1. GEM SECTORS
Companies in several sectors will drive M&E activity.
For example, companies in information and communications technology and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) will tap MICE activities for product launches to boost business and brand loyalty. Strong manufacturing in China will add to M&E demand. The financial services and insurance verticals will look to M&Es to boost understanding on corporate governance policies to employees and partners.
Pharmaceutical companies will lead the charge.
Ramesh Daryanani, Vice-President, Global Sales, Asia Pacific, at Marriott International, says: "Brand launches across sectors like luxury, automotive and FMCG will also be lucrative business for hotels."
2. DIPPING ROOM RATES
Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) Senior Director, Meetings & Events, Asia Pacific, Michael Chiay believes that hotel prices across APAC should see "more variations". Overall prices are expected to fall by 0.6%, driven by an overall lack of room supply and competitive pressure from alternatives in the sharing economy.
3. IN: HYBRID MEETINGS
Picture, say, a medical convention, where some delegates are physically present and others attend virtually.
Says Chiay: "Perhaps, half the number of doctors attend the event in Singapore. The others from China and Europe need not fly out here, but go to a local venue and attend via a video link."
Cheaper broadband and 4G and better video-link technology allow for this hybrid option. Hybrid events need not reduce delegate earnings for the host country.
"We think this will only increase number of participants who can now attend without paying airfares, but who will still pay delegates fees. Hong Kong, for instance, may need to host the China delegates," adds Chiay.
"Nett nett, the pie is grown and shared across different countries, and it's still a win for the industry.
"Markets like Singapore are likely to benefit as companies with regional headquarters here host their hybrid meetings in the Red Dot," says Chiay.
4. RESPONSIBILITY ETHOS
Meeting planners and companies increasingly assess a property's corporate social responsibility (CSR) during venue selection.
Hilton's Senior Vice-President and Commercial Director, Asia Pacific, Ben George, anticipates a shift towards meetings that "minimise the impact of large-scale events on the environment", post COP21, the climate change accord held in Paris in 2015.
Via its Meet with Purpose initiative, aimed at getting guests and clients to reduce wastage among other things, Hilton has cut water usage by 14% - enough to fill some 4,100 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
5. MOBILE APPS & BIG DATA
Companies want to use big data in a better way.
Says Chiay: "Booking details, expense reports, credit card statements, traveller profiles and suppliers - what is crucial to businesses and travel managers is to be able to transform this raw data and deliver practical business intelligence...such as on spending, transactions underway, travellers' location (for tracking), security alerts, and unused tickets."
6. DIET-FRIENDLY MENUS
Rising food and beverage (F&B) costs is being increasingly scrutinised by meeting buyers. That, plus the fact that more attendees are asking for special diets, will lead to innovative menus, says CWT's Forecast.
It states: "In some cases, buyers are using tapas-style, small plates to allow all attendees to build their own meal but costs for customising may be steeper than the one-size-fits-all menus."
New diets also include bold and spicy flavours and "emerging" super foods such as kaniwa, a high-protein, high-fibre seed, the Forecasts adds.
7. MORE PERSONALISATION
Flexibility from venue owners is vital.
Chiay says: "Meeting planners do not want to be charged for trivial items and services such as Wi-Fi and a couple of hours of early set-up in the meeting rooms. Smart hoteliers will look at the bigger spends and bundle these items as concessions in their packages."
8. HEIGHTENED DELEGATE CARE
Frequent terror attacks has put a damper on MICE activities.
Daryanani says: "Terrorism in any form makes people think twice about travelling to a destination. This is one of the predominant concerns for anyone in the travel industry."
Duty of care has become all the more crucial. Hotels have in place measures such as round-the-clock monitoring via CCTVs, alarms and access control systems. They work with local authorities to get up-to-the-minute ground information and train staff for any eventuality.
9. SHARING ECONOMY: LITTLE THREAT
Boutique venue players such as Spacebase and Kapow are drawing meeting planners to non-traditional venues.
Chiay says: "Options range from wineries to house boats, photography and yoga studios, off-hours restaurant space and more - these are intended to spark creativity for meetings ranging in size from 10 to 100 people, and bookable for an hour or a day or more."
Those in favour of such sharing-economy services claim savings of up to 40%, says Chiay.
10. COSTS & SMM
There is "more pressure for companies to be transparent, to control and justify meeting costs", says Hilton's George.
Companies are looking to streamline their MICE activities via a one-view system of items from spending to schedules across offices worldwide. Take CWT's Smart Meetings Management (SMM).
Chiay says: "SMM grew in 2016 and will be big in 2017."
The reasons for the uptick: savings, compliance and data analytics.
Chiay says: "How much is a company spending in airfare, accommodation, food and transportation for its executives' business and MICE travels each year? SMM will give a better grip on these expenses incurred in hundreds of business trips and meetings all over the world."
In China and Singapore, companies that have SMM in place are realising 12% to 20% in cost savings, he says.