Building on its strengths in innovation and manufacturing, Taiwan's prominence as a MICE destination has been bolstered by a growing number of large exhibitions under its belt. Developments to speed up infrastructure from transport to exhibition venues and new international hotel brands are bringing the country up to speed.
Looking ahead, the country's deepened focus on growing industry areas such as Internet of Things, bio-tech, green energy, smart technology and defence are expected to attract new events and groups.
Taiwan's efforts to diversify tourism in recent years have unlocked new growth from the neighbouring Southeast Asian markets. It has significantly expanded efforts to attract a larger share of the incentive market, eyeing travellers from markets such as Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia.
The move has helped drum up business for capital city Tapei. According to the Department of Information and Tourism, Taipei City Government (DOIT) Chief Secretary Chun-Chieh Hsiao, the city secured 44 groups under its MICE incentive-travel sponsorship programme last year.
As of September this year, momentum is building, with the city already drawing 47 incentive-travel applications. Over the past two years, 90% of incentive-travel applications have been for Southeast Asia incentive-travel groups, said Hsiao.
In November, an internationally renowned Malaysian direct-sales enterprise will be sending an incentive-travel group of 1,000 to Taipei for a five-day, four-night visit that will include incentive travel and a business conference.
Hoteliers in Taipei are also seeing better performance from the MICE market. At Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel, bookings are "better than before" after a renovation of its meetings facilities, revealed Betty Tsai, the property's director of sales and marketing. It recently hosted an incentive for a pharmaceutical group from China, which took up a total of 650 room nights.
Upscale hotels expand
A new slew of international hotel brands are joining Taipei, injecting more rooms across the upscale, upper upscale and luxury segments.
The 104-key Renaissance Taipei Shilin Hotel has soft-opened in the Shilin district, with an official opening date to be announced. Due in December, the Courtyard Taipei Downtown will add 234 guestrooms in the Zhongshan district.
In New Taipei City, midway between Taipei and Taoyuan, Hilton has set foot with a new MICE-centric property after a 15-year hiatus from the country. Opening in Q4 2018, the 398-key Hilton Taipei Sinban occupies 31 storeys with an adjourning 3,105sqm convention centre that includes three ballrooms and 15 function rooms.
Further ahead, the Taipei Sky Tower in the Xinyi district that is scheduled to complete in 2020, will house two Hyatt-branded luxury hotels, Park Hyatt Taipei and Andaz Taipei.
Beyond Taipei, large expos and conferences are also travelling to cities Taichung and Kaohsiung that will push accessibility and venue capabilities up a notch.
Anticipation is high as Taichung welcomes a major international event, the Taichung World Flora Exposition, from November till April. Over the next six months, the 60.88-hectare horticulture event is expected to amass more than eight million domestic and international visitors across three major venues, Waipu Park, Fengyuan Huludun Park and the Houli Horse Ranch and Forest Park.
Some new 36 full-scale tours have been developed to spotlight areas Houli, Waipu and Fengyuan. The mammoth event has also spurred new direct flight connections to destinations such as Bangkok and Phnom Penh starting November.
A second rail line, expected to be up and running by 2020, will add a 26.2km-link across the city. The NT$98.15 billion (US$3.27 billion) project will connect the city's Beitun district to Taiwan's high speed rail network.
Further ahead, Japanese luxury brand Okura will be opening the 250-key The Okura Prestige Taichung, scheduled to open in 2021. It will be situated in the city's 7th Redevelopment Zone, where a new commercial complex is being developed.
Over at Kaohsiung, the southern city is attracting events from newer industries such as the burgeoning Esports industry.
In November, it hosted one of the industry's largest competitions globally when it welcomed the 2018 World Championship tournament of the International Esports Federation (IeSF). More than 700 professional gamers, as well as delegates and industry representatives from over 50 nations were expected to turn out in full force.
A new stage
The National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying), the world's largest performing arts facility under one roof, has opened in October after 15 years.
Located on a former military site in the city's Fengshan District, the 9.9-hectare NKCA hosts a concert hall, exhibition space, opera house, recital hall, and indoor and outdoor theatres, and reportedly cost NT$10.7 billion (US$346 million) to build.
The venue will also feature a 2,000-person concert hall built in vineyard style, a first for Taiwan, where audience are seated on sloping terraces surrounding the stage.
• Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center, Hall 2 is a new extension opening March 2019, adding a total exhibition area of 30,240sqm and 14 conference rooms. It will feature Taiwan's only sky garden at an exhibition centre.
• The Shuinan International and Exhibition Centre in Taichung and Tainan Exhibition Center are expected to open in 2021.