by Esther Faith Lew | April 07, 2017

Work is work, and leisure is leisure. 

Such was the mantra eons ago when the divide was clear. Before technology, travel patterns and social trends blurred the lines and influenced the way we work and play. In the meetings arena, delegates no longer want to head to a venue that only has meeting spaces and is isolated from lifestyle facilities. Nor do planners facing vigilant budgets want to deal with inconvenient and unnecessary logistics.

Meeting venue owners and operators who have recognised this lifestyle trend and have responded swiftly have gained the leverage they needed to spur momentum. 

The Los Angeles Convention Centre was one such centre that saw a dramatic transformation with a stylish new look that brings in the outdoors with airy courtyards and terraces. Designed by Populous, the new centre created a vibrant community with social activity at the core of the meeting spaces.

The new ICC Sydney threatre

In Asia Pacific, Populous together with HASSELL, created the new ICC Sydney that has recently re-opened. It is now a venue with 35,000sqm of exhibition space, 8,000sqm of meeting rooms, 5,000sqm of outdoor events space, an entertainment theatre that seats 8,000 and a ballroom for up to 3,500 cocktail style. 

Said Richard Breslin, senior principal at Populous: "The biggest thing we, at Populous, are seeing is the transition from convention and exhibition centres being stand-alone facilities that are self-contained and designed only for those attending the events, to buildings that are far more community inclusive and civic minded. The general public are encouraged to engage with them and move through their public spaces on a daily basis. Convention and exhibition centres are becoming important cultural buildings for cities, and this was very much achieved at ICC Sydney."

"We also looked at the needs of each venue audience separately, and then we blurred the lines to improve mix and activation across all of the main buildings. We added exhibition space to the main convention area and meeting rooms to the exhibition areas to create this mix. We also added laneways and boulevards and additional access points to the precinct and venues to improve connectivity and activation," added Glenn Scott, principal at HASSELL.

Asia's exhibition and convention centres are also facing this transformation. Impressive new complexes arise to welcome delegates to a new world of meetings and networking. Long-standing captains of industry have also undergone facility expansions and have developed talents and mindsets to meet requirements and anticipate trends. 

We also look at a new category of exhibition and convention venues that are winning over planners - integrated resorts with attractive propositions of accommodation, entertainment and lifestyle options for MICE groups with social programmes. 

Phoenixes of the future
In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre will be the largest exhibition space in the country when it is completed in June. Offering 93,000sqm of space, it will have 11 exhibition halls, a multi-purpose hall, meeting and convention rooms, media and press facilities, VIP lounges, restaurants and food outlets. 

Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SPICE)

Over in Penang, the recently opened Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SPICE) is the world's first hybrid solar-powered convention centre. This eco green-certified convention centre in Asia also makes a statement with its themed areas for exhibition space, sports, retail, food and beverage, hotel, a rooftop garden, a spice garden and an industrial free trade zone. 

Datuk Koe Peng Kang, executive vice president of S P Setia Berhad

Said Datuk Koe Peng Kang, executive vice president of S P Setia Berhad on the inspiration behind SPICE: "The idea of a subterranean convention centre that comes with a rooftop garden speaks clearly of our goal to include nature and greenery as part of our business. Our goal is to achieve the highest level of green initiatives whilst providing meeting/event space for the industry."

He added that emphasis is on identifying MICE trends as they change from year to year. The centre will meet delegates' demand for high-speed bandwidth, virtual reality technology and outdoor activities. Creative offerings are also in the works. "We have plans to have themed meetings. For example, converting our meeting rooms to reflect a natural ambience or a funky and colourful interior instead of the conventional meeting space. Such cosy affairs will be complemented by the rooftop garden, which is great for intimate evening networking sessions with live band music."

A water, light and sound display at The Fountain in Okada Manila

In Manila, the 44-ha Okada Manila is set to be an iconic integrated resort to woo delegates with stay, play, dine and relax attractions. Enjoying an oceanfront location, Okada Manila features 993 suites and villas, world-class performances, over 21 dining venues offering international cuisines, luxury retail boutiques  and 4,522sqm of ballrooms and function rooms. Although it is categorised as an integrated resort, Okada Manila meets the growing trend of meeting groups that combine business and leisure by offering an all-in-one venue with entertainment attractions.

"Okada Manila is a US$2.4 billion development that is simply the largest and most lavish property in Entertainment City. We have positioned it as an integrated resort with features that cater to people of all cultures, desires, and budgets. Okada Manila stands for one thing beyond anything else: entertainment," says Steve Wolstenholme, president of Okada Manila.

