Two stalwarts of the Asian MICE business continue to see growth despite uncertain global economic conditions and a cautious outlook.
Singapore reported a good year for tourism overall, with growth even from beleaguered Europe. The MICE sector registered 46 per cent growth in the number of conventions, conferences and trade shows.
Hong Kong had similarly positive reports, receiving more than 1.56 million overnight MICE visitors last year, an increase of 9.3 per cent over 2010.
'Despite the challenging operating environment caused by the economic downturn in Europe and the economic slowdown in the US, overnight MICE arrivals from long-haul markets reached 412,754 in 2011, an increase of 4.3 per cent compared to 2010,' says Anthony Lau, Hong Kong Tourism Board's executive director.
In Singapore, last year saw the launch of 78 new events. Anchor trade shows saw double-digit growth in visitor numbers and exhibition space.
'We are keeping a close watch on the evolving global economic backdrop,' says Jeannie Lim, executive director, Exhibitions & Conferences and Conventions & Meetings, Singapore Tourism Board. 'We remain cautiously optimistic that despite the developments in Europe, Singapore's tourism sector will continue to grow moderately in 2012, mitigated by the fact that our top source markets are from the Asian region, which has remained relatively resilient.'
Hong Kong is adopting a similar stance and remains optimistic for further growth this year, 'given the sustainable development of the mainland economy, the favourable exchange rates of most currencies against the Hong Kong dollar, as well as Hong Kong's advantageous position as the gateway to mainland China'.
The focus for both countries appears to be on the conventions and exhibitions end of the business this year.
'The meetings and incentive markets will experience comparatively more stagnant growth due to the economic slowdown, while the conventions and exhibitions sector will show better resilience because most events would have already been confirmed last year, or even a few years ago,' Lau says.
Singapore is also looking to established events returning to the Lion City this year, and for those to boost MICE bookings. These events include Food & Hotel Asia, International Furniture Fair Singapore 2012, Broadcast Asia and CommunicAsia 2012, and Singapore International Energy Week.