The long running doublebill MICE event, IT&CMA (Incentives Travel and Conventions, Meetings Asia) and CTW Asia Pacific (Corporate Travel World) was held from the 5th to the 7th of October in flamboyant style in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. The popular MICE event was held at the prestigious Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld. Bangkok can be descried as a lively, vibrant, cosmopolitan and a glittering city. The capital city of Thailand itself is a pot pourrie of entertainment. Teeming with a rich cultural past, it has transformed seamlessly into a modern dynamic city. However, the most crucial thing about Bangkok is that it has in recent years it has emerged as a premier destination for MICE activities (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events).
Why is MICE in Asia so important?
MICE is a growing market globally, however in Asia it is even more important. Why? Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent with over 4 billion people. The continent is already set to rise into the 21st century as one of fastest growing economies. Both China and India have proven to be global super-powers and the MICE industry would just be fool-hardy to ignore this fact. Asia-Pacific as a region is expected to receive more than 100 million MICE visitors’ by 2015, up from 40 million in 2002. Corporate travel in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to make up about a third of a global market worth US$900 billion.
With emerging economics such as India, China, Vietnam and Thailand, it is becoming apparent that more and more multinationals are looking to forge some kind of working presence in these highly tempting markets. While Tourism is also on a high level of growth, there is an increasingly high demand for MICE activities in Asia. Many European and American based companies are beginning to observe the growing benefit of holding meetings and arranging business trips to exotic destinations in Asia while at the same time they can blend their business with pleasure by arranging tours in the host cities.
The term "incentive" in MICE strongly indicates that the trips that are catered to specifically motivate the participants and to increase the team's competence through the common knowledge. Its there to provide a refreshing experience for the employee and those in the MICE industry are there to provide that “dream” experience to those in the business world. Multinationals know that travel adventures are the ideal lure for motivating employees to reach new heights and the perfect remuneration for those who accomplish them. For example a British company recently rewarded their entire Sales staff of 20 people with an all expenses paid business cum leisure trip to Hawaii because they had met their individual sales targets’ for the whole year. The company was able to make a special deal with all the ingredients involved, including Conference rooms, surfing in Hawaii, hotels, food and so on. Its perks like these that are a win-win situation for many in the MICE industry and the corporate world.
IT&CMA and CTW Bangkok 2010
This year marked the 18th and 13th instalment of the IT&CMA respectively. Exhibitors had revealed that in addition to wooing the MICE sector, corporate travel and association networks were essential. Therefore, the focus this year was to ensure that the show delivered and catered for more of these participants. The IT&CMA and CTW 2010 have always been reputed for its track record to supply for and accept only bona-fide delegates, and the event in Bangkok did not disappoint.
The IT&CMA and CTW Bangkok generated more than 13,000 IT&CMA business appointments for exhibitors, buyers and corporate travel managers on the 6 and 7 October.What’s more is that 50% of buyers and corporate travel managers were new to the show this year, and the event was bigger than the IT&CMA China held in Shanghai earlier this year. New buyer and corporate travel manager markets included Egypt, Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Portugal, Slovenia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine. Therefore this confirmed that there is a great interest in the Asia Pacific MICE in markets that have traditionally been slightly quieter for the MICE industry in the Asia Pacific region.
The IT&CMA was not just an excellent opportunistic platform for Buyers and Sellers, but also a key event for industry leaders and decision makers to announce major initiatives in the MICE industry throughout the Asia Pacific Region.
The IT&CMA and CTW had some of the most engaging, stimulating and humorous speakers around, including Mr. Andrew Grant (MD of Tirian), Mr. Bert Van Walbeck (CEO of “The Winning Edge”), Mr. Ian Quartermaine (CEO & Founder of Meetingsin) and many others. These sensational motivational and inspiring speakers blended in their wit and charm with relevant and intelligent content. There were also a few interesting and exciting activities, such as the “You Say, I Say”, which was an interactive discussion where a distinguished panel of industry leaders shared their views, and audiences were provided with the opportunity to stake their opinion on issues ranging from the future of Air Travel to how MICE will be affected by certain changes in various industry demographics. The “You Say, I Say” event was moderated by David Barrett, Executive Manager at Diethelm Events. Mr. Barrett is well known for his creative approach to events and he certainly illustrated that fact with his bright red and green shiny tuxedo!
