The new norm? It's already here for meetings in APAC

Smaller, longer and more purposeful meetings is what Marriott International’s Ramesh Daryanani sees in the comeback for meetings and events in the region.

Marriott International, says Ramesh Daryanani, vice president, global sales for Asia, is taking on "a leadership role in inspiring people to come back and meet."
Marriott International, says Ramesh Daryanani, vice president, global sales for Asia, is taking on "a leadership role in inspiring people to come back and meet." Photo Credit: Marriott International

As international borders reopen and as in-person events make a comeback, Ramesh Daryanani, Marriott International’s vice president, global sales for the Asia Pacific region, observes that MICE in the endemic period is beginning to take shape in an altered, redefined form.  

“We are seeing business bounce back differently,” Daryanani remarks, during a recent conversation with Meetings and Conventions Asia. “It varies by destination. In some cases, it varies based on what customers or meeting planners are trying to achieve. “

In most Asian markets, domestic business is still driving much of the demand in in-person meetings and events, but this is changing very quickly.

[We're seeing] a much smaller meeting, but a longer duration. Where it used to be two nights or three nights, now, it's probably four or five nights.
Ramesh Daryanani, vice president, global sales, Asia Pacific, Marriott International

“People are still grappling with capacities at the moment to organise regional and international meetings, so we're seeing a lot of meetings still take place in-market,” he says. “As flight capacities increase, people across the region and the world are coming together again.”

At the same time, Daryanani observes an uptick in the regularity, as well as the duration, of in-person meetings but notes that attendance size may see a reduction.

“Meetings are more frequent,” he says. “And where we would normally see 200 to 300 people together, in some cases we’re noticing a core team of about 50 to 70. So it's a much smaller meeting, but a longer duration. Where it used to be two nights or three nights, now, it's probably four or five nights.”

Purposeful meetings and events

The “next” normal in meetings and events isn’t only characterised by length or audience size, but also in terms of a meaningful purpose that the attendees can derive from the event, a purpose that extends beyond the cold, hard facts of a balance sheet. 

Daryanani shares that meeting planners and organisers, propelled by their clients’ evolving needs, are asking their venues for programmes and activities related to sustainability or engagement with the local culture or community. “Planners are now asking our people in various destinations: what can we do to give back to the community? Or what can we do from a sustainability standpoint?” 

The 585-key W Sydney, with 1,300 sqm of events space, will be adjacent to Sydney's International Convention Centre (ICC).
The 585-key W Sydney, with 1,300 sqm of events space, will be adjacent to Sydney's International Convention Centre (ICC). Photo Credit: Marriott International

With these in mind, the hotel group launched the Good Travel by Marriott Bonvoy programme. The initiative gives meetings and events guests the option to get involved in environmental protection, community engagement or marine conservation, such as at a turtle rehabilitation reserve with the JW Marriott in Phuket, for instance, while also serving as a teambuilding activity. 

“Our guests find this refreshing. They’re doing something with purpose, for a good cause; at the same time, they're using this as an opportunity to get their teams together, build that bonding, that culture, and create a memorable meeting experience.”

Daryanani thinks that ESG is increasingly becoming an imperative for the MICE space. “As meeting planners plan for the future, they're going to look at sustainability, diversity and inclusion components and whether the partners that they choose to work with address these two things on a serious level. It is going to be one of those considerations for sure, as they choose a partner to work with.”

Looking ahead, Daryanani expresses optimism, citing exceptionally strong performance in markets such as Australia and India with properties reporting 90% occupancies, as well as high-profile events such as the G20 Summit in Bali that will involve a cluster of the group's properties. 

But he remains cautious. “The signs are very encouraging. We’re seeing a strong rebound for 2022. In saying that, it's probably going to take another year for us to get back to 2019 levels.”



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