The Serbs may still have historical and political issues to resolve with some of its neighbours, but great nature, rich heritage and war stories make Serbia an interesting destination for tourism and MICE.
In the capital city of Belgrade, the Belgrade Fortress in the Kalemegdan Park commands an impressive view overlooking the confluence of Danube and Sava rivers., It is a symbol of Belgrade since centuries ago and it has been built, re-built and expanded over the years and hence its architecture is an embodiment of Roman, Byzantine, Serbian, Hungarian and Ottoman styles. Underground cellars and halls within the fortress are indeed unique venues for conference, exhibition and dinner functions. However, in an effort to preserve the structure and archaeological artefacts, only certain events are allowed to be held here. MICE organisers should check with the local DMCs or convention bureau for availability and eligibility.
MICE organisers looking for more secluded venues for 'secret' corporate retreat may want to consider the Kustendorf Timber Town. The Timber Town is located on a hill in Mokra Gora, some 200km away from Belgrade. It was built by film director Emir Kusturica for his movie “Life is a miracle” and now serves as a resort. There are restaurants, a hotel, indoor and outdoor theatres, a swimming pool, tennis courts and gym facilities, in addition to nature walks with breathtaking view of the mountainous region. This makes the Timber Town a great venue for company retreats where conference, team-building and social activities can all be held in one place. The hotel has 76 rooms, 3 suites and 3 houses for accommodation, and the multipurpose hall has a capacity of 250 in theatre style seating.
Dubrovnik in Croatia, already a popular European beach destination, has now been made more famous thanks to Hollywood movies and TV series such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Robin Hood (starring Jamie Foxx), and Game of Thrones etc. It is great location for incentive travel given its rich history and scenery. There are many open spaces, indoor halls and restaurants housed in heritage sites suitable for holding special theme dinners and events. Some of these include the Pucic Palace Hotel, Photo Fish Restaurant, Klarisa Restaurant, East West Benji Beach Bar, the Old Quarantine, the Old Customs Building, Townhall MKD Theatre, the Rector's Palace, the Franciscan Monastery, as well as concert and party venue - Revelin.
The Old Town in Kotor, Montenegro, is like a miniature of the Dubrovnik old city. Size of the town and its buildings seem to be in smaller scale. However, the mountain range, and its closeness to the city, is imposing. Incentive groups can probably take a challenge to climb the fort wall from the old town to the mountain top as a team building activity.
But old town and fortress is not all that Montenegro can offer. There are new developments along the coasts. In Tivet, luxury apartments and hotels are springing up. Luxury hotel, such as the Regent Hotel featured here, is all set to take on MICE groups with its fine ballroom and function facilities.
An interview with Ms Nia Niscaya, MICE director for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Indonesia, on the country’s plan to develop its MICE industry.
Many events are being held in Bali and Jakarta year in and year out. Bali is already a very mature and world-renowned destination for incentive groups and conventions, while Jakarta is popular with business meetings. But Indonesia is a vast country. What are the other destinations that Indonesia is actively developing and promoting for MICE?
For the time being, we are focusing on promoting 10 MICE destinations in Indonesia, including Medan, Padang/Bukit Tinggi, Batam, Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Bali, Makasar , Manado
The criteria used in selecting these destinations are among others the accessibilities, venue and other supporting MICE facilities, human resource, as well as the availability of various tourism objects.
In terms of facilities, like hotels, meeting venues, local transportation, these destinations are ready to host international MICE activities. At the moment, Bali and Jakarta are still the strongest ones for their strategic position as hubs, as they are supported by many direct international flight services. I believe if there is more direct international flight coming in, other MICE destinations could host more international events and accommodate events with difference attendance sizes.
What are the specific incentives available to event organisers, corporate meeting planners and non-profit organisations for holding their event in Indonesia?
MCTI can help in promoting the event for the organizer, coordinating site inspection, facilitating between relevant government agencies if required, arranging pre/post-tour, reception or cultural performances and souvenirs. (more information on next page)
As you know, the last issue of MICEreview covered the topic of Crisis Management for MICE industry with focus on Thailand. As a follow-up, how ‘crisis-ready’ is Indonesia’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism and your department, as well as other related organisation in ensuring event organisers and planners on safety and stability, especially in view of Indonesia’s upcoming Presidential election, and threats of terrorism activities from time to time?
We take it as an opportunity for the MICE development of both domestic as well as international markets. Anything beyond our control and expectation could happens, anytime anywhere, however I believe that nowadays our nation is getting mature with the democratic process. It has been proven that the 2004 general election was a successful democratic event, thus it has enhanced our image as a strong nation with many safe destinations to visit.
An Interview with the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
When did the TCEB form its Crisis Management Team?
TCEB set up a crisis team earlier this year to develop strategy, overall processes, and communications. The crisis management team proved its value during the recent political uncertainties, particularly for events such as ITU Telecom Asia 2008, and IT&CMA, where it was crucial to provide timely and relevant information to international delegates both prior to, and during the event itself. The team also launched incentives packages to retain customers during the time of crisis.
What are its mission and objectives?
The safety and security of all our delegates are TCEB’s top priority. In the event of any kind of uncertainty, it does not have to reach crisis proportions before we act. It is our aim to maintain close communications with all our stakeholders to ensure they have timely, relevant and accurate information on unfolding events wherever they may perceive a potential impact on visiting delegates directly, or more generally on the image of the MICE sector. The crisis team also creates new initiatives to counter the effect of the crisis. Some of those initiatives are:
a) Hosted trip for international organizers or associations to experience the peaceful situation in Thailand.
b) Incentives for confirmed events before 31 Dec 2008 etc.
Who is in the crisis management team?
The MICE crisis management team comprises representatives of public sector agencies and the private sector MICE stakeholders, including TAT, AOT, TEA, TICA, THA, major hotels, and venue operators etc. It is vital that the public sector and the industry acts coherently to ensure that delegates and international MICE operators are provided with timely information as the result of the considered judgement and specialized experience of our multi-stakeholder team. Our ‘Thai Team’ approach is definitely one of our strengths.
TCEB works with all these team members to collect the latest news and develop updated consensus statements to be released by all MICE operators, travel agencies, hotels, venues, organizers, and business associations etc. TCEB itself is responsible for developing statements for the overall MICE industry, and at the request of MICE operators, provides support for specific events to update the situation.
As well as responding to specific situations, the ‘Thai Team’ MICE crisis management team continuously monitors political and economic trends as well as the security situation, and holds regular meetings in order to anticipate and develop appropriate strategies.
Can you describe some of the key steps taken when a crisis arises?
Because a crisis team must act quickly and in concert, of course we have agreed procedures in place so that everyone knows his or her role, and communicates the agreed message coherently and effectively.
Having consulted with all team members to obtain the latest information updates from reliable sources, the TCEB crisis team discusses the appropriate level of response, and drafts an official statement, which must be approval by the head of our marketing communication team and the TCEB president. Once approved, the statement is distributed to all team partners and through TCEB’s own regular communication channels: TCEB e-messages are sent to all MICE stakeholders registered on our database (TICA, TEA members, and all MICE operators).
We may also ask TCEB representatives to distribute statements targeted at specific countries around the world, and also use the newsflash function on the TCEB website. TCEB’s marketing team and other staffs are also of course kept fully updated so that they can deal personally with any inquiries as they arise. We are especially conscious of the need to provide the most accurate information available, as often there is a need to correct exaggerated media reports that can result in unnecessary over-reaction to what are often very localized problems.
How would TCEB respond to organizers of different events in times of crisis?
We also develop specific statements tailored to specific events, particularly for upcoming events where international organizers are faced with questions over personal safety or security for a planned event in Thailand. This was certainly the case during the political uncertainties of the past months.
For example, during ITU Telecom Asia 2008, we provided organizers with updated information and appropriate advice for travellers, in order to put events in their true perspective. For example, news reports repeatedly showed the clashes that took place on a single night, whilst in reality, the problems were limited to two specific locations far from the business and convention venues. For the most part, business continued as usual, with no disruption to services, and the exhibition halls stayed full throughout the duration of both events.
Each crisis situation is different, and we learn from each experience. What have been most valuable are the excellent cooperation we have enjoyed among the many government agencies concerned and the private sector. Our aim is to develop and disseminate practical, timely and helpful messages that provide event delegates and business visitors with reliable assessments of any situation that may affect their security. Whilst encouraging delegates to be aware of any emerging crisis situation, we believe that a wider perspective will allow them to enjoy their visit to Thailand to the fullest.
In the run-up to IT&CMA 2008, political turmoil broke up in Thailand and violence occurred even up to the first day of the show. MICEreview talks to show organizer TTG and host committee Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) on their experience.
How did the TTG, as the show organizer, manage the situation?
TTG: We worked closely with the official venue - Bangkok Convention Centre (BCC) at CentralWorld to step up the security level on-site. Prior to the show, we consolidated the list of confirmed attendees with their contact details in case of any emergency. Security personnel are instructed to be vigilant at all times and be aware of any suspicious character.
In fact, we have brought SOS International to the show floor, located at the back of the IT&CMA and CTW exhibition hall, to answer to delegates' needs and calm their fears.
As an event organiser, we always need to have a contingency plan that includes postponing and/or relocating the event. However, after assessing the situation with our partners in Thailand, we made a decision that the show will go on as scheduled and promptly relayed this information to all our delegates.
How has TCEB and other supporting organizations/partners assisted in calming fears or assuring safety, and ensuring smooth running of the event against this backdrop?
TTG: TCEB, has assisted us greatly in this political situation. As the host committee, TCEB was vigilant on the political situation and gave prompt updates to the organizer. Should there be any further crisis that arose, TCEB was committed to advise the organiser on what ought to be done from the local point of view.
The other event partners, namely, TAT, TICA, are on stand by should there be any emergency that could arise.
What were the steps taken by TCEB at IT&CMA 2008?
TCEB: During IT&CMA 2008 and ITU Telecom Asia 2008, we set up an on-site crisis team for the duration of the events. This is to serve as the contact point for crisis management, to help delegates directly with their questions and concerns, and to develop TCEB media statements on site as needed. This team consisted of TCEB’s internal crisis team, representatives of the event organizer, the venue, and official hotels. Also, we set up a second crisis communication team was established at TCEB office to support the on-site team, assist with the database and manage communication channels.
On-site, organizers, and the venue team worked together to distribute periodic updates and announcements to delegates, as well as posting on the official event website. TCEB coordinated with the contact points of official and unofficial hotels of delegates to disseminate TCEB statements as widely as possible, and our team was on constant stand by to serve as spokesperson for media inquiries.
China is fast becoming a key destination for MICE travel, as much as it is becoming an important source of outbound MICE business. Major cities like Shanghai and Beijing are already well equipped with hotels and facilities for conventions and exhibitions of all sizes. There are rich cultural heritage and growing number of new activities, theme dinner sites and restaurants to attract foreign MICE visitors. Smaller towns and cities such as Hangzhou and Suzhou are also developing as excellent alternative or supporting destinations to the big cities.
When considering destinations for corporate meetings and conferences, Malaysia cannot be ignored. While lacking the exotic and cultural allure of destinations like Bali or Phuket, Malaysia does possess excellent MICE venues be it in big cities, beach or highland resorts. The popular destinations in Malaysia for MICE are Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
MICEreview talks to Kamilia Hani Abdul Halim, Acting Senior Assistant Director of Convention Division for Director-General, Tourism Malaysia, on the incentives for holding events in Malaysia and the challenges ahead for Malaysia’s MICE industry.
What makes Malaysia attractive as a MICE venue?
Malaysia offers state-of-the-art convention and meeting facilities, easy accessibility, efficient transportation system, world-class accommodation, value for money, diverse cultural attraction, warm and hospitable people and proven track record of hosting major international MICE events. In 2006, Malaysia hosted a total of 3,418 international conventions, attracting 820,243 foreign delegates. For 2007, between January and June, we have already recorded 544,697 convention arrivals.
What are some of the problems facing Malaysia as a MICE destination?
With the development of MICE industry in neighbouring countries, the demand for MICE professionals is very high. Hence, like other countries, we are also encountering issues such as shortage of skilled manpower, education and training in the MICE industry. To be more competitive in bidding for international events, we also need more cooperation amongst MICE suppliers so that they can commit their support to the organizers.
How do Tourism Malaysia make it easier for organizers to hold events here?
Under the Meet & Experience Malaysia Truly Asia campaign, we offer a host of benefits to make it convenient for event organizers to hold their event here. We can add value and convenience to organizers through benefits such as:
Tourism Malaysia is in the midst of seeking the necessary approval from the authority to establish the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau. The bureau will help to further boost the MICE industry in Malaysia by going aggressive in researching for leads to bid for more international conventions and other MICE events into Malaysia and also to promote the brand Malaysia as a preferred MICE destination in the region.
For a city or resort to transform into a MICE destination, basic infrastructural developments such as air, sea and land transportation, info-communication systems must keep pace with the development of hotels and event venues. For busy business travelers attending a two to three-day conference, the last thing they want is to get stuck at the immigration or traffic for more than half the day. That is one of the reasons why cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore remain the top destinations for business conferences. But even for more laid-back meetings in resort destinations, having to spend a lot time clearing customs or getting from one point to another is not a great way to start a corporate retreat.
Corporate meeting attendees are often treated to lavish gala dinners and ‘make-belief’ themed parties in hotel ballrooms or large outdoor function areas. Yes, the attendees do get that VIP treatment and feel pampered. However, with such meetings lasting at most 2-3 days, attendees do not normally get a taste of real local culture outside the hotel.
In Hanoi, Vietnam, looking for an out-of-hotel venue that could fit over 150 guests for a sit-down dinner is not an easy task. There are many quaint, interesting restaurants and cafes in town, but most are housed in small French colonial villas or traditional Vietnamese courtyard houses that cannot accommodate everyone on the same floor, in the same room.
Sen Restaurant is one venue that can house nearly a thousand guests in its various pavilions, and each pavilion can host between 100-300 guests for sit-down buffet dinners. It has a very wide buffet spread of international and local food to suit everyone’s taste buds. Guests can witness how traditional Vietnamese dishes are prepared and enjoy a spectacular view of a surrounding lake covered with lotus.
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