So what was new in Bangkok 2010?
The opening session of ITCMA & CTW 2010 commenced with Mr. Hank Roeder, Vice-President, Chapter Relations for US-based National Business Travel Association (NBTA) announcing that it is changing its name to Global Travel Business Travel Association (GBTA). The reason behind this is because the organization has got to a stage where it has decided to globalize its brand and make it more accessible to a wider audience. Major changes include the recent appointment of Mr. Mark Rizzuto as Managing Director for Asia-Pacific is one of the key steps that have been taken by the GBTA (Formerly the NBTA). Mr. Rizzuto confirmed that the progress of a strong business plan for GBTA’s presence in Asia is in the works and he expects that the opening of a new office in the region next year would assist GBTA to accomplish its worldwide objectives. Mr. Rizzuto’s appointment was formally introduced to the industry audience at the “I Say, You Say” event during the IT&CMA and CTW. The Keynote speaker at the “I Say, You Say” event was Professor Irene ChengNg, Professor of Marketing Science, University of Exeter and Senior Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK.
Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the event’s strategic partner, the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau (TCEB) announced at the ITCMA & CTW 2010 press conference on the 6th of October that TCEB has recently completed a White Paper highlighting plans to promote lesser-known destinations around Thailand such as those in the north-eastern region. TCEB will work with local authorities to support their marketing of such venues to local MNCs. Mr. Akapol went on to comment, “To encourage an increased Thai presence at this exhibition, TCEB had funded a total of 57 local suppliers and destination management companies to be at the event. These companies occupied over 300 sqm of the IT&CMA exhibition hall.”
Another key recommendation in the White Paper is the creation of a bidding fund that organisations can tap into in order for Thailand to bid for bigger events. TCEB will be presenting these recommendations the government.
To accelerate the recovery of the MICE and travel sector Mr Akapol further went on to confirm that there has been a revival plan within the MICE Industry in cooperation with the private sector. This comprises of three components:
1. Thailand marketing campaign (“Thailand Extra Value”, under the Thailand Maximize Campaign in 2010)
2. Marketing promotion (tradeshows and road-shows for the short haul Asian market and the long haul European market)
The host city, Bangkok, as we are all aware, has suffered earlier this year because of the political situation. From my hotel room in the Rajdamri Road area I could see some buildings that had been damaged due to the troubles which the world witnessed in the summer off 2010. Throughout the city there are slogans of peace and companionship. “Live in harmony together” says one poster, while another says “Fighting solves nothing” and so on. Therefore the IT&CMA and CTW 2010 was vital tool for Thailand’s Tourism Authority to get the message across to the wider global audience that the city is indeed a safe place to be in. “Believe in Thailand” is the simple message that was portrayed across to the delegates, and this was introduced to the world’s media at the IT&CMA and CTW 2010 luncheon. The message was simple- Thailand, and indeed Bangkok is actively open for the MICE industry and it is safe, clean and has world class facilities to be able to cater for the worldwide MICE industry.
“No doubt that the Grand Hyatt suffered in terms of the number of MICE activities during the troubles that were in Bangkok in the summer. However, now things are beginning to pick up gradually. The Grand Hyatt Erawan is open for business to corporate and other MICE activities” Commented Mr. Sammy Carolus of the Grand Hyatt Erawan at the IT&CMA and CTW. Just as Mr. Carolus was talking to me about this, there was a formal MICE event being held by a Middle Eastern Airline at the Grand Hyatt, and the previous day the hotel played host to the “South Korea National Day” Celebrations’ with various global dignitaries’.
Meanwhile, Bangkok-based tour operator, Asia World Enterprise (AWE) launched a dedicated MICE division, Asia World Destination Management (AWDM) at IT&CMA and CTW 2010. Mr. Max Juntasuwan, Director of AWDM commented: “Eighty-five percent of the sales volume from the UK, Germany, Russia and Asia-Pacific were for Thailand, demand for other South-east Asian destinations, particularly Indonesia (Bali) and Vietnam, was coming up strong. Thailand would nevertheless continue to be the focus of AWDM at 70% to 80% of business.” AWDM’s demand for Thailand leverages on the influx of IT&CMA and CTW delegates into the country.
