Meeting commitments

Business events are returning to hotels and resorts across Asia, and prioritising properties with versatile spaces and in-house meetings specialists that can bring value to their programme

Banquet and event teams at top hotels and resorts in key Asian business hubs have been swept up in a whirlwind since the start of 2023. It is a welcome whirlwind though, as properties celebrate the return of business activities and travel.

The mood at Marriott International is particularly upbeat. According to Ramesh Daryanani, vice president of global sales, Marriott International (Asia Pacific), corporate and group performance has been “robust”.

“As of June 2023, we saw a strong return in demand with year-to-date growth rates for both segments recording above 2019 levels by nine per cent and 18 per cent respectively,” Daryanani told TTGmice, adding that business events delivered approximately 20 per cent revenue contribution to Marriott International’s hotels in 2022 alone.

IHG Hotels & Resorts has also seen corporate travel and group bookings returning in many markets since the end of Covid controls.

“Although hybrid working has now become the norm for many companies, the desire to bring teams together has remained strong,” noted Joff Romoff, vice president, commercial, South-east Asia and Korea at IHG Hotels & Resorts.

Chatrium Grand Bangkok, whose grand opening in November 2022 was timed perfectly for the business events comeback, has hosted 50 events for more than 5,000 delegates altogether as of July 3.

Its general manager, Daniel Kerr, believes that the hotel will thrive on the back of Thailand’s strong business events sector, which is forecasted to generate US$12.2 billion by 2027, up from US$6.9 billion in 2019.

Indeed, a buzzing events calendar for many Asian business cities is the source of confidence for both Marriott’s Daryanani and IHG’s Romoff.

Romoff shared that with popular events, such as the Auto Shanghai – Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition, resuming in China, properties especially those with conference halls are enjoying good business.

Daryanani expects Marriott International hotels to show even better numbers from business events by end-2023, thanks to the “widespread return of business events to the region, such as the recently concluded 42nd ASEAN Summit in Indonesia and (the ongoing series of) G20 meetings in India”.

He added: “Outlook for Asia-Pacific’s business events industry is bright, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.6 per cent to reach US$441.1 billion by 2025. In line with these forecasts, we are seeing greater collaboration between the public and private sector to grow the region’s business events offerings.

“For example, the Singapore Tourism Board has signed agreements with global event organisers, Comexposium and Italian Exhibition Group, to grow its reputation as a preferred destination for international business events, while the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau announced a five-year strategic action plan to attract over 160 million business events travellers to the country.

“Overall, the steady return of business events in Asia-Pacific, and the continued demand for face-to-face interactions and networking opportunities, are poised to drive growth beyond recovery.”

Supportive stance
Venue specifics and prices are no longer the only things business event planners pay attention to, observed hoteliers.

Daryanani said there is a “clear shift in priorities and considerations” when planners deliberate on potential hotels.

“The biggest trend we have noticed is an increase in demand for more offerings that allow event delegates to contribute meaningfully to the local community and their desire for bleisure (or blended) travel,” he said.

“In addition, as the business events industry leapfrogs from digital to physical events, planners also consider adaptive spaces that can be seamlessly moulded into an experiential environment that inspires their attendees,” he added.

These considerations mean planners expect hotel suppliers to be partners – more than just accommodation and venue providers – that can help them impress their guests with meaningful experiences representative of the destination.

Daryanani pointed to Marriott International’s team of associates who will “support planners from start to end – from designing and executing tailored events and meetings to enriching programmes with unique and meaningful experiences”.

The group’s “wide portfolio of brands across the region’s most sought-after destinations” also ensures that blended travel desires are fulfilled.

Citing an example, Daryanani said Sheraton Kagoshima in Japan is an attractive place for work and play. Situated on a picturesque bay with a backdrop of Mount Sakurajima, the hotel sports 12 event rooms; public spaces that encourage interaction; and destination-specific rest and relaxation, such as the hotel’s spa which boasts a Japanese-style onsen, natural volcanic hot spring pools, and foot baths.

Over at IHG, desires for sustainable meeting options, as well as versatile properties that facilitate the integration of work and leisure, are most prominent, according to Romoff.

Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts is especially cut out for the blended travel trend. “The brand truly understands guest needs for productivity, restoration and inspiration, and our properties are built in a thoughtful manner that integrates work and leisure,” he remarked.

“Guests stay in rooms designed in three zones to support work, relaxation and sleep, and will enjoy the use of the Plaza Workspace which offers flexible and open working spaces. Plaza Workspace has been introduced to the region at Crowne Plaza Phu Quoc Starbay and Crowne Plaza Vinh Yen City Centre, and we will see these spaces in our upcoming openings in Thailand and Malaysia,” Romoff added.

Besides providing “skilled support and trained on-site teams to ensure an inspiring experience for all in attendance”, IHG also has a reward programme for planners.

The Meet How You Meet promotion, ongoing across South-east Asia, South Korea, Japan and Australasia, dishes out exclusive perks that vary across properties.

For instance, at InterContinental Adelaide in Australia, planners can enjoy F&B benefits, limited complimentary room upgrades and more when they hit a minimum spend of A$5,000 (US$3,321). At Holiday Inn & Suites Jakarta Gajah Mada in Indonesia, a spend of at least US$1,000 will grant planners access to limited complimentary room upgrades, welcome drinks, and F&B discounts during group events.

Meet How You Meet is available for events booked by December 31, 2023, and held from now until June 30, 2024.

Planners are further supported by the IHG One Rewards loyalty programme and IHG Business Edge, a dedicated SME programme that helps clients book hotels more easily. IHG has also partnered with Groups360 to enrol hotels in Direct Book – a self-service online platform allowing customers the option to instantly book simple meetings and small groups, including event space and guestrooms.