Tag Archives: MICE

Sydney-based Emma Bowyer, widely respected owner and Managing Director of successful professional conference organisers ICMS Australasia, has been involved in the events-management industry for the best part of two decades. Emma has personally managed some of Australia’s biggest conferences, winning Event of the Year on three occasions for events under her directorship. She previously held a tenured position at the University of Technology Sydney in the Faculty of Business. She spoke to The Siteseer about how business is evolving as the pandemic recedes.

Siteseer: What do you see as the key priorities for event organisers as we appear to be, finally, moving away from pandemic-induced challenges?

Emma Bowyer: We didn’t lay anyone off during the pandemic; I made the decision early on, before JobKeeper was announced. Our thirty-five staff have been with me for quite a while. They are mostly in their twenties and thirties and have given me their loyalty, and I believed I needed to support them in turn. Initially the outlook was that the pandemic might last six months.

Then, as the situation became worse, we switched to virtual meetings very quickly. By June 2020 we were among the first companies in Australia to be running a major meeting on-line, which we did with the University of Melbourne, for 1,400 people. At that time there was no virtual conferencing platform; we needed a technical person, almost like a film producer, to give us what we needed.

So with that as background, one of our key priorities is to fast-track some of the technologies we’ve been talking about for years. Another is to continue to use the technology that’s available to us to serve and retain clients. We’re working with clients on events for 2022 and 2023. How can we retain and expand on the skills we’ve learned in respect of virtual conferencing to suit them, we ask ourselves? How can we digitally capture some of the content that’s being produced, and monetise it? That’s a priority too.

There’s been great restructuring in our industry that has helped us  recover. Well before the pandemic we were thinking more and more about how we can work with clients in partnership models, rather than taking a blanket approach; rather than just saying these are our services and these are the prices.

Now we’re doing much more customising, with clients working closely [and more productively] with us and the technology providers. For example we’ve got an international engineering conference coming up in May, with seventy countries and over seven hundred delegates.

And for the first time, the Sydney Convention Centre has come to us with a customised package covering cuisine, AV and layout. So we’re customising, and as we move forward we’re reconfirming with industry stakeholders, convention centres and hotels what the priorities are for us as a business, organising international delegates to come to Sydney, and internally continuing to use the technology that’s helped us get through the pandemic.

SS: The convention you’ve just mentioned; can you tell us a bit more?

EB: It’s a hybrid, which is interesting, an event that got rescheduled. It was supposed to be delivered in late 2021. The local host had spent ten years securing the meeting for Australia and was devastated when they had to contemplate going virtual. He’s an Emeritus Professor from Newcastle, and really didn’t want to do that. But as the weeks and months passed his international community said they were grateful for having a virtual alternative for those who couldn’t travel. The content is obviously not free; it’s seventy five percent of the normal registration cost, and conversely if you come in-person you’ll also get access to the virtual platform.

This is a strategy that’s working really well for the business community now, especially for people under thirty-five. In conferences in the past we’ve often had a younger student cohort among representatives. It’s been around ten percent generally, but it’s more than doubled for this event. Their employers realise it’s good for their growth and for their learning; they see it as investing in them.

SS: What new skills are needed to manage the virtual and hybrid meetings environment?

EB: In a way we’ve all become television producers. In the TV world you have second-by-second breakdowns, you pre-record material to mitigate risk, with strict production quality control, you can do things with animation, and the bigger your budget the better it looks.

So we’ve learned new skills in these areas, in event technology production and animation, and we’ve learned how to do things digitally that were never previously in our vocabulary. It’s affected everyone across the company. Even the receptionist hasn’t got away with not learning new skills.

SS: How can associations in particular monetise these new styles of business events?

EB: Good question. So first they must put a price on their content; they must never have any part of a conference offer that’s free. During the pandemic all of our clients have had a paid registration model. Social interaction’s not great on virtual, everyone concedes that. But if it’s the best that’s available, it’s great, and there’s so much you can offer. We’ve done quiz nights, hired people from overseas who can run things in multiple time zones and so on.

You must also capture content. We’ve been pre-releasing some content, for example, for a conference coming up in 2023. We’ve pre-recorded our plenary confirmed speakers, of which there are six, having told them to give us a three-minute grab of what they’ll talk about at the congress, reinforcing why people should register. That’s been unscripted and a huge success. We tell delegates that if they register by a certain date we’ll send them thirty minutes of great content. In incentivising in that way you can monetise.

Then the conference comes. Post-event you can go back to your membership and can couple-up, what we call splice, key content, highlights and even two-minute sections and earn money that way. That’s the future for associations, digitising content in a way that’s appealing for all of their members.

SS: How have target audiences changed?

EB: They’ve become more discerning. That’s why some of the mid-level events are dropping off. Audiences are saying, if I’m going to travel I’m going to make my decision based on how good and significant the event and content is. What are the networking opportunities, and is there a special factor?

SS: How would you define mid-level?

EB: It relates to the subject matter. Take pathology. We’ve organised some pathology events, but there are divisions within that category, like forensic pathology, or genetic pathology for example. So you’ll typically have a world congress and people will divide up to meet to discuss their specialty, and all come together for a plenary. Now more of them are saying they’ll go to the big event, gain some extra knowledge, and for their own specialty they may access the virtual content. So whereas in the past someone might go to two or three conferences a year, they now might go to one instead, and do the other two virtually.

What kind of additional support for the industry would you like to see? 

EB: In our industry many have talked about a central industry body that represents everyone. I understand the drive to represent parties is key but I think there are too many competing interests to do this well at the moment. In the end, the saying where there’s a political will, there’s a financial way probably rings true here.

SS: What in your view are the other major challenges facing businesses like yours?

EB: Maintaining quality. We’re in a maintenance period after a time of major change and working out where we grow from here. We’ve got our own staff conference in Alice Springs in July, and re-energising is a challenge for us and others. Everyone’s tired. But it’s not a bad challenge!

SS: Any other lessons you can share about your business and academic career?

EB: As you get older managing energy is important. I’ve found over time you sometimes put energy into things that could be better directed. Everyone has the same amount of time; it’s very democratic [in that sense], but the way you occupy it is vital. Stepping up into more of a consultancy role has been great for me personally. I’ve really enjoