Here are our picks of cities across the region that are emerging as bright spots for corporate travellers
[ Philippines ]
By Marianne Carandang
WHY IT’S BOOMING A thriving agribusiness centre and exporter, Davao is home to multinational food companies like Dole, and is an up-and-coming ICT hub, particularly for business process outsourcing (BPO) and software solutions. Business travellers hail from Singapore, the US and, increasingly, from South Korea.
ACCESS/ACCOMMODATION Davao is linked by flights to Manila, Cebu and Clark international airports, but remains hobbled by a lack of crucial regional connections to Singapore and Malaysia.
According to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT) Region XI director, Art Boncato, Davao City has about 7,000 rooms and 10,000 rooms in the Davao Region. The 186-room Seda Abreeza and the 204-room Park Inn by Radisson Davao are recent additions to the city. Average room rates in the city’s top-tier hotels hover around PHP3,000 (US$73); on Samal Island, a resort and medium-sized meetings destination, the average room rate at Pearl Farm Beach Resort is PHP6,500.
Major hotels such as the Waterfront, Royal Mandaya, Apo View and Marco Polo can handle about 200-250 pax in their MICE facilities. At Samal Island, Pearl Farm can accommodate 80-250 pax at its meetings and events venues.
Davao’s appeal as a MICE destination is set to rise, especially with the opening of the 7,835m2 SMX Convention Center Davao in SM Lanang Premier in December 2012. Located just 2.5km from Francisco Bangoy International Airport, SMX Davao hosted about 500 participants during the Philippine MICE Convention 2013 in March.
LIFESTYLE ASPECTS Davao city is a shopping and food paradise with a myriad of fresh and grilled seafood. Ayala Land’s Abreeza Mall opened in May 2011, followed by SM Lanang Premier in September 2011. A 30-minute ferry ride away are the Samal and Talicud islands, home to many beach resorts and top dive spots like Dapia Reef, Ligid Caves and Malipano. Outdoor enthusiasts can go hiking at Mount Apo Natural Park or whitewater rafting down Davao River.
WHY IT’S BOOMING Many of the country’s richest families built their wealth in Iloilo, where the economy is driven by agribusiness, seafood, handicraft and furniture. Iloilo’s heritage, eco- and agritourism are also creating business opportunities in tourism.
Since 2003, the BPO sector has been steadily rising in Iloilo, with 13 IT-BPO firms employing over 6,000 people as of mid-2012. According to Iloilo mayor Jed Mabilog, a major French IT firm setting up in the city will bring in 8,000 jobs.
The 54-hectare Iloilo Business Park will become the largest IT park in Iloilo when completed in 2015, with BPO facilities offering 24,000 seats, adding to the four parks currently in operation.
ACCESS/ACCOMMODATION Cebu Pacific made Iloilo its sixth hub in 2012, and began offering flights to Hong Kong and Singapore from last November. “We see a lot of business travel on our Iloilo routes, primarily because our direct flights eliminate the need for connecting flights or overnight stays,” said Cebu Pacific’s vice president for marketing and distribution, Candice Iyog.
The route also connects businessmen from Iloilo with regional business cities like Shenzhen, said Erlinda Tan, operations manager at JLT Travel and Tours, adding that the recently renovated Iloilo International Airport is also driving business.
According to DoT’s Region VI OIC, Helen Catalbas, there are 2,962 rooms in the city as of July 2012, of which 1,100 rooms are spread across 14 DoT-accredited first- and standard-class hotels.
Save for the festive season (Dinagyang in January and Paraw Regatta in February), rooms are priced from PHP800 to PHP 2,500. “There is a lack of range in accommodation, which Iloilo is now trying to address,” said Aileen Clemente, president of Rajah Travel.
The 187-room Sarabia Manor Hotel has a 1,200-pax convention centre. The Iloilo Convention Center, located in the upcoming Iloilo Business Park, will have a total floor area of 6,400m2, a 3,700-pax main hall and eight 500-seat function rooms. The Philippine government is looking at hosting some of the APEC Summit 2015 events here.
A 90-room Richmonde hotel will also open in 2013 at the Iloilo Business Park, followed by two more hotels – Le Grand Richmonde and Marriott Courtyard – at the same venue.
LIFESTYLE ASPECTS Iloilo is a picturesque city with Spanish and American mansions and heritage churches, the most famous of which is the Miag-ao Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Iloilo is also a popular jumping-off point to neighbouring beach destinations. Guimaras is a mere 30-minute ferry ride away and Bacolod is 45 minutes away by fast craft. Capiz, a two-hour drive away, is the Philippine seafood capital and a culinary destination in its own right.
[ INDONESIA ]
By Mimi Hudoyo
WHY IT’S BOOMING Home to one of the country’s busiest seaports, Surabaya is a major commercial centre in the eastern region of Indonesia. It is also the capital city of East Java province whose major economic sectors include marine and shipbuilding, industrial automation, vehicle manufacturing, energy production, plastic and packaging.
ACCESS/ACCOMMODATION Surabaya is well-connected by road and rail with the rest of Java island, and by air and sea with other parts of Indonesia. Air links to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Brunei are served by carriers like Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, AirAsia, EVA Air, Valuair and Saudia.
Budget and upscale properties are available, with established brands such as Sheraton, JW Marriott, Shangri-La, Swiss-Belhotel and Santika. The city’s total star-rated inventory stands at 5,500 rooms, with rates ranging from Rp250,000 (US$26) to Rp2.3 million.
Supermall Surabaya Convention Centre has a 453m2 exhibition hall that can accommodate 5,000 pax in theatre style and a 3,000-pax ballroom, while Gramedia Expo has a 2,750m2exhibition hall and a 1,200m2 convention hall. Existing hotels also offer ballrooms and meeting facilities of various capacities.
“The growth of business travel to East Java last year was more than seven per cent, higher than the national average of 6.4 per cent,” said Surabaya Plaza Hotel, general manager, Yusak Anshori.
“The development of infrastructure such as the opening of Blimbingsari Airport in Banyuwangi regency (near Surabaya), has made the city more interesting for business and leisure travellers. Some airlines (like Garuda Indonesia and AirAsia) have also made Juanda International Airport their hub to eastern Indonesia. Improved access has stimulated businesses too.”
LIFESTYLE ASPECTS Plaza Tunjungan, Ciputra World Surabaya and Supermall Surabaya are some of the major shopping and entertainment centres in the city. Diverse culinary experiences are readily available, from local establishments offering East Java specialties like rawon (black beef soup), deep-fried duck and rujak cingur (vegetable, fruit and buffalo lip salad) to international cuisines at upmarket venues such as Platinum Grill, Casa Fontana and House of Sampurna.
WHY IT’S BOOMING The capital of North Sumatra province, Medan is the biggest city on Sumatra and the fourth largest in Indonesia. The city is an economic and commercial hub of the region, driven by trade, hotel and restaurant businesses as well as manufacturing industries.
ACCESS/ACCOMMODATION Medan is connected with the rest of Sumatra island by road, and with other parts of Indonesia by air. As a hub of western Indonesia, the city is connected with major cities like Jakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar as well as secondary cities in Sumatra such as Padang, Banda Aceh and Pekanbaru. Domestic airlines and regional carriers like SilkAir, Valuair and AirAsia connect the city to Singapore and Malaysia. More international airlines are expected to fly into Medan when the Kuala Namu International Airport opens later this year.
Santika Premiere Dyandra Hotel & Convention Medan general manager, Cita Dewantoro, said: “The opening of Kuala Namu International Airport will change the destination in a huge way. We can expect more airlines to come in, bringing both business and leisure markets to the destination.”
The city has 48 hotels, varying from major brands such as JW Marriott, Grand Aston, Grand Swiss-Belhotel, Santika Premiere and Aryaduta to individual properties like Grand Antares, Danau Toba International and Garuda Plaza. Room rates range from Rp250,000 to Rp750,000.
Part of the Santika Premiere Dyandra Hotel & Convention, Medan International Convention Center is the city’s largest convention facility with conference capacity for more than 3,000 pax and nine breakout rooms seating 40-90 pax.
LIFESTYLE ASPECTS Grand Palladium, Sun Plaza and Medan Mall are the major shopping complexes. The city is a great culinary destination with local delicacies such as Medankway teow (noodles), soto ayam (chicken soup) and durian dishes. Merdeka Walk, a popular local hangout in the heart of town, is great for sampling Medanese cusine.
[ MYANMAR ]
By Rahul Khanna
WHY IT’S BOOMING Myanmar’s main economic, tourism and transport hub, Yangon has seen a surge in arrivals since many foreign governments lifted travel sanctions on Myanmar.
According to the Ministry of Hotels & Tourism, Yangon received 554,531 foreign visitors in 2012, up 54.3 per cent from 2011, with FITs making up the single largest group with 232,715 visitors, followed by package tourists (126,036) and business travellers (114,456). The bulk of business travellers come from Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and also Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
ACCESS/ACCOMMODATION Yangon saw a tremendous boost to its air access last year, and it is now linked by 22 international airlines such as AirAsia, Dragonair and Singapore Airlines. According to the Centre for Aviation, Myanmar’s international aviation market currently has 81,000 weekly seats, from just 49,000 as recently as April 2012.
Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation will redevelop Yangon International Airport to double its annual handling capacity from 2.7 million to 5.5 million passengers and will soon resume construction of the Hanthawaddy International Airport in June 2013 – due to complete by December 2016 – to accommodate 10 million passengers a year.
Yangon Central Railway Station, the largest in Myanmar, offers access to the 5,000km rail network across the country. Japan is currently financing the extension of the railway projects, which are expected to be up by 2015. Visitors mainly use the Yangon-Mandalay route, on which Myanmar Railways offers daily and nightly reserved carriages on express trains.
Yangon has a 4,456km road network, most of which is in good condition. Taxis are the easiest way for visitors to get around Yangon but it is customary to negotiate fares prior to starting the trip.
To ease the city’s shortage of rooms, the Myanmar Investment Commission has put historic state-owned buildings in central Yangon up for tender for conversion into hotels.
The 240-key Shangri-La Residence is expected to launch in mid-2013, the 366-room Novotel Yangon Max will debut by this year-end and the 300-room Hilton Yangon will open in 2014. Meanwhile, Best Western International is looking at franchising and ownership options in Yangon, Mandalay and other key destinations in Myanmar.
Vietnam’s Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group is investing in a US$300 million mixed-use development comprising a 27-storey commercial centre and a 414-room hotel.
Established properties like Traders Hotel, Parkroyal and Chatrium Hotel are equipped with MICE facilities.
LIFESTYLE ASPECTS Yangon is thriving with new bars, restaurants and shopping malls, as well as an emerging art scene. Shwedagon Pagoda, Sule Pagoda and the British colonial buildings are the city’s landmarks; many tourists also enjoy the local experiences aboard the circular railway, which links downtown with the outlying suburbs.
WHY IT’S BOOMING The second largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is located 700km north of Yangon with plenty of historic and religious sites. Despite Nay Pyi Taw’s recent rise, Mandalay remains the main economic, educational and health centre in Upper Myanmar, with Chinese businessmen forming a significant portion of the visitors to Mandalay.
ACCESS/ACCOMMODATION Mandalay had only one international route to Kunming by China Eastern Airlines previously, but AirAsia and THAI Smile have joined the fray with flights from Bangkok, while Bangkok Airways will start flying in September.
Myanmar Airways International (MAI) commenced flights to India’s Gaya in November 2012 and Bangkok from March 31. Using Mandalay International Airport as its base, MAI has plans to expand its route network to Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Mandalay International Airport, with an annual handling capacity of three million passengers, is expected to undergo an upgrade soon to become a logistics centre.
Mandalay’s strategic location in Central Myanmar also makes it a vital hub for transporting people and goods, and it is connected to the rest of the country, China and India by road and rail networks.
Mandalay Central Railway Station is the terminus of Myanmar Railways’ main line from Yangon and the starting point of branch lines to Pyin Oo Lwin, Lashio, Monywa, Pakoku, Kaly, Gangkaw as well as the northern cities.
In terms of hotels, the 280-room Novotel Mandalay Mingalar is opening this year-end. Mandalay Hill Resort can accommodate up to 200 pax in its meeting rooms and up to 600 pax for themed events, while Sedona Hotel has MICE facilities for up to 260 pax.
LIFESTYLE ASPECTS Mandalay is home to many holy temples such as Maha Myat Muni Paya and Kuthodaw Paya. In the heart of the city, the walled Royal Palace offers a glimpse of the city’s former splendour during the last Burmese monarchy.