Michael Taylor, Victoria Burrows
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Bali is attempting to position itself as the MICE hub for Southeast Asia.
The Indonesian island hosted last November's Asean summit, which was attended by United States President Barack Obama and other world leaders, and will stage the Bali Democracy Forum in November and the Apec summit next year.
Most of the action is centred on Nusa Dua, home to many of Bali's four- and five-star hotels, a golf course and other facilities. Work starts this month on stage two of the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Centre to satisfy burgeoning demand. The Bali International Convention Centre at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua is also under renovation. The venue can handle conferences with up to 1,000 attendees.
Kempinski, Mulia, Shangri-La and JW Marriott are among the top brands building international hotels and resorts on the island.
'We are catering to this situation perfectly with up-to-date products and small conference rooms as breakouts for main meetings, offering an international product with well-known standards,' says Nicolas Reschke, director of sales and marketing at the newly opened Courtyard by Marriott Bali Nusa Dua.
The hotel has two large function rooms that are surrounded by a landscaped garden which can be used for breakouts, team building and cocktail receptions.
Situated amid the rice paddies of Ubud, Como Shambhala Estate offers a different kind of MICE experience. The estate has a meeting room for up to 40 people, two residences that have communal areas for breakout sessions, and outdoor spaces for smaller sessions. There is also an amphitheatre.
'Bali is becoming ever more popular as a MICE destination because of the broad choice of activities available on the island, from visiting temples and watching traditional dancing to climbing volcanoes and white water rafting,' says John Halpin, Como Shambhala's general manager.
'The MICE sector is going from strength to strength in Bali. This is in part due to its easy accessibility, with direct flights out of Hong Kong, Singapore, mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Australia.'
With three properties in Bangkok, the first thing that Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas did when last year's floods in Thailand started to subside was to join the Tourism Authority of Thailand for a one-day clean-up in Ayutthaya, one of the worst-hit provinces.
Hotel employees took part in the effort.
The hotel group also hosted more than 300 journalists from around the world at its Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa, which sits on the shores of the Chao Phraya River, in a bid to demonstrate to the world that the Thai capital was back in business. Of the group's three properties, this one was the hardest hit when the river's banks overflowed. It saw the biggest drop in occupancy. The other two hotels, which remained dry throughout the flooding, were able to house flood victims. As a result, the properties' occupancy rates remained stable, even if MICE events had to be cancelled.
'Our sales teams have been attending the major trade shows such as AIME [Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo], and working with the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau to intensify its promotional activities to restore confidence in Thailand's exhibition industry,' says Mark Thomson, Anantara's assistant public relations director. 'We can arrange all sorts of MICE events. Meetings can be combined with spa packages or fine-dining alternatives, or can be activity-based from the start.'
According to Mark Shrives, marketing and sales consultant for Hansar Hotels, last year's flooding proved a double-edged sword as domestic business and international arrivals both dried up.
'Hansar Bangkok's MICE business came to a complete standstill during the flooding and shortly thereafter,' Shrives says. 'We had Swarovski, our largest MICE event since opening about a year ago, postpone their event. As the flooding was an unexpected act of nature, we had no choice but to be flexible on the cancellation and deposit refunds.'
The hotel's first major test came when the Small Luxury Hotels of the World organisation held its meeting at the hotel. 'It was our chance to show the world's top hoteliers that Hansar Bangkok can host a world-class event and do so while maintaining a Thai concept,' Shrives says. MT
The MICE market in the Middle East is going from strength to strength, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - notably Dubai and Abu Dhabi - and Oman showing positive growth. Tawfik Mokhtar, director of sales and marketing at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Omani capital, Muscat, describes the overall regional MICE outlook as 'healthy and growing'.
The World Travel and Tourism Council expects the contribution to Oman's economy from tourism-related activity to increase from 7.6 per cent of GDP in 2010 to 9.2 per cent by 2020. Muscat witnessed strong growth in hotel inventory from 2010 to 2011.
Mokhtar says there are many reasons why Oman is proving a popular MICE destination. 'The geographical location of Oman - the stability, security, and safety - makes it very attractive,' he says.
The Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre is under construction and due for completion in late 2015. It is 4km from the airport, and will offer 2 million square metres of exhibition space, a 10,000-seat auditorium and four hotels with 1,000 rooms. For large-scale events, Muscat has the Oman International Exhibition Centre, just 1km from the airport and with 12,000 square metres of air conditioned indoor exhibition space and 3,000 square metres of show space outdoors.
Business tourism in the UAE in 2011 accounted for about 70 per cent of Abu Dhabi's hotel guest profile with 10 per cent of this coming from the MICE segment. Abu Dhabi saw a 10.5 per cent rise in hotel guest numbers in 2010. The exhibitions business to Dubai saw year-on-year growth in 2010 with the Dubai World Trade Centre recording an increase of 12 per cent compared to the previous year. In Bahrain, the MICE sector contributed US$184.6 million to the country's economy in 2010.
Mokhtar says Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, has a lot going for it as an incentive destination.
'It offers attractions such as the Ferrari World theme park at Yas Island; major sporting events such as the PGA Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix; and the important cultural attractions of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums will soon be open.' VB