Opportunities flourish for multi-city programmes in South-east Asia

Destinations in South-east Asia could potentially cater to multi-destination business event programmes, particularly for small-sized incentive and conference groups with optional pre/post-show activities, concluded the panellists speaking at the inaugural ASEAN MICE Forum’s opening session.

Sharing her observations at the session on ASEAN, a one-stop MICE wonderland, Pornthip Hirunkate, deputy CEO of Destination Asia Group and managing director-Thailand of Destination Asia, said multi-destination incentives were more popular with longhaul clients “who have come all the way from Europe or the US to this region and want to cover as (many destinations) as possible because incentives don’t usually (return to the same region)”.

She said these clients would do Thailand-Myanmar-Cambodia, Singapore-Bali or Singapore-Malaysia combinations.

For corporate meetings, multi-destination itineraries are possible when optional pre/post-show programmes are included, according to Hugo Slimbrouck, director of strategic partnerships, Ovation Global DMC.

Core programmes are unlikely to be held in more than one destination in South-east Asia, he noted, especially since “meetings nowadays are shorter, lasting one and a half days or two”.

Although destinations in South-east Asia offer much cultural and historical charms, and are seeing new tourism infrastructure developments, Slimbrouck pointed out that the purpose of the corporate or association meeting – not tourism appeal – would drive destination choices.

Referencing her past experience as event manager of major international firms like Morgan Stanley and First Protocol, Sarah Randall, head of MICE Services of Centara Hotels & Resorts, said destination choices would depend on “the individual market segment and objective of the event, whether it needs teambuilding, CSR elements or purely economic (achievements).”

Business meetings that cover several destinations in the region were more likely with roadshows, Randall said, adding that financial sector clients tended to focus on business hubs like Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta.

The three panellists believe complex logistics that come with multi-destination programmes will deter event planners. To minimise such challenges, Randall said hotels must help by providing a single point of contact for event planners.

“Hotels in this region must also help to market the destination by educating clients on what’s available besides the hotel and its meeting facilities. I have ballrooms in my hotel, but so does the hotel next door. We guide our clients around the destination and show them how a meeting in the city like Bangkok could work with a post-event programme in a resort destination like Hua Hin,” she said.

What destinations in South-east Asia have going for them is the availability of convenient air links within the region, said the panellists. While destinations in the region are connected by a multitude of low-cost carriers, Pornthip said these are not options favoured by incentive winners. Instead, full-service regional carriers are preferred.

“That’s why boutique carrier Bangkok Airways has been able to do so well with (business travellers),” said Randall, pointing to its good ASEAN connections and brand positioning.

Commenting on the panellists’ views, Ally Lai, managing director of i Life China which specialises in incentive travel, told TTGAsia e-Daily that destinations in the region that are connected to one another by convenient transportation are favoured.

She also found that “combining destinations in the ASEAN region is possible when a group has fewer than 100 pax”.

Read more reports from the ground in our IT&CMA and CTW Asia-Pacific 2015 Show Dailies.

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