Travel Daily Asia talks exclusively to Paul Rushton, Regional Director of MICE Sales Asia Pacific for Marriott International
1) While Singapore and Hong Kong have traditionally been Asia Pacific’ main MICE hubs, in which other markets are you seeing the most development?
Asia has showed much resilience to the economy downturn in US and Europe.
China, for example, as a developing market has huge potential. Already on the world map thanks to events such as The Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai EXPO, these key gateway cities in China are very much on event planners radars. We’ll be looking to grow these locations and business considerably, but also move into second tier cities. The most important elements for a MICE industry include excellent business support infrastructure, decent airports, good business accommodation, and multiple entertainment and recreation options. This is readily available in many parts of China, and will continue to develop at a rapid rate.
2) How does Marriott engage with meeting planners, and what tools does it offer them?
My position was created specifically for this purpose – to provide better services for meeting and conference planners.
We design and implement various sales and marketing strategies to capture a profitable share of the emerging MICE business for all Marriott branded hotels in Asia Pacific and to educate the market and raise awareness of our product and unique offering. Our teams works closely with local event teams in each country, to offer itineraries that are unusual, appealing and engaging but realistic and manageable. Together we can tailor make creative meeting and conference products to fit a client’s brief.
One of the trends that we have identified from our next generation of meeting planners is the absence of time, and the fact that planners are often sourcing multiple venues. Subsequently Marriott has designed online solutions to assist meeting planners in their selection and booking process all the way through to event registration and managing meeting delegate requirements during the meeting.
This is an area that we will continue to develop moving forward as we understand more about the Gen Y meeting planner.
3) What do you believe will be the key factors affecting the Asian MICE sector in 2012?
Asia is currently showing the highest MICE growth rate, as compared with any other continent, with China, Hong Kong, India and Thailand leading the way. However, this region is not completely isolated from the rest of world, and a significant share of revenue is from the European and US markets where the current economic outlook is less positive. We have to be mindful of the situation and our future outlook from these markets.
In addition, lifestyle and demographic changes are also factors affecting this industry. For example, hotels are expected to offer customised services to children and spouses when more business travellers are with family. Not to mention the new meeting planners and attendees of the future – Generation Y.
These are all topics Marriott International is considering and will apply to its MICE solutions to meet customer demand.