The resilience and leadership of the MICE industry in Asia was recognised this week at the M&C Asia Stella Awards 2020, which was hosted via a virtual setting and broadcast live across the region.
In a year fraught with unprecedented challenges for the business events industry, the 2020 Stella Award winners have shown incredible tenacity and resilience; now duly recognised by event planners and members of the MICE industry.
“This year’s Stella Award winners exemplify what the MICE industry is all about: Creativity, innovation and resilience,” said Irene Chua, Vice President and Group Publisher, Asia, for Northstar Travel Group at the virtual Awards stage.
“These properties and service providers made a big impression on our readers and reflect the changing needs of event planners in a post-Covid environment. Their ensuing professionalism and adaptability also embodies what planners of business events truly value in their partners. Each of these winners deserves to be celebrated.”
Voting for the awards took place from 6 April to 31 July 2020, where destinations, hotels and service providers were assessed on overall excellence, professionalism of the events team, MICE initiatives, and efforts to bolster industry recovery in the wake of Covid-19.
Private-public sector collaboration key in recovery
This year's Stella Awards recognised three destinations — Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan — for demonstrating exceptional leadership and innovation, especially in navigating the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Interestingly, convention bureaus in all three destinations acknowledged the power of public-private partnerships in paving a road to recovery.
Cynthia Kiang, director general of Taiwan's Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs, said: “Because of the collaboration between the government, public, academia and private industries, we’re able to fight against [the pandemic] in a short period of time. This shows the spirit of public-private partnerships.”
Since June, international events including exhibitions and conventions have returned to Taiwan, including September’s 2020 Taiwan International Nursing Conference which welcomed 700 local and another 300 more participants abroad, showing how "[Taiwan] companies are willing to embrace hybrid marketing”.
Taiwan was named Best Meetings & Incentives Destination (Asia), while MEET TAIWAN, the country's MICE promotion programme, received a Special Recognition Award for the Most Innovative Destination Marketing following the destination’s stellar lead in managing the pandemic. “MEET Taiwan is going in the right direction,” Kiang said.
Representing Malaysia, winner of Best Conferences & Exhibitions Destination (Asia) MyCEB CEO Dato’ Sri Abdul Khani, spoke of the Meet in Malaysia campaign and its focus on supporting the entire MICE supply chain. “[It’s about] engaging all industry stakeholders in order to restore trust among regional and international meetings planners. We believe business events will be greater together.”
Singapore, meanwhile, was awarded Best MICE Destination (Asia), and also nabbed the award for Best Convention & Exhibition Bureau (Asia).
Singapore Tourism Board's executive director of exhibitions and conferences, Andrew Phua, attributed the win to the island's innovative industry stakeholders, pilot event programme and calibrated steps towards re-opening its MICE and travel sectors.
Phua also referred to TravelRevive, a newly-developed prototype for 'Covid-safe' trade shows that will test green lane arrangements for MICE purposes. Happening from 25-26 November, the event will include “creative solutions, and digital enablers that’ll allow participants to experience the event safely and seamlessly,” he said.
“We realised that in order to emerge stronger, we’ll need to work closely with fellow government agencies, trade association SACEOS, as well as industry stakeholders and media to reimagine new event formats, pivot to new business models, and resume MICE events in a careful and calibrated manner.”
Awards an encouragement in turbulent times
More than one Stella Award winner expressed the timeliness of the ceremony. The Venetian Macao was recognised as the Best Integrated Resort (MICE), with Kris Kaminsky, senior vice president of resort operations, Sands China, saying that recognition “by fellow industry professionals is particularly gratifying and this accolade encourages us to work harder than ever”.
Winner of Best Meetings Hotel (Thailand), Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park added how the awards send a “positive message in this time of uncertainty not only for our industry but so many around the world,” said Roger Parnow, director of sales & marketing.
For some, entire teams tuned in to celebrate — donning face masks (a sign of the times) and waving celebratory balloons — as leaders thanked every member for the win, signalling the importance of team work in pushing through these troubled times.
“This is a great recognition for the hard work [my] team has put in over the past year, [given the current circumstances] it’s very encouraging,” said Olivier Lenoir, general manager, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, winner of Best Meetings Hotel Malaysia.
For Sheraton Grand Danang Resort, named Best Meetings Hotel in Vietnam for a second year running, the award is “especially meaningful in this year’s challenging times…[where] the significance of working as one team has been paramount, as is keeping a positive spirit as this mindset directly translates to our MICE delegates and our events,” said Sherrilyn Charles, director of sales and marketing.
Meanwhile, Adriane Slater, general manager of Grand Hyatt Seoul, awarded Best Meetings Hotel in South Korea, added: “Thank you M&C Asia for hosting [the Stella Awards] in a very creative way, it’s great to see the enthusiasm you carry and [while] we’re all going through some turbulent times, we’ll prevail and be back on track again."
Here is a full list of the M&C Asia Stella Award winners 2020: