Asia lays down its exhibition credentials

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 September, 2009, 12:00am

All over Asia, the market for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) is growing at an exponential rate. Executives from around the world are converging on the region to take advantage of its superior facilities and the business opportunities that result from well-run events and the desire to get things done.

As the effects of the global economic downturn recede, companies will be looking for ways to increase their effectiveness and for new markets to explore. In doing so, they know that Asia now offers the range of trade shows, the choice of locations and the value for money to help them make contacts, secure contracts and build for the future.

What they can already see is that Asia's convention and exhibition facilities redefine the phrase 'state of the art' and offer easy access to many additional attractions, be they casinos, theme parks, golf courses, luxury accommodation or simply traditional sightseeing spots.

The mainland's Mice market is especially healthy, something apparent from the staging of the third Asia Luxury Travel Market (ALTM) at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre in June.

The event attracted more than 300 high-powered travel buyers who flew in to meet up with some 280 exhibitors from 36 countries during the three-day event. If nothing else, it was proof of the benefits of bringing people together, and the scale of attendance and activity was a significant indication that the worst of the recession is probably over.

Organisers employed the latest technology to make sure all attendees could make the best use of their time.

For example, delegates registered with an online appointment diary, allowing them to schedule up to 50 meetings lasting 15 minutes. A strict timetable then ensured that everyone moved between appointments punctually and that business was done fast.

'This year's [event] was a great success and we received very positive feedback from the attending exhibitors and buyers,' said Debbie Joslin, group exhibition director at ALTM. 'It is now clearly established as a 'must' for key players in the luxury travel industry who are targeting the important and still growing Asian markets.'

Despite the challenging times, about one-third of exhibitors were participating for the first time. Most saw this as evidence of the show's burgeoning reputation and of the growing significance of the Asia-Pacific region as a source of outbound luxury travellers.

Roland Jegge, vice-president Asia-Pacific at WorldHotels, which was taking part in ALTM for the third time, amplified the point.

'We extended our booth space because our affiliate hotels are finding the Asia-Pacific markets more relevant in the current economic climate,' he said. 'It is more important than ever to be highly visible.'

Another high-profile exhibitor, Steve Odell of Silversea Cruises, said that now was a crucial time for face-to-face meetings to create new business opportunities and set the scene for future growth.

'The high quality of buyers we met led to meaningful and useful conversations with the key decision makers,' he said. 'We will definitely come back for ALTM 2010.'

Perhaps, not surprisingly, the Mice market is also flourishing further south in Guangzhou, a city with a long and well-deserved reputation as a gateway to the mainland and a centre for international business. Each year, Guangzhou stages more than 350 exhibitions and 1,100 trade fairs, with deals concluded at or after these events making a significant contribution to the annual earnings of Guangdong province. Indeed, some estimates put this at about 40 per cent.

Arranging major expos, such as the China Import and Export Fair, the Auto Show and the Guangzhou Fair, bring in more than 1.3 billion yuan (HK$1.47 billion) a year, and that trend is set to continue.

More recently, a host of new exhibition venues have sprung up in the city's southern Pazhou district, boosted by the completion of the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre. This facility boasts 330,000 square metres of exhibition halls, making it one of the largest of its kind in Asia.

'Guangzhou is the centre for politics, economics, culture and tourism,' said Li Guangzhen, managing director and general manager of Event Sharp Guangzhou. 'The rich resources for meetings, education and leisure are able to fulfil the needs of a multitude of business travel services, while the advantageous location is a prime factor in attracting clients.'

He said that the expanded Baiyun Airport was now operating an increased number of direct international services. This had helped to attract multinationals to open branches or offices in the city and to attend fairs and exhibitions.

'In addition, Guangzhou and its hinterland have rich tourism resources and a good shopping environment, providing clients with a wide range of activities outside business hours,' he said. 'Baiyun International Convention Centre and many thriving luxury hotels make Guangzhou more than capable of receiving Mice teams.'