UPCOMING EXHIBITION and convention facilities will give Macau tourism authorities impetus to develop the enclave as a major destination for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE). 'Until now, we have had corporate meetings with 2,000 to 3,000 people. From next year the new facilities will change the perception of Macau,' says Macau Government Tourist Office director Jo?o Manuel Costa Antunes. The tourism body set up the MICE Research and Information Centre and Macau Business Centre in April to move towards MICE marketing. The centres are building databases of information related to MICE business and facilities to better enable the handling of large groups, especially in terms of logistics, including customs and transport, and act as a link between the trade and local industry to promote MICE development. Macau's largest convention and exhibition space is 5,000 square metres in the Macau Tower. The Australian organiser of the Asia Gaming Expo last year had to turn away 43 of the potential 79 exhibitors due to space constraints. This problem will disappear when the Venetian Macau opens its 1.2 million sqft convention and exhibition facilities in the Cotai Strip next year. It dwarfs the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre's 689,000 sqft and AsiaWorld-Expo's 753,000 sqft facilities. The Venetian facilities include a 15,000-seat events centre, a 1,800-seat theatre/showroom and more than 20 dining outlets. It also boasts a 60,000 sqft spa and wellness centre and 1 million sqft of retail space at the Grand Canal Shoppes. It is expected to repeat the success story of the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino Las Vegas, spearheaded by Las Vegas Sands Corp chairman Sheldon Adelson. The 3,000 suites in the resort are designed to dazzle business travellers. Each is at least 700 sqft. Each has a 130 sqft bathroom and a sunken living room, dual-line telephones, in-suite fax/copier/printer and high-speed internet access. More than a year before opening, the resort has signed five trade events that will include 13 trade shows in the next few years. These include the Asian Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo, the Asian version of the same show in Last Vegas that draws 2,000 exhibitors covering 500,000 sqft of exhibition space per year. The show will debut in Macau in 2008. CMP Asia, the organiser of Hong Kong's biggest jewellery and watch fair, will have its first show in Macau in January 2008, in addition to its twice yearly shows in Hong Kong and other shows in southern China. Reed Exhibitions has also signed up for two annual shows of Global Gaming Expo Asia, modelled after the Las Vegas version of the same event. The first show will take place in 2008. Venetian Macau chief operating officer Frank McFadden says the synergy between Macau and Las Vegas is 'in the different market they are addressing'. 'The Vegas market addresses northern hemisphere, or the local American market, so the synergy is to repeat that show in the Southeast Asia market,' he says. The Mandarin Oriental Macau and Westin Resort Macau are confident that the onslaught of new meeting facilities will not leave existing facilities out in the cold and that there will be a lot of demand for personalised services for smaller events. Mandarin Oriental general manager Pierre Barthes says: '[Wynn] has bigger banquet facilities, so it is going after larger groups. We will continue to go after the regional multinational corporations and focus on small to medium-sized meetings and conferences. [Large conventions] are the company's forte. Groups that want personalised services and experience will stay with hotels like us.' Westin Resort Macau, which has had the British Olympic team using it as a base for training for the 2008 Olympics, is also confident that its niche in the meetings market will not be eroded. General manager Humayoon Shaikhzadeh says: 'A high percentage of our corporate meetings are repeat customers. There is always something bigger and better out there. It doesn't matter to a meeting organiser that there are 100 more rooms available. They just want to know that everything works well in the one room that they book . 'We are not competing with the likes of Venetian. We want to make every group feel that they are the only customers - the VIP group. I am not sure they can recreate that feeling in a project like the Venetian.'