Room at the inn for sector's growth
Although the recent economic storm has prompted many companies to trim their meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) budgets, every cloud has a silver lining. It seems the market is being swamped with new hotels and package perks that are set to stimulate business.
In January, the 658-room Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott, situated next to AsiaWorld-Expo in Chek Lap Kok, opened its doors. It is equipped with one grand ballroom, with a capacity of 650, and 10 function rooms.
General manager Nicholas Tse said: 'We did come across some clients who had concerns regarding event bookings due to the swine flu. However, as many Mice events have a long lead [time] and won't materialise until later this year or even next year, the impact has been minimal.
'Our dedicated conference and meeting centre creates a niche because organisers can have their own private entrance for any special events, such as a car launch, without having to pass through the hotel lobby. What's more, we are the only hotel in Hong Kong that is situated next to a nine-hole golf course, which provides more options for activities, especially for team-building groups.'
SkyCity Marriott has created themed options in addition to its standard full-day and half-day meeting packages. These include coffee breaks and 'Catch me if you can' dinners for airline crews.
The nearby Regal Airport Hotel was designed as a one-stop meetings hotel. It has a 1,500-seat grand ballroom, 1,171 guestrooms and a large choice of dining and entertainment facilities. An executive conference centre, with 13 meeting rooms, was added three years ago, making a total of 31 function venues for meetings and conferences.
Elgene Lee, executive assistant manager for sales and marketing, attributed the hotel's strong Mice business to its convenient location and flexible conference facilities. 'Apart from large groups, we can also accommodate groups ranging from 16 persons boardroom-style to 140 persons theatre-style for corporate meetings and luncheons, cocktails and small gatherings,' he said.
The hotel's landscape garden is available for team-building workshops, cocktail parties and barbecues, while dramatic theme parties can also be arranged.
The Regal has remained competitive with value-added offers instead of cutting prices.
On the mainland, Beijing underwent a massive upgrade last year in preparation for the Olympic Games. According to Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels' industry intelligence report, 14 hotels will open in the capital this year, adding 3,996 rooms with international brands such as Banyan Tree, Taj and Park Plaza.
The report said that although the global financial crisis was expected to put restraints on short-term recovery of Mice demand, its research showed that most Olympic host cities saw a significant increase in convention delegates in the years following the event.
Opened in December 1989, Traders Hotel Beijing continues to expand and upgrade its meetings and banqueting facilities to tap into the Mice market. It has 843 square metres of multifunctional space not including its garden.
Director of sales and marketing Kevin Guo said: 'Our group has launched Signature Events and Signature Stage to distinguish our hotel group from the others and even exceed the ever-rising expectations of Mice organisers. We offer streamlined and highly successful events delivery by dedicated event specialists.
'Another advantage is our other two five-star properties, China World Hotel and Kerry Centre Hotel, and the soon-to-be-opened China World Summit Wing, all managed by Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. They will total 2,051 rooms and 19,000 square metres of multifunctional space. We are able to handle all kinds and sizes of meetings and events with our centralised Mice sales team with one point of contact.'
The hotel recently launched a MaxMice deal that offers a 10 per cent credit of up to US$5,000 for another event booking at any of Shangri-La's hotels or resorts.
Positioned as a convention hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Beijing enjoys the advantages of interconnected meeting and conference facilities with the neighbouring JW Marriott Hotel Beijing and one single sales contact point. The property is one of the few hotels to offer a private garden where guests can host outside events.
General manager David Wilson said the group had been very flexible in coming up with package ideas geared for the Mice market. For instance, it recently launched a Meetings Within Reach package, with bookings made before September 30 enjoying special rates starting from US$159.
The outlook for Shanghai is bright as it prepares to host the World Expo 2010. Waves of new hotels are lined up to open while existing players touch up their offers.
The Langham Yangtze Boutique Shanghai recently opened its doors. Director of sales and marketing Mandy Fan is putting much emphasis on meetings and incentives. 'We are the only art deco boutique hotel in Shanghai,' she said. 'We focus on one event a day for which we can provide an exclusive, tailor-made service with a personal touch. Our 250-square-metre Pearl Room is an ideal venue for a medium-sized event, with natural light making it perfect for many civic and banquet functions. It is the authentic elements and influences from 1930s Old Shanghai that accent our meetings.'
The Hotel Equatorial Shanghai is completing a refurbishment costing 12 million yuan (HK$13.6 million) to finish off a total makeover of the hotel. This includes its main roadway entrance, main lobby and new all-day dining facilities. The revamp will be completed by the end of this month.