Steve Wolstenholme, president of Okada Manila

"Compared with the relatively congested business districts of Makati, the Bonifacio Global City, and Ortigas, Entertainment City offers visitors and tourists a more relaxed yet modern option for work and leisure. That is why location and accessibility serve as the two major advantages of Okada Manila over other similar destinations. Situated in some of the choicest parts of Entertainment City, Okada Manila enjoys glorious views of the Manila Bay sunset. Moreover, the newly-completed NAIA Skyway provides a direct link that makes the airport a mere 10 - 15 minutes away," he adds.

Unique features at Okada Manila provide the setting for experiential events. A US$30m fountain features light, water and sound performances, while the entertainment space called the Crystal Corridor provides a retail space cum unique venue for events. 

Cove Manila, the country's first indoor beachclub, hosts up to 5,000 guests. "It is not your typical corporate venue, as it offers an alternative location for those who want to foster creativity and encourage socialising in ways that one may not find in a regular ballroom," says Wolstenholme.

Okada Manila's glass facade glitters gold on the Manila Bay

According to Wolstenholme, Okada Manila meets the trend for bespoke services in the MICE industry. "We combine Japanese principles of sincere service and attention to detail - Omotenashi and Magokoro - with Filipino warmth and hospitality to ensure our guests have memorable experiences."


Ariyana Danang Exhibition & Convention

Vietnam, which is enjoying its popularity for value propositions is gearing up for the 25th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, expected to be held in Danang in October. An international convention centre is being built, and is expected to open in May.    To be managed and operated by Furama Resort Danang, the Ariyana Danang Exhibition & Convention Centre (ADECC) is built at a cost of more than US$15 million. The 4,390sqm, three-storey centre with a total construction area of 11,000sqm will have a 2,079sqm room that accommodates up to 2,500 guests and a spacious 1,490sqm lobby. It will be located to the south of Furama Villas Danang. 

This project is the first phase of the Eden international urban area and tourism complex project, with the second phase detailing a five-star 25-storey hotel.

Said Nguyen Duc Quynh, executive assistant manager, Furama Resort Danang, ADECC Management, "Located in the centre of the five-star Ariyana Danang Tourism Complex including Furama Resort, Furama Villas and Ariyana Beach Resort & Suites, ADECC was built to the requirements of APEC 2017, which will be held in Danang. 

"It is the only one of its kind located on the beach in Vietnam, easily acccessible to Danang International Airport (10 minutes) and the four UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites: Hoi An (20 minutes); My Son (90 minutes); Hue (two hours) and Quang Binh province (seven hours)."
He added that ADECC not only offers the space for large-scale events but also enjoys the convenience of being able to utilise unique spaces at nearby hotels, including a 10,000sqm outdoor venue, which adds to the variety of experiences enjoyed by delegates.

A high-tech centre fitted to meet the requirements of international events, ADECC is also connected to International Convention Palace at Furama Resort, making it the largest MICE venue in Central Vietnam.

The transformers
 Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre's clear focus on being customer-centric, tech savvy and innovative has seen it take the title of "Asia's Leading Meetings & Conference Centre" for the 11th consecutive year at the 23rd World Travel Awards last October. And its seamless connection to the various towers of Suntec City shopping mall makes it an attractive venue for delegates to explore new dining and shopping options.

South Korea, which has climbed steadily up the ICCA global country rankings to no 13, continues to meet demand. Korea International Exhibition Center, the largest in South Korea with 10 halls, completed its second expansion in 2011, adding 53,975sqm of space. 

Indonesia Convention & Exhibition

Placing an emphasis on world-class management, Indonesia Convention Exhibition is managed by Deutsche Messe AG, and it is the largest and most flexible venue in the country with 50,000sqm of world-class facilities and service. Its location in the heart of Bumi Serpong Damai, Indonesia's biggest new city development, makes it highly convenient for international delegates. 

Macau's appeal continues to shine as well, with a new neon light that declares the city as the MICE destination for mega events. Its integrated resorts with sprawling convention spaces and mind-boggling array of entertainment and lifestyle attractions prove to be the jackpot that attracts MICE and incentive delegates. One of Macau's latest offerings, The Parisian Macao, is already attracting interest and bookings with its French flair (read about Sands Resorts Cotai Strip's plans for MICE on pg 47), chic meeting rooms and spacious exhibition halls at Cotai Expo.