Buyers found the event useful. “I was very much impressed by the hospitality provided by some of the major host hotels’, and I would not hesitate to bring my company delegates for future business meetings’ to Bangkok”. Commented Captain S. Rajan, CEO of Air Safety International.
Destination bureau, Seoul Tourism Organization, presented a “new face” at a special South Korea themed hosted dinner for buyers, corporate travel managers, media and invited guests. Seoul Tourism Organization was also sponsors of the official bags for the media. This year’s theme Seoul on the Move: Sounds and Flavor was aimed at showcasing Seoul as an upbeat, trendy and elegant destination. The dinner’s entertainment line-up included Korean celebrity entertainers Expressions Crew (World famous b-boy group) and Marionette (internationally acclaimed mime performance). It would not have been a proper Korean night had the delegates not enjoyed a popular Korean barbecue. The MICE industry in Seoul is set to improve and get much more attention than ever before.
Fewer Airlines present?
While the event was a success for many of the Hotels’, Conference Venues and Tourism Boards that participate in the MICE industry, there was not much representation from the airline industry. Yes, Thai Airways International, which was the official airline of the event, had a shining presence. Thai Airways is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year so it was a good time for the airline to present its brand at the event- complete with a colourful booth too!
Mr. Teerapol Chotichanapibal, the Acting Executive Vice President Commercial of Thai Airways International said that with the 50th Anniversary of Thai Airways was a very important step in the development of Thailand as a premier destination for MICE activities and that the airline is constantly seeking partnerships to work with within the corporate world. Joining Mr. Chotichanapibal in the press conference were Mr. Darren Ng (Managing Director of TTG Asia Media) and Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the event’s strategic partner, the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau (TCEB).
Inthe exhibition hall, there were a few other airlines present including Royal Brunei Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Philippine Airlines. Airlines are, without a doubt, an essential part of the MICE industry because corporations (and airlines) can benefit by working together to offer incentives to their employees and it would be a win-win situation for both the airline companies as well as the MICE industry as a whole.
During the “I Say, You Say” interactive session, one of the key questions that was posed to Mr. Anindam Choudhury, Regional Manager (Thailand and Malaysia) of India’s Jet Airways was how the airline industry would be affected if the MICE industry held conferences and forums through the internet or even if there was a shift towards the low cost carriers. Mr. Choudhury was stern in his response, as would any Manager of a major schedule global airline, and commented that the MICE industry would benefit from extra given perks by scheduled airlines such as Jet Airways. These perks include high quality complimentary in-flight food and in-flight entertainment. Plus the added benefit of meeting people face to face rather than on the internet or through social networking websites. The same reasons were highlighted by Professor Irene Ng that it is in human nature to have a much clearer communication when have a face-face conversation than to speak to people on the internet. Though she did not rule out a day when people can control their car or fridge using the mobile phone!
Darren Ng, the Managing Director of TTG Asia Media, formally closed the event with an inspiring speech which highlighted the success of the 19th IT&CMA and CTW in Bangkok 2010. The event saw many positive points including the exposure of opening new destinations within Thailand for the MICE industry (Phuket being one of them). The event also highlighted the success of Bangkok and Thailand as a country that fully open and safe for MICE operations. The positive attitude and great support from major Thai officials such as Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart of the TCEB and Mr. Teerapol Chotichanapibal from Thai Airways strongly highlights that Thailand is without a doubt a premier destination for MICE events. All the participating host hotels, including Conrad Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Erawan and the Plaza Athèneè Bangkok A Royal Mèridien, have also shown their strength in the face of the troubles that this wonderful city saw earlier this year. Thankfully, everything is back to normality and Thailand is once again a booming MICE destination.
The IT&CMA now moves onto Shanghai 2011 for its next event, and in 2011 October Bangkok will once again play host to this wonderful event that brings in the best of the MICE industry.
Organised by TTG Asia Media and MP International, with Hangzhou Tourism Commission (Presenting City), the Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental and the Millennium Hongqiao Hotel Shanghai, the IT&CM (Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings) from the 7th till the 9th of April 2010 was a showcase for China to promote itself to the world through various forms of channels connected with tourism including major international and Chinese branded hotels’, resorts’, theme parks’ and tour operators’. The main reason for its presence was to serve as a platform for the 230 exhibiting companies and organisations, as well as international and leading Chinese participants in the MICE industry to explore exciting business opportunities within the world of travel. The theme for the 2010 event was labelled as “Bridging the global MICE business”. The beautiful city of Hangzhou, which is considered one of Shanghai’s two branch cities (the other being “Suzhou”) was hosting as a presenting city. Hangzhou is promoting itself as the best city for tourism in China 2010 and beyond.
With the Shanghai Expo 2010 just around the corner, the IT&CM was a perfect platform for various countries, which have planned activities during the Expo 2010, to showcase themselves to China and to the buyers who had come from around the world. Overall there were just over 300 buyers in attendance from over 39 countries ranging from Europe, Middle East, Africa, Americas and the South-East Asia region. This was well backed up by over 100 supporting media from around 26 countries. The vast majority of the buyers and exhibitors were from South-East Asia and the Greater China region.
The main question here is, did the IT&CM achieve its goals? Was it worth it for everyone to fly in from around the world and spend their 15 minutes face to face with their hosts? The answer to this is not as easy as one may assume. For those people who came to the IT&CM in the hope that they would sign a few contracts, this was not the place I would imagine as it was rather a platform for putting faces to names, and making sure those vital working relationships are cemented in person rather than on the phone or via e-mails. Though having spoken to a few exhibitors, the event seemed to a good success. One of the spokesperson for the Portman Ritz Carlton in Shanghai, who did not wanted to be named, made numerous positive comments. Perhaps she was a bit too proud that on that very day (8th April), the former US President George W Bush was staying at their hotel. As with all the other US Presidents, including President Obama, the Portman Ritz Carlton is the preferred choice when they visit Shanghai. Mr. Bush was in town for a short 2 day “unofficial” trip to meet China’s Finance Minister Mr. Xie Xuren. The security and secrecy of their meeting was so high that the Grand Hyatt in Pudong, where the meetings were held, was closed off to the media and public for half a day (so no guests were allowed to stay inside during that time).
Having just arrived from the west, where there is still the bad air within the economic climate, I seemed to get the feeling that everyone is heading off to China, India or somewhere else in the emerging markets world.
Kaiane Aldorino, the current Miss World title holder, paid a special visit to promote Vietnam as the premier destination, especially as the country is hosting the next Miss World competition in 2010. Hats must be taken off to Miss. Aldorino, a native from Gibraltar, who had to stand almost the whole day and take photos with her many fans. Accompanying Miss Aldorino on her PR trip across China was the founder and CEO of Miss World, Ms. Julia Morley.
The IT&CM was also a platform for some international companies that have set up a new presence in China to provide a taste of their products. Such as international exhibitor, Sharon Lee, area vice-president of Sales, Asia Pacific of Melia Hotels and resorts commented: “Sol Melia’s comprehensive suite of properties is well diverse to cater to different buyer needs, with each property having something unique to offer.” Gran Melia Shanghai is the first Latino style luxury hotel in China to be managed by a leading European hotel group. It offers great scenic views of the Bund and the Oriental TV Tower.
In his closing remarks, Mr Darren Ng, the MD of TTG Asia Media, thanked the participants, the media and the guests, and labelled the event a success. Mr. Ng also acknowledged the idea proposed by me that there should be more airline representatives in future events. This would be a great corridor to gather momentum for the travel incentives overall. One positive aspect which I really admired was that this event was well organised- and this is very important in China. The host hotel (The Shanghai Hongqiao Sheraton) was a superb choice for all the participants to stay at. All the essentials amenities of life were available, and even more so for journalists (internet and telephone etc.).
Then there were some other prominent faces present at the IT&CM, including Kieu Hoang, a self made successful businessman who is the head of the Kieu Hoang Tu Thien (Charity), head of the Tien Giang Tourist Company, and also the host of the Miss World competition in Vietnam in 2010. Below are some photos showing the highlights of the media event. These included press conferences from the respective tourism boards of Hawaii, Japan, Malaysia, Egypt, and various others. So its off to Bangkok in October 2010 for the next event organised by TTG Asia Media!
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