The first new star is Phnom Penh. There are several reasons why Phnom Penh is becoming more and more competitive to catch larger MICE—strategic location in Southeast Asia, decisive pro-business government, construction boom and most importantly much lower cost when compared to Singapore and Bangkok. These advantages outweigh the concerns in Phnom Penh—bad traffic and air quality. It is just the time problem for Phnom Penh to be one of the top choices for MICE. “What makes Phnom Penh interesting for business events is that it hasn’t been on the radar for a long time. It’s new,” says Stefan Willimann, general manager of Hotel Cambodia, a riverfront luxury hotel that hosted the ASEAN Energy Meeting in September.
The one following Phnom Penh is Manila. It would thrive if the construction industry continues booming there. The largest venue at the moment is Marriott Manila new grand ballroom with 8,000 square metre of floor space. The venue features high-tech vertical folding partitions that descend from above to create 27 versatile meetings spaces with variable ceiling heights. “We want to attract international conventions and eventually be the top choice for MICE destinations in Southeast Asia,” says Michelle Garcia, the Marriott’s marketing director.
Yangon is another place to watch for. Businesses were hindered by the military ruled government in the past but Myanmar becomes more promising with the peaceful transition to democracy following the November elections. People are getting more and more confident in the place, especially Yangon. “So far things look very positive and a lot of new foreign investment is coming in, and that is the real reason for a lot of business meetings right now,” says Cathy Nepomuceno, marketing director of the Shangri-La Yangon, home to the 450-seat Myanmar Ballroom, one of city’s largest function spaces.
Providing the same service standard as Singapore, Colombo is also becoming more and more popular for MICE industry in the region. The sophisticated capital contains everything that the industry will need—boulevards, night clubs, casinos, luxury hotels with rooftop pools and restaurants and the state-of-the-art shopping malls. “Traditionally our properties in beach resorts like Negombo were our strong suit for MICE,” Ranasinghe says. “But we studied the market and have realized that most of the people who come to Sri Lanka no longer bypass the capital. They want to stay in Colombo itself.” said Ashan Ranasinghe, event manager for Jetwing Hotels, a leading Sri Lankan hotelier with properties all across the country.
Last but not least, Saigon is a city should not be missed. The number of MICE travel has grown 20% since 2008 with more and more infrastructures for MICE were built over the years such as the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Centre and a series of international 5-star hotels. However, more have to be done for Saigon to compete with its rivals in the region—a MICE tourism association, a convention bureau, government-funded marketing campaigns and a sustainable strategy to place the city squarely on planners’ frames of vision. Saigon’s MICE will have rocket growth when all of these are done.