by Esther Faith Lew | April 22, 2016

Be it an exhibition and convention centre, resort or unique venue, planners are looking for spaces that provide that extra edge to meet their expectations. M&C Asia takes a look at several forerunners in their own rights.

What adds value for planners?

A holistic experience. A sustainable and eco-conscious agenda.  A conducive ambience to encourage team building and brainstorming. Flexible arrangements and cost-effective solutions.  A myriad of requirements ranging from the practical to the idealistic are dealt with by MICE venue operators, with ever escalating demands from discerning planners. 

Venue operators have paid attention, and with their eye on the emerging trends for event planning, they are working collaboratively with partners to up the ante for experiential events that make a difference.

1. An innovative approach

An emphasis on innovations has also kept the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) in the forefront with product offerings that meet changing market demands. KLCC won an International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) Innovation Award 2015 for its TenOnCall (TOC) product, which facilitates innovative use of space. 

TOC allows planners to choose from a suite of 10 flexible meeting spaces for a differentiated meeting experience. It also allows for short-lead bookings and just-in-time meetings, making it easy for planners to quickly select a pre-set room configuration and activate a meeting for 15 to 150 attendees.

2. Fast and flexible planning 

KLCC's TOC packages come with complimentary wi-fi access, use of audiovisual equipment, services of an AV technician and built-in LCD signage at the entrance foyer. Also included is the centre's all-day dining concept with free-flow cuisine and beverages. This is served in a central atrium that is part of the integrated meeting space.

"Following the success of TOC, TenOnCall PLUS was launched to include three additional function areas as well as a unique space with natural lighting, free-flow cuisine and beverage service, a dedicated private meeting room and an outdoor balcony as a designated smoking area," says Alan Pryor, GM of KLCC.

SingEx offers a suite of solutions that aid planning and execution. It acts as as single point of contact from hotel bookings, entertainment and F&B to cleaning contractors, stand builders and AV equipment. "We undertake some of the planning work so that [planners] can focus on curating the content for their events," adds Arlando.

Keeping itself nimble is Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center (BNDCC), which executes events ranging from private banquets and gatherings to gala dinners, exhibitions and conferences with more than 10 breakout sessions. 

3. Meeting the needs of the tech savvy

With the ever increasing demand for reliable high-speed wi-fi, SingEx recently launched Wi-Fimax, a flexible system that allows visitors to Singapore EXPO and MAX Atria enjoy complimentary wi-fi up to 2mbps. Event organisers may customise the bandwidth according to their requirements, to more than 15,000 concurrently active devices - the highest in Asia.

Commenting on the trends for technology, Aloysius Arlando, CEO of SingEx says: "Delegates are more technology savvy, using event mobile applications and are comfortable with other technological solutions such as online registration and online voting systems. Therefore, we also team up with partners to offer a suite of IT solutions to our clients such as online registration and voting systems, online files sharing access and badging systems."

4. Meet, mingle and enjoy

Going casual to break away from traditional MICE formats is trending among organisers, and KLCC has paid attention, introducing the TenOnCall Beanie Experience, which provides comfortable bean bags to create a relaxing ambience in its meeting rooms. This package includes takeaway drinks such as latte, cappuccino, coffee or tea, and complimentary Bean-ovation value-adds such as tid bits, energy booster drinks and energy bars, comfy slippers and a stress ball.

When the end of the day beckons, delegates are able to take advantage of KLCC's TenOnCall Sundown Hour Package, which enables their clients to maximise networking time with a two-hour cocktail function wth free-flow beverages. 

Ideas pop up consistently at Singapore EXPO and MAX Atria, with spaces being reinvented to cater to clients' unique needs. "We have converted outdoor areas or even the carpark into outdoor exhibition areas, created pop-up meeting spaces for discussions around the venue and relax corners with massage lounge chairs to enhance the experience of delegates," says Arlando.

5. Experiencing local cultures 

With the buzzword being "experiential" events and not just meetings, conventions and exhibitions, venues have had to put on their thinking hats to drum up ideas on being a hospitality-driven MICE venue. This means taking delegates away from their events to experience the local culture. At KLCC, the Cultural Showcase is a complimentary value-add component of its RM100,000 (US$24,000) Conventions Value-Add Programme. This showcase is a presentation of eight Malaysian arts and crafts: batik painting, basket weaving, wood carving, songket weaving, pewter smithing, henna painting, Chinese calligraphy and the gamelan (traditional Malay orchestra).

6. The pleasure of dining 

With six world-class hotels located within Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao, the dining options for planners are aplenty. The challenge of satisfying the palates of delegates becomes a problem, albeit a good one, as award-winning restaurants offering a multitude of cuisines are the norm. Such a stellar cast of F&B stars is hard to beat.

7. Cooking up schemes 

Keeping the calendar chock-a-block with events requires MICE venues to get creative in marketing strategies, which benefit planners. Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management) Limited (HML) offers the Low Season Scheme, New Exhibition Rebate Scheme and New International Trade Fair Incentive Scheme, which have successfully attracted new exhibitions.

Marketing promotions in Macau provide a suite of special offers under the Macao Meetings with More scheme, valid at the six international hotels within Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao. According to Ruth Boston, Vice President of Destination Marketing and Sales, The Venetian Macao, this scheme includes offers such as 5 percent off the master bill, , complimentary rooms and upgrades, 20 percent off audiovisual equipment and a complimentary 30-minute "meet and greet" entertainment performance.

With a destination that is already an attraction in itself, BNDCC is focusing on strengthening its ties with associations and in looking after specific markets to penetrate new corporate clients, shared Rita Maylani, Executive Assistant Manager. 

8. Efficient use of resources

Beyond convention and exhibition centres, integrated resorts have their appeal as well, with the wide range of facilities at its disposal. "[Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao] has more flexibility in terms of accommodation with six hotels under one roof. We don't need to move delegates from city hotels to and from a convention centre. We also have plenty of choices when it comes to dining (over 100 dining options), shopping (over 650 shops) and entertainment all under the same roof. This then translates into both major cost and resource savings for event and meeting organisers, elaborates Gene Capuano, Vice President of Convention and Exhibition Operations, Venetian Macau Limited.

9. An artistic flair

Making regular runs in Hong Kong are top-notch art exhibitions and related events such as Art Basel, Affordable Art Fair, Fine Art Asia, Sotheby's Spring Auctions and Exhibitions and Christie's Hong Kong Spring Auction. "HKCEC has undertaken the market research and planning necessary to secure new exhibitions, gaining an edge as an arts venue. It secured the world's first in art exhibition last year in December," adds Monica Lee-Müller, Managing Director, HML.

10. Variety that impresses

With planners squeezing more into their events, the demand for a multilevel programme that addresses business and leisure for packed sessions and itineraries are gaining traction. With the Parisian Macao opening later this year, the dedicated area on the pool deck will provide the backdrop for MICE events. It offers 465sqm of space for lunch events, team building activities and evening receptions with a view of the entire Cotai Strip. It will be connected to The Venetian's Cotai Expo halls. 

"We also offer many other unique and interesting venues that can be utilised for plenary sessions, including The Venetian Theatres, the Cotai Arena, the mini golf course at The Venetian Macao, and the lagoon area of The Venetian Macao where popular events such as Wine and Dine Festival, Cotai Jazz and Blues and Carnevale have been held, says Capuano.

Venue snapshots

Singapore EXPO and MAX Atria

Singapore EXPO and MAX Atria.
 Star qualities: Commitment to delivering smart and effective solutions. Achieving a high client retention rate. They have also hosted Singapore's largest trade exhibition (Food & Hotel Asia 2014 - 100,000sqm), largest corporate meeting (Herbalife Asia Pacific Extravaganza 2014 - 24,000 pax) and largest incentive event (Amway China 2006 - 10,000 pax)

Milestones: SingEx manages Singapore EXPO and MAX Atria, which have won the following accolades: ISO 9001 for Quality Management System, BizSAFE Level 4, BCA Green Mark Platinum Standard (MAX Atria is the first centre in Singapore to achieve this standard); MAX Atria is Finalist for Best Business Event Venue Experience at the Singapore Experience Awards for 2013 and 2014.

New wins: Secured new events such as 3rd Asian Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Regional Congress in May; 2016 Singapore Mental Health Conference - May, held in conjunction with ADHD; 15th World Congress of the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus in September.

Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre

Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
 Star qualities: Purpose built; most technologically advanced in Malaysia; flexible spaces; and innovative service and strategies. A new extension is being built, due for completion in 2018. It will provide 10,000sqm of flexible space. Its successful Culinaria programme is also being further developed to elevate F&B standards.

Milestones: Scooping the highest number of awards in 2015: 'Purpose Built Convention & Exhibition Centre Award For Excellence' at rAWr Awards 2015; 'Best MICE Experience' at Best of Malaysia Awards 2015; 'Best Conference Venue' at Asia Pacific MICE Awards 2015; 'Dato Lau Foo Sun Excellence in Dining Award' 2015; Bailliage de Malasie Fine Dining Award.

New wins: Thirteen bids were secured in the last quarter of 2015. Includes World Halal Conference 2016 (29 - 30 March 2016) with an expected 700 delegates and the 35th ISQua International Conference 2018 (23 - 26 September 2018) with an estimated 1,500 delegates.

Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao

The Venetian Macao.
 Star qualities: Everything under one roof - 139,000sqm of meeting and exhibition space and about 9,000 rooms from six hotels. The Cotai Arena accommodates up to 13,000 attendees and has the capability to serve up to 15,000 meals. Ancillary services such as ferry tickets, entertainment, coach and limousine transportation, audiovisual services and sustainable "Green Meeting" initiatives.
 
Milestones: ISO 20121 and ISO 9001 certified. Also recognised as the winner of IMEX GMIC Green Supplier Award IMEX/GMIC. 

Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center
Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.
 Star qualities: Young, creative, warm and personal customised service. It is the largest convention centre in Bali.

Milestones: Venue for high-level international events Including ASEAN Summit 2011, APEC 2013, Miss World 2013, and the Upcoming IMF - World Bank Meeting in 2018.

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.
 Star qualities: Awarded 'Best Convention and Exhibition Centre in Asia' title by leading industry professionals. A proven reputation, hosting four of the world's biggest and seven of Asia's biggest trade exhibitions, including other world-class events.

Milestones: Opened in 1988, the centre has undergone two expansion projects to strengthen its leading position as Asia's trade fair hub. Consistently held over 1,100 events each year.

New wins: Secured 7 new exhibitions and 9 conferences in 2016, including Cloud Expo Asia and Data Centre World Hong Kong 2016 in May, HR Summit Hong Kong and Xsports & Adventure Expo.

Indonesia Convention Exhibition

Indonesia Convention Exhibition.
 Star qualities: Largest in Indonesia and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. Huge capacity and modern high-quality standards in 50,000sqm exhibition halls, a 4,000sqm convention hall, a VIP room and 33 meeting rooms of varying sizes. The centre is equipped to handle large-scale events, with a 6X6 metre dedicated loading door for each hall; each hall is equipped with 1-tonne capacity rigging points on the roof.

Milestones: It is the venue of  Gaikindo International Auto Show (GIIAS), the largest automotive show in Southeast Asia, attended by 450,000 visitors.