Big city draws

Asia-Pacific’s top business event cities are always evolving, with new and refreshed infrastructure to give gatherings a new flavour. TTGassociations finds out what have emerged recently and what’s in store for 2017

BANGKOK

by Michael Sanderson

Thailand’s capital city is poised to take advantage of growth in the business and association events sector as recovery continues, with several new properties putting the focus firmly on business travellers and the events market.

Avani Riverside Bangkok is the first new hotel to open on the Chao Phraya river in several years, and features some of the city’s largest meeting and event facilities. The Grand Ballroom alone spans 4,500m2 and can accommodate up to 1,500 people. There are 11 other meeting and event spaces.

Avani Riverside Bangkok

Opened in September 2016, hotel is expected to exploit connections to the adjacent Anantara sister hotel and the Riverside mall.

A surprising recent entry to the business and association events sector came from Mövenpick, whose presence in Thailand until now has been confined to beachside luxury resorts. Its five-star hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 15 features three conference/meeting spaces as well as facilities for business travellers.

Bill Barnett, managing director of hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks, praised the work of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau for helping to revive the business and association events sector over the past 18 months.

“We’ve seen a defined return of the (business and association events) segment (in 2016) and I think that’s important,” Barnett said.

He added that while the Tourism Authority of Thailand had “made the right noises”, it was the TCEB campaign that was an example of “what government’s doing right”.
He believes that the government’s partnership with the private sector is paying off.
Looking forward, Bangkok will soon see the result of BITEC Phase II, a doubling of the 20-year-old conference centre which will bring the total exhibition space to 70,000m2, moves to renovate and update the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center after two decades of indecision, and upcoming hotels that should appeal to business travellers.

What’s coming up?
Waldorf Astoria Bangkok: 2017
Hyatt Regency Bangkok: 4Q2017


BEIJING

by Prudence Lui and Caroline Boey

Although Beijing has not seen much changes to its convention centre inventory since the opening of the China National Convention Center in 2009, it is quite the opposite with the hotel landscape.

The Chinese capital continues to see an expansion and improvement of its hotel inventory, with new properties coming into the marketplace and existing ones undergoing refurbishments.

New in 2016 is the 300-room InterContinental Sanlitun, the only large, international five-star hotel in Sanlitun, Beijing’s most popular shopping and nightlife district that is also adjacent to embassy and CBD areas. The hotel is expected to fill a major gap in terms of what’s available for business and association groups, according to Kaci McAllister, deputy general manager Destination Asia (China). The hotel has 1,500m2 of meeting space.
And as new properties emerge, existing ones are keeping themselves up to date with refurbishments. Peninsula Beijing, for instance, unveiled a new look in June 2016. It slashed its 525 rooms to just 230 spacious suites. China World Hotel, too, had presented refreshed rooms and meeting spaces in April.

Beijing has also welcomed new activities for corporate groups. Travel company Faces of China recently rolled out helicopter tours and yoga tours that run for one to three days, perfect for post-conference programmes.

What’s coming up?
Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing, Beijing: 2017
Beijing Marriott Changping Theme Park: 2017
Bulgari Hotel Beijing: 2017\


HONG KONG

by Prudence Lui

The Hong Kong Sport Institute (HKSI) Redevelopment Phase 3 was launched in early 2015, and its facilities are expected to boost Hong Kong’s appeal as a destination for corporate teambuilding programmes and sports events.

HKSI will house a 1,400-seat lecture theatre, four fully-equipped meeting and activity rooms, restaurants and a 74-key accommodation facility, as well as indoor and outdoor sports facilities built to international standards.

A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson told TTGassociations that several new venues were launched in 2016 and more will come along in 2017. These venues will “enrich the city’s venues portfolio and lure different kinds of conferences and meetings to Hong Kong”.
The 545-key Kerry Hotel, opened in December 2016, offers the destination’s largest event facility in a hotel. It houses a Grand Ballroom that can seat a 1,030-pax banquet and 17 flexible meeting rooms for 30 to 660 guests, plus indoor and outdoor event spaces.

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort’s 750-room Disney Explorers Lodge, opening this year, will provide themed settings for memorable events. Rival attraction, Ocean Park, will also debut its first hotel – a Marriott brand, no less – in 2017.

There is a spate of hotel renovations too. New World Millennium Hong Kong Hotel has unveiled refurbished rooms, event venues and other public spaces in summer 2016, while Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong Sha Tin has transformed 12 rooms on the 30th floor into a collection of meeting suites and the LEVELthirty Lounge & Bar.

What’s coming up?
Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel: 2017
iclub To Kwa Wan Hotel: 2017
Rosewood Hong Kong: 2017


JAKARTA

by Mimi Hudoyo

Jakarta’s transformation into a cosmopolitan city that will meet the growing demands of business and association events today is in progress.

The Westin Jakarta ballroom

In 2015, Greater Jakarta welcomed the opening of the country’s newest and largest convention and exhibition centre. The Indonesia Convention and Exhibition (ICE) in BSD City, a satellite city in Tangerang, houses a 50,000m2 exhibition hall, a 50,000m2 outdoor exhibition area, a 4,000m2 convention hall and 33 meeting rooms. Hotels, a golf course and shopping malls are springing up around ICE, bringing more life to the industrial and manufacturing hub that Tangerang currently is.

Meanwhile, luxury properties with sizable meeting and event venues have popped up in the city centre.

The 173-room Raffles Jakarta opened in 2015 with a 2,500m2 ballroom, three meeting rooms with capacity for up to 80 people, a boardroom and a library.

The 350-room Fairmont Hotel also made its debut in 2015, adding event facilities for up to 500 people to the city’s inventory.

Joining the high-end block in 2016 are Four Seasons Jakarta and Westin Jakarta. Both come with extensive function spaces.

Increased competition among hotels for business events has driven existing properties to spruce up their hardware.

The 994-key Hotel Mulia Senayan recently revamped its event venues on the fifth floor, two medium size function rooms in the Business Centre and the Gerbera Room on the mezzanine floor.

Grand Hyatt Jakarta launched The Residence ONFIVE. Located on level five and overlooking a lagoon-shaped swimming pool and Balinese gardens, The Residence ONFIVE is a residential-style facility that features four meeting rooms with natural daylight, a communal area with a show kitchen where coffee breaks and meals are freshly prepared, a living room, two multipurpose cabanas, a patio and three terraces with panoramic views of Jakarta, especially at sunset.

Event planners desiring a non-hotel venue can consider the new Teras Dharmawangsa Restaurant by Plataran. The four-storey, trendy restaurant in the up-market Darmawangsa Square City Walk, South Jakarta boasts a different concept for each floor and serves Indonesian and Asian cuisine. The top floor is available for private event hire and can accommodate 30 to 40 guests.

What’s coming up?
Aloft Jakarta Kebon Jeruk: 2017

KUALA LUMPUR

by S Puvaneswary

New event venues and accommodation have come into operations in Kuala Lumpur.
UOA Hospitality had in May 2016 expanded its Connexion Conference and Event Centre (CCEC) at Bangsar South City, adding 4,645m2 of event space to its existing collection. New to the venue include two new ballrooms, 11 function rooms and a banquet hall. With these, CCEC now offers 18,580m2 of event space.

Connexion Conference and Event Centre Kuala Lumpur

Anita Khoo, UOA Hospitality’s head of hospitality, said the bigger CCEC has allowed the company to expand its clientele to include regional business from Asia-Pacific and international congresses for up to 2,000 delegates.

Last year, CCEC hosted the Hubei Administration of Press from China with 24 exhibitors and 24th Congress of The Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Malaysia meeting.

Accommodation support for events held at CCEC comes in the form of VE Hotel & Residence, a four-star property with 337 rooms and 90 fully-furnished serviced residences.
Elsewhere in the city, The St Regis Kuala Lumpur made waves in the local tourism sector when it opened last May as the latest luxury property in the Malaysian capital. It also stands out for having the largest standard guestrooms in the city at 63m2 and a grand ballroom that offers a 270-degree immersive multi-sensory LED digital canvas wall made up of 47 LED screen panels.

Faced with new competition, 19-year-old The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Kuala Lumpur underwent its first major makeover and relaunched in April 2016 with brighter, fresher and a modern look and feel through plush fabrics, clever lighting, luxurious marble and stylish accessories.

The hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Yannick Mauchle, said the renovations are to “keep up with the times and to make the property memorable to guests with a Wow effect”.
What remains is The Ritz-Carlton Hotel’s signature butler service which is available to all guests, regardless of their room type.

Another new hotel with events capability is the Pullman Kuala Lumpur City Centre Hotel and Residences, which opened in August 2015. Suitable for meetings, the hotel has a large, pillarless ballroom for 800 people in a theatre setting, and nine function rooms with natural lighting. Residential meetings can be supported by the hotel’s 445 rooms and 157 fully furnished apartments.

What’s coming up?
W Hotel Kuala Lumpur: 1Q2017
Pavilion Banyan Tree Signatures Kuala Lumpur: 1Q2017
Royale Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur: 2017
Dorsett Hartamas Kuala Lumpur: 2017
Sri Jati Hotel Kuala Lumpur: 2017


MANILA

by Rosa Ocampo

Manila is fast-catching up with its South-east Asian neighbours in ramping up its business and association events infrastructure. The past two years have seen the rise of some of the most modern and luxurious hardware in the city’s skyline.

The indomitable star is the Marriott Grand Ballroom (MGB) at Resorts World Manila which raises the bar for luxury, quality and technology in local convention centres. The metro’s fourth convention centre, MGB was launched in 2015 with a maximum capacity of over 5,000 pax; Sky Fold technology for seamlessly dividing spaces; light-sound-technical effects that can change into hundreds of hues. It also its own restaurants, not catered like the rest of convention centres in Manila.

Entering the marketplace the same year was City of Dreams Manila. The integrated resort boasts three hotels – Crown Towers, Hyatt and Nobu – and a collection of event venues including the Grand Ballroom for up to 800 pax and two world-class nightclubs, Pangaea and Chaos.

Makati Diamond Residences, also launched in 2015, provides 418 full serviced apartments and event venues for up to 400 pax in its function rooms, boardrooms and banquet areas.
Shangri-La at The Fort opened its gilded doors early 2016, providing 576 keys with a minimum size of 45m2, 97 residences, Grand Ballroom for up to 1,200 pax, junior ballroom for up to 715 pax, and 19 flexible multifunction rooms.

Another newbie is Araneta Novotel in Quezon City, boasting 401 keys and several event venues: grand ballroom for up to 1,100 pax, seven meeting spaces, outdoor events garden, Premiere Lounge, and executive sky lounge with a full view of the metropolis.
Business and association event planners seeking unique venues for meetings, workshops and focus group discussions, can consider KidZania, an 8,000m2 indoor play city for kids that transforms into a private space after operating hours, and DreamPlay by DreamWorks, an interactive educational theme park with buy-out option and
can accommodate a maximum of 1,200 pax.

What’s coming up?
Grand Hyatt Manila: 1Q2017


MELBOURNE

by Rebecca Elliott

According to Melbourne Convention Bureau’s CEO, Karen Bolinger, Melbourne has led the way in infrastructure development in Australia as far as business events is concerned and will continue to do so.

The Glasshouse Melbourne

Some may say that’s a bold statement, given Sydney is now home to a brand new convention centre, but the statistics speak for themselves. Bolinger said that over 2016 and 2017, seven new hotels will open in Melbourne, increasing room capacity in the city by seven per cent.

One such hotel that opened earlier in 2016 is the 89-room Peppers Docklands, the first five-star hotel in the Docklands. While it doesn’t have any meeting facilities of its own, it is adjacent to the multipurpose venue Etihad Stadium and within walking distance of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which recently commenced its 20,000m2 expansion, due for completion in 2018.

In terms of events spaces, Melbourne’s sporting precinct continues to expand with the opening of The Glasshouse in October 2015. Overlooking Olympic Park and operated by The Big Group, the venue features floor-to-ceiling windows as its name suggests, capacity for 1,000 guests cocktail-style and 500 seated, and a 150-seat auditorium.

What’s coming up?
Hyatt Place Melbourne: early 2017
Four Points by Sheraton Melbourne Docklands: March 2017
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre expansion: early 2018


OSAKA

by Julian Ryall

Event space that is open, airy and yet still in the heart of Japan’s second busiest city is at a premium, so the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau was delighted when the Garden Oriental Osaka decided to reopen as a venue.

Originally opened in 1959 as an official residence for prime ministers and other high-ranking visitors to Osaka, Garden Oriental Osaka sits amid parkland that is awash with cherry blossoms in spring and overlooks one of the city’s waterways and the National Mint on one side and Osaka Castle on the other.

The Western-style structure designed by Kenzo Takekoshi is listed as a historic building, as are the surrounding 13,000m2 of Japanese gardens. As an added touch, a traditional tea house stands alongside one of the nearby ponds.

The entire facility underwent major renovations and now boasts an expansive rooftop area that is accessible for events. Other venues here include a ballroom for 120 people in a theatre configuration, two event rooms and a garden pavilion, while the lawns are ideal for summer parties.

A more recent addition to the city’s business and association event options is the Geihinkan, the Osaka Government Guest House which was originally built to host delegates attending the APEC Forum in 1995, on the grounds of Osaka Castle.

Since end-April 2016, Geihinkan has been made available to special receptions and parties. Its Nishi-no-Maru Teien Garden is renown. As the most impressive area of the castle, it houses more than 600 cherry trees, no fewer than 1,270 of the early-blooming plum trees, a tea house and a private tea plantation.

Even though the building is new, the copper-sheeted roof, antique supporting pillars and extensive use of traditional lacquer give it the appearance of being hundreds of years old.
Conventions and meetings at the facility are organised by Kyoto-based Value Management Co., which operates a number of unique venues across Japan.

What’s coming up?
Conrad Osaka: Summer 2017
Hotel Keihan Yodobashi: Summer 2017
Candeo Hotel: June 2017

SEOUL

by Karen Yue

Seoul’s tourism infrastructure development has been lively in the past year. Already a darling destination in Asia for leisure travel and business events, the South Korean capital is set to charm event planners further with new hotels, attractions with venue hire opportunities, and shopping centres that have emerged in 2015 and 2016.

Hotel Cappuccino Seoul

Three business traveller-centric hotels have opened in Seoul. They are Lotte City Hotel Myeongdong, a premium property with 430 keys, a meeting room for up to 12 people, an all-day buffet restaurant and other facilities; Shilla

Stay Gwanghwamun, a stylish hotel with 339 luxuriously appointed guestrooms, four function rooms for up to 80 people and a buffet-style eatery, among others; and Courtyard By Marriott Seoul Namdaemun, which offers modern guestrooms with views of either the city skyline or Seoul Tower, seven meeting spaces, two dining outlets and other facilities.
New design focused hotels have also emerged in the marketplace, such as L7 Myeongdong which spots Korean design touches throughout the property as well as chic venues for gatherings such as a rooftop bar and a lounge/bar on the third floor.

Also new to Seoul is Hotel Cappuccino, a minimalist-chic 141-key property with three function rooms for eight to 30 people in a classroom configuration, a 100-pax rooftop terrace with views of Gangnam’s cityscape, and work stations in the lobby, among other facilities.

Meanwhile, much attention in recent times has been paid to Lotte World Tower, said to be one of the tallest skyscraper in the world, standing 555m high with 123 floors. Lotte World Tower’s tenants include a hotel, private office space, an observation deck, a concert hall, a movie theatre, aquarium, restaurants and Hard Rock Café Seoul which welcomes private event hires for up to 350 people seated or 550 people standing.

Seoul’s shopping attractions have also been expanded with SM Duty Free in Insadong (opened February 2016), HDC Shilla Duty Free in Hyundai I’Park Mall, Yongsan (March 2016) and Galleria Duty Free 63 in Yeongdeungpo (July 2016).

What’s coming up?
Seoul Station 7017 Project: 2017


SHANGHAI

by Caroline Boey

Both large and intimate meeting spaces have opened in Shanghai and more are on the way, giving event planners fresh options in the Chinese gateway city.

Opened in June 2016 to long lines of visitors, Shanghai Disney Resort is also gaining favour among event planners. Local DMC Bespoke Shanghai reports that clients which have used the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel gave it high marks for living up to expectations and for being efficient. The resort’s state-of-the-art conference centre houses the Cinderella Ballroom, Rose Garden, Dreams Meeting Room and Crown Room hospitality suite.

Shanghai Tower, another new city icon, is opening in phases since last April. Bespoke Shanghai has started looking at using its 119th floor observation deck for corporate dinners and events, capitalising on its floor-to-ceiling windows and 360° views of the Lujiazui CBD in Pudong.

Michael Assef, director, corporate meetings & events,
Destination Asia (China), added the 128-storey and 632m high Shanghai Tower, is not only the new symbol of modern Shanghai but is the hottest venue in Asia to hold an event with a panoramic view over the Shanghai megalopolis.

Currently open to VIPs with special access, Shanghai Tower offers the most breathtaking views and some of the best facilities in Shanghai. The Shanghai Tower Grand Ballroom has over 2,000m2 of pillar-free space and high-tech meeting facilities including a 100m2 built-in LED screen. The 1,200m2 Shanghai Tower Garden Ballroom is semi-arc shaped with a 33m2 LED screen and a terrace garden.

Yet another high-end hotel that has come online in Shanghai is Wanda Reign on the Bund, which promises high-tech amenities, a diversity of fine dining options, and spectacular views of the Bund, Huangpu River and Pudong skyline. Opened in June 2016, the hotel offers 193 guestrooms and 1,100m2 of meeting venues. An exclusive meeting director offers 24-hour service to ensure events run flawlessly.

For event planners seeking a non-hotel venue, Lost Heaven Silk Road will satisfy. Part of the group that created Lost Heaven and Coconut Paradise, this restaurant occupies a one-time electronics factory at 758 Julu Lu and draws its interior décor inspiration from the cave paintings and temples of Dunhuang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It spans two floors and can seat 330 people. Silk Road cuisine, a blend of styles from western China, central Asia, India and the Middle East, take centre stage here.

What’s coming up?
W Shanghai-The Bund: January 2017
Bulgari Shanghai: 2017


SINGAPORE

by Paige Lee Pei Qi

Beyond the traditional convention facilities, Singapore has been brandishing compelling new facilities to transport meetings into an unorthodox setting.

Suntec Singapore

The latest such unique venue is the Secret Life of Trees, a new event area carved out in Gardens by the Bay. Launched in July 2016, the Secret Life of Trees boasts unrivalled views of the Supertree Grove and is ideal for private events with up to 120 pax in a standing cocktail setting.

The South Beach hotel has drawn plenty of interest among event planners with its extravagant ballroom. The space has a high ceiling which is adorned with a Forest of Lights – a 11,520-light installation – which brings about a dreamy ambience. It seats 370 guests banquet-style, and another 50 on the mezzanine level which overlooks the entire ballroom below.

In June 2016, however, the visual stunner – a creation of Philippe Starck – announced its rebranding to JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach. The 634-room hotel will undergo a refurbishment to make it a fit with the JW Marriott brand.

While these are happening, traditional meeting facilities are taking steps to keep up with Singapore’s changing events landscape.

Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, for instance, unveiled new projection equipment and technology in June. The Panorama105, one of the two products that form the new ImmersiveAV Suite, is a wide-format projection screen spanning up to 105m by 5m and powered by high-end 20,000 lumen projectors.

Completing the suite, The Float3D uses holographic projection technology to present still images with a depth of field. Suspended at 4.5m above ground, the display could become the illuminated centrepiece in an event.

What’s coming up?
The Patina, Capitol Singapore: 2Q2017


SYDNEY

by Rebecca Elliott

While much of the attention has been on the opening of the International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney last December, the Harbour city has actually seen a number of significant openings in recent times.

Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, Darling Harbour unveiled 3,700m2 of conference space in June 2016, comprising of 21 meeting and breakout rooms, two pillar-less ballrooms with capacity for 1,800 pax, theatre-style and an open air rooftop bar for outdoor events. Later in 2016, the hotel welcomed its first guests to its new 25-storey tower with 222 keys, taking the hotel’s total room inventory to 892. On November 30, the hotel was rebranded to Hyatt Regency Sydney.

AccorHotels added Australia’s 14th Pullman property to its portfolio in June with the opening of Pullman Sydney Airport. The 229-room hotel features an Executive Club Lounge and conference space for up to 280 delegates.

Barangaroo, located on the north-western tip of the city centre, continues its AU$6 billion-plus (US$4.5 billion) transformation, and as of September 2015, is home to an expansive event space that has quite literally been carved into the ground. With capacity for 5,000 guests, the venue is as long as the Sydney Cricket Ground and is set against the backdrop of an imposing sandstone wall, a nod to the area’s maritime history.

Once home to the Sydney Water Board headquarters, the five-star Primus Hotel Sydney opened its doors in December 2015. Self-proclaimed as one of Sydney’s “finest examples of art deco glamour”, the hotel features 172 rooms and suites, meeting space for up to 290 delegates and a New York-style rooftop event space for 100 people.

What’s coming up?
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour: November 2017


TAIPEI

by Prudence Lui

Taipei has seen a wave of new international hotel openings between 2015 and 2016, both in the high-end and mid-tier categories.

In December 2015, Courtyard Taipei and Aloft Taipei Zhongshan welcomed their first guests. Both hotels are equipped with event spaces; Courtyard Taipei has five meeting rooms while Aloft Taipei Zhongshan has one.

But it was the Taipei Marriott Hotel opening that hogged local industry headlines, as it is home to the city’s largest pillar-less ballroom. The 3,000m2 venue can host a 2,000-pax banquet.

Meanwhile, two convention centres in Taipei have invested in upgrading works.
Taipei International Convention Centre renovated its North Lounge and South Lounge, and released an upgraded app in April 2016 that boasts new, useful functions such as a 3D virtual tour and a seat searcher for the plenary hall.

TWTC Nangang’s expansion is progressing towards a completion in 2018.
The venue is already more accessible now, thanks to the new Nangang Station which opened last July. Sitting on the Taiwan High Speed Rail line, event delegates can now get to TWTC Nangang directly from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

What’s coming up?
TWTC Nangang’s expansion: 2018

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