmes that will bring people together again.

But this robust recovery is not without its challenges in the face of soaring prices.

She elaborated: “It is like “peak season” all year round. Companies are having to stretch their budgets, plan further in advance, and consider options like hosting their events over a weekend, in order to secure flights, accommodation and venues at a reasonable price.”

As such, she predicts that 2023 will see a “more reserved approach to event budgets, with clients opting for smaller, more agile events with hybrid elements”. – Rachel AJ Lee

Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul

Seoul has welcomed back throngs of corporate visitors since borders opened in early 2022.

When asked how busy the business events sector will be in 2023, Jin Hyeok Park, director at Seoul Tourism Organization (STO), told TTGmice that he expects the industry to “recover 80 per cent of its pre-pandemic level for international conferences, and 60 per cent for corporate meetings and incentive tours in 2023”.

Some of the major events on Seoul’s calendar – such as the 10th World Congress of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies, and World Congress of Gastroenterology 2023 – are expecting between 1,500 to 5,000 participants, with at least 50 per cent from outside of South Korea.

On the hotel front, Andrew Kang, cluster sales supervisor, MICE sales & marketing, Seoul Dragon City, expects to be busier in 2023 with a number of corporate events already confirmed.

“In summer 2023, we will host one of our largest association groups, with around 1,000 overseas participants staying with us,” he shared. Kang added that the hotel is also working to attract overseas groups that will be in town for the annual Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition.

Elsewhere, Jacky Lee, CEO of Seoul-based Etourism, will be welcoming five corporate groups from Asia numbering about 30 pax each in 1Q2023, as well as a few others from Europe and the US.

When asked about how rising costs might affect corporate travel, Lee revealed that they have fortunately locked in prices.

“(If booked in 2023), prices will increase around 20 per cent for packages because prices for everything has increased, from tour guide fees to eating out at restaurants,” Lee noted. – Rachel AJ Lee

Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok

Business events stakeholders based in the Thai capital expect that the sector 2022’s strong recovery momentum will spill over into 2023.

“To testify to the vibrant scene, we have over 60 TCEB-supported international conventions in 2023, plus another 50 to 60 international trade fairs and 28 mega events and festivals on the calendar, most of which will take place in Bangkok,” Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), shared.

One prominent large-scale event set for next year is the 62nd ICCA Annual Congress, slated to be held from November 12-15, at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC). Around 1,000 overseas attendees are expected to attend.

New business events-related attractions – from wellness resorts to venues with organic farming – are also being developed in Bangkok’s adjacent provinces, which means that the city and its surrounds will have more choices for planners to fill out a business events itinerary.

Karianne Rutten, market director of revenue strategy at Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, is very optimistic about business in 2023

“Forward bookings are strong and we are handling a rising number of event enquiries. I predict that 2023 will be a productive year for us, almost on a similar level as before the pandemic,” she told TTGmice.

For the 1,388-key property with 5,000m2 of event space, several major international conferences have already been confirmed for 2023, where the majority of the events are between 300 and 800 attendees.

Rutten further revealed that the property is also working closely with QSNCC for several world congresses.

She added: “Our key source markets include Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas, with the medical, IT, agriculture and finance industries accounting for the largest share of business.”

As for Punnaporn Wongjunpen, managing director of Bangkok-based Paula DMC, she has two big events for 1Q2023 confirmed – a 1,000 pax group from an automobile company, and a 1,200 pax group from the petroleum sector. – Rachel AJ Lee

Sponsored Post