Asia/Singapore Sunday, 17th December 2017

Seoul extends hand of consideration to Muslim and Indian travellers

Seoul Central Masjid is Korea’s first permanent mosque and the only mosque in Seoul

Seoul Tourism Organization (STO) is taking steps to ensure Muslim and Indian vegetarian travellers are well taken care of as the city starts to look more seriously at growing business event arrivals from Malaysia, Indonesia and India – source markets seen to bear great growth potential.

Seoul Tourism Organization, Tourism and MICE Division, executive director, Joon Lee, told TTGmice that Indonesia, especially, shows great promise.

Seoul Central Masjid is Korea’s first permanent mosque and the only mosque in Seoul

“About 100 employees of AXA Indonesia (an insurance company) visited Seoul as part of an incentive trip in April, and the activity gained wide publicity as well as the attention of our mayor, who joined the delegates for a bicycle ride along the Hangang river,” Lee shared.

“This illustrates the high-level recognition and support Seoul authorities give to incoming business event groups.”

Bearing in mind that Islam is the dominant religion of Malaysia and Indonesia, STO created the eight-page Muslim Tourists Guide. It is available online ( and can be downloaded in PDF. It lists 84 Muslim-friendly restaurants (classified under four categories – Halal-certified, self-certified, Muslim-friendly, pork-free), locations of prayer rooms, details of Seoul Central Masjid, service provided to Muslims at major hotels, and details of Muslim-friendly medical institutions.

“Religious considerations are also paid to Indians, as some of them have special dietary needs too. We are making sure Seoul has restaurants and caterers that offer vegetarian meals,” Lee said, adding that temple vegetarian cuisine could be an appealing option for this segment of Indian visitors.

According to Jin Hyeok Park, director of Seoul Convention Bureau, in-market destination promotion has always included messages that convey the city’s Muslim- and Indian-friendly environment for visitors.

“Seoul welcomes visitors of all shapes and sizes. One example (of what we have done) is the India MICE Roadshow held in March 2017, jointly hosted with the Korea Tourism Organization, Incheon Tourism Organization and Gyeonggi Tourism Organization. The India MICE Roadshow forms part of efforts by the STO and other regions to promote Seoul and other parts of (South) Korea to India and other Muslim nations as a welcoming environment,” Park explained.

“In addition, as part of our Seoul MICE Alliance private-public framework, we have local DMCs that target the Indian market. We provide them with information on Seoul and its Indian-friendly environment, where applicable,” he added.

Park also revealed that a Tourism Academy is in the plans for 2018 to provide education on business events. Lessons would include “how to take special care of travellers that require certain attention, such as Indian and Muslim individuals”, he said.

Former CVB chief strikes out on his own with Kuching-based consultancy


Former managing director of Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), Mike Cannon, has set up his own consultancy business in Kuching, Sarawak to primarily represent organisations based in Australia and New Zealand keen on targeting business event buyers in South-east Asia and North Asia.

Called Mike Cannon Business Events – Asia Pacific (MCBE), the company was set up at the start of this month.

Cannon: a good time to be leading a bespoke, specialised consultancy

Cannon told TTGmice that he has Mandarin-speaking associates to assist him in targeting business event buyers in Singapore, Taiwan and the east coast of China.

MCBE also provides consultancy services for marketing, branding, business development and training for business events.

Since the company was set up, it has secured one client from Australia who is seeking business opportunities from South-east Asian buyers, but is outside the business events target.

“They came to us because of our know-how in the region, and because of the cost saving opportunities we offer being based in Kuching”, Cannon said.

Cannon explained why he decided to embark on this new venture: “Since I stepped down from my role at SCB, I’ve been regularly approached about supporting a number of small- and medium-sized companies in the industry that would benefit from someone with decades of experience.”

Cannon’s previous experience includes running his own Sydney-based DMC, Australian Industry and Farming Tours, for 22 years. He was also a founding board member of the National Tourism Alliance of Australia, and he has served on the board of the Australian Tourism Export Council with two years as chairman. In addition, he was part of The Australian Federal Tourism Minister’s Advisory Council in 2005/ 2006, helping to drive the needs of the Australian convention bureaux and business events sector.

“Suffice to say, I’ve seen it all over the last four decades, as the business events industry has powered on in good times and in bad. This is a wonderful time to be leading a bespoke, specialised consultancy, often in association with Love That Destination’s founder and president, Ross Robinson and research director, Patty Buehler, as well as David Hall of David Hall Consultancy based in Australia,” he added.

Based in Canada, Love That Destination helps corporate and association meeting managers find resources to organise better events, and find the right destination for their event. Meanwhile, Hall was instrumental in establishing SCB.

Photo of the Day: The Habitat Penang Hill bags ad award at BE@Penang conference

Allen Tan, managing director of The Habitat Penang Hill (centre) picks up the award from TTG Asia Media's group editor Karen Yue and Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau's CEO Ashwin Gunasekeran

A print advertisement artwork that captured the lush greenery of Penang Hill and a sole canopy walk in the heart of it all won the most number of votes from delegates attending BE@Penang conference last week.

The advertisement, belonging to The Habitat Penang Hill, scored the grand prize of a full-page, full-colour print advertisement space in a regular issue of TTGmice.

Allen Tan, managing director of The Habitat Penang Hill (centre) picks up the award from TTG Asia Media’s group editor Karen Yue (left) and Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau’s CEO Ashwin Gunasekeran (right)

The Best Business Events Print Advertisement Award was jointly organised by TTGmice and Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau, and was part of the programme for the second edition of the BE@Penang conference.

The first runner-up in this contest was The Light Hotel, Penang.

Lexis Suites Penang

Premium Pool Suite

Every room has its own private dip pool and steam room on the balcony. Rooms are spacious, and furnished with two king-sized beds and complimentary high-speed Internet access. The executive pool suite is 81m while the premium suite is 90m. In comparison, standard hotel rooms in Penang are an average of 37m.

Premium Pool Suite

I stayed in the luxurious premium pool suite which had additional features such as a bathtub and a breathtaking sea view from the balcony. I thought that the room was designed with the convenience of guests in mind. For instance, there was a built-in ironing board, two sinks and a spacious area to keep toiletries.

MICE facilities
All meeting facilities are located on the first floor. The largest event space is the ballroom that can fit 450 people in a round-table set up, or 700 people theatre-style. The ballroom is further divisible into four smaller rooms, which gives planners the option of accommodating smaller groups at any one time. There are pillars, but these are on the sides.

In addition, there are four function rooms, three of which have natural daylight and offer spectacular views of the ocean. Regardless, all event spaces come equipped with LCD projectors. There is also a large foyer area which is conducive for networking and coffee breaks.

Penang Ballroom

I like the fact that the meeting facilities are flexible. Should an organiser require more function areas, they have the option to convert the multi-level carpark into an indoor teambuilding area or breakout space.

Teambuilding events and outdoor dinners are usually held at the beachfront area. As well, The Sky Terrace on level 24 is an alternative dining option for private events, and it offers panoramic views of Teluk Kumbar town and the ocean.

Other facilities
There is the children-friendly space Kidzworld, a karaoke room, spa, large swimming pool and gym.

Fantastic. Hotel staff go all out to ensure guests’ needs are met.

Room count: 222
Star rating: Five
Tel: (60) 4628-2888

Beyond Asia: Municon Conference Center, Bologna Exhibition Centre, and Caesars Forum

Municon Conference Room 3

Municon reopens after refurbishment
Munich Airport’s hospitality and catering subsidiary Allresto has completed refurbishments to the Municon Conference Center, a meeting facility at the airport.

Municon now has 34 airy, well-lit rooms to choose from, and all the meeting rooms have been equipped with advanced technology and new TV screens. The capacity of the rooms range from four to 180 people. The meeting facility also boasts its own restaurant with a view.

Bologna’s exhibition centre begins redevelopment
The Bologna Exhibition Centre in Italy has embarked on a redevelopment and expansion project, which will increase its exhibition space from 36,000m2 to 140,000m2.

The first phase of the project involves demolition and total reconstruction of pavilions 29 and 30, which will be rebuilt and reopened in time for fairs starting in September 2018.

Expected to be fully completed by 2022, the redevelopment will see hallways being lined with urban spaces such as gardens and F&B outlets, and have natural light streaming in.

Caesars Entertainment to develop conference centre in Las Vegas
The world’s two largest pillarless ballrooms and 28,000m2 of flexible meeting space will be part of a new US$375m conference centre planned by Caesars Entertainment Corporation in Las Vegas.

Caesars Entertainment plans to develop a 51,000m2 conference centre, to be named Caesars Forum, to meet the increasing demand for group business meetings of all sizes. It will be located east of the Las Vegas Strip with bridge connections to Harrah’s and the LINQ Promenade.

Scheduled to officially open in 2020, Caesars expects to break ground on the new centre early in 2Q2018.

TTGmice goes on festive break


TTGmice will be taking a break from December 18 after a fruitful year. We look forward to coming back stronger on January 9, 2018, and to continue bringing you the most breaking news in the business travel and events trade.

The entire TTG Asia Media team wishes all readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

PCEB muscles up with ambassador programme


In 2018, Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) will be introducing a conference ambassador programme to generate international business events leads and international specialised conferences.

The ambassadors will comprise local and international association leaders who have experience in organising conferences or are industry leaders in their field of expertise and strongly believe in Penang as a business events destination.

Ashwin: easier to promote Penang thanks to new longhaul flights

The programme comes off the back of PCEB’s efforts to attract more international, regional and national meetings to the state, especially sectors that coincide with the state’s national status as a hub for education, culture & Ideas, medical sciences, government, social sciences, economics, electronics and engineering.

Aside from the ambassador programme, PCEB will continue to engage with local universities and research institutes when bidding for regional and international conferences and congresses.

Working in Penang’s favour are Qatar Airways’ thrice-weekly flights from Doha to Penang, commencing February 6 next year.

PCEB CEO, Ashwin Gunasekeran, told TTGmice on the sidelines of BE@Penang conference last week that the flights will make the destination more attractive to Europeans and Americans.

Ashwin said: “The flights will make the destination more accessible and attractive, as well as provide another option for longhaul business events delegates who currently travel to Penang through Singapore or Bangkok. It will make it easier to promote the destination when we go to IMEX Frankfurt or IMEX America next year.”

In addition, Ashwin shared that “winning the World Seafood Congress 2019 has helped put Penang on the map” and this win will give confidence to other world associations to work with the destination.

PCEB has also set a target for the number of bids it will make next year, which will see a significant increase from 2017.

TCEB packs on digital tools for organisers, event attendees

Sarita Chintakanond and Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has launched two new mobile applications, Smart BIZ Event and Smart BIZ Organizer, platforms which aim to connect Thailand with event organisers and event attendees globally.

The Smart BIZ Event app targets business events visitors by offering a one-touch registration system and comprehensive event information. Users can receive electronic copies of event materials, such as presentations, event calendars, indoor maps, brochures, and speaker information, by simply scanning QR codes.

(From left) TCEB’s Sarita Chintakanond and Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya launch the two new apps

The Smart BIZ Organizer also offers the QR-code scanning feature to help organisers efficiently check-in and search attendees. As well, the app provides real-time reports and analytics, allowing organisers to know how to improve their business events.

The apps are free to download at

With the new digital tools, , president of TCEB, said his organisation “aims to bring event planning and event organising in Thailand to the next level”.

He elaborated: “The objective to modernise the MICE industry is in line with the bureau’s vision to promote Thailand as a hub for MICE activities in the region. Meanwhile, TCEB expects that the latest applications will attract 10,000 downloads by next year.”

Evenesis goes to Indonesia; reveals upcoming tech solutions


Malaysian event technology specialist Evenesis is expanding its footprint to Indonesia by opening a sales representative office in Jakarta in January 2018.

Its CEO and founder, Yusno Yunos, told TTGmice that the company has already secured three resellers in Jakarta, and plans to have more resellers in major cities in Indonesia in the coming months.

Yusno: coming up with new technology solutions to help event planners

The company’s event solution products are for registration, RSVP, online payment gateway, event website, event mobile app, database management, venue sourcing, on-site check-in, on-site badge printing, audience engagement and event analytics.

Last year, Evenesis opened a sales office in Singapore. The company also has a partner in Hong Kong.

While the majority of his clients are corporates, Yusno revealed that he also works with associations, PCOs, event organisers, government-linked companies and venue providers.

Evenesis also plans to release new technology solutions in the coming months. For instance, it will introduce a Facial Recognition Check-in module which will check delegates in quickly via facial scans at the registration counter by 1Q2018.

Yusno said: “This will eliminate traditional registration queues. Through the scanned image, the organiser will immediately be able to validate and verify the identity and background of the delegate.”

The second phase of this software will include an emotion analysis artificial intelligence (AI).

“With this software, conference organisers can take pictures of delegates throughout the course of an event. Later, the software will be able to analyse the pictures and give an average rating of how satisfied delegates were during the course of the conference. We feel this ability to gauge the overall happiness and satisfaction of delegates instantly could be a breakthrough and game changer,” he explained.

Evenesis is also improving its AI capabilities of its chatbot to include business matching functionalities. Yusno claims that this is unique, as no company has developed business matching functionalities via a chatbot.

He shared: “This will be a new feature of our chatbot – codenamed Feedy – which is currently being used to display event details such as information on the speakers and programmes, and reply to certain questions and queries by the users.”

Yusno pointed out that using Feedy helps clients to avoid the costly process of building a mobile event app from scratch and maintaining it.

Business events seen as an enabler of environment conservation

(From left) Katherine Chua and Allen Tan

Operators of two of Penang’s most prominent natural attractions are banking on the city’s fervent courtship of business events to help conserve the destination’s natural environment.

In an interview with TTGmice, Katherine Chua, managing director of Tropical Spice Garden, an educational and recreational attraction in Teluk Bahang, Penang, said: “When you bring in congresses and meetings, you bring in attendees who are cultural investors and intellectuals, and (are able to) bring new depth of understanding of what Penang has to offer.”

(From left)Tropical Spice Garden’s Katherine Chua andThe Habitat Penang Hill’s Allen Tan

Chua is certain that “attracting corporate groups is one of the solutions to ensure the conservation of Penang’s natural attractions” while raising the quality of visitors the destination attracts.

Allen Tan, managing director of The Habitat Penang Hill, agrees, saying that “business event delegates are a higher calibre visitor who will more easily appreciate the natural qualities of a destination”.

He believes that there is an opportunity for Penang to “gain stronger environmental recognition that will also result in the preservation of natural assets” by courting more corporate, association and specialist groups passionate about the same causes.

Taking a proactive stance on this, Tan said the owner of The Habitat Penang Hill has formed a not-for-profit arm called The Habitat Foundation. The latter had in October sponsored a “bio blitz” that brought 117 scientists from around the world to Penang, teamed them up with local scientists primarily from Penang’s University Science Malaysia School of Biological Science, and set them off into the rainforest.

“They documented 1,700 species of biodiversity in just two weeks. They found a potential new species of scorpions and several other species that have never been reported on the island before,” revealed Tan.

An even bigger project is in the works, said Tan, revealing the creation of a rainforest research centre that will position both Penang and Penang Hill as a destination and centre of excellence for rainforest conservation and research.

At the same time, Tan believes that growing the number of business event visitors will push Penang out of the current backpacker rut it is in.

He said: “Penang has always been one of the stops on a typical backpacker trail. What frustrates me is that these backpackers would spend on experiences in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or wherever, but when they are in Penang, all they want to do is to sit on Chulia Street, pay RM10 (US$2.50) for a Tiger (beer) and wait for their Thai visas to come through. We are stuck in this zone and need to push through, and I think that business events will be a major catalyst for Penang’s elevation as a destination.”

At Tropical Spice Garden, corporate groups make up 20 to 25 per cent of its business, a figure Chua hopes to grow by finding the right DMC partners that recognise that the attraction “is a place of value, a place where event attendees can learn something about Penang’s spice trade, agricultural history, or biodiversity”.


Lexis Suites Penang

Standing a 10-minute drive from Penang airport is the Lexis Suites Penang with 222 keys. Being the closest hotel – just 7km – to the Bayan Lepas industrial area, it attracts corporate travellers and corporate companies in Penang that require a beachfront venue suitable for retreats, family day activities, teambuilding programmes or conferences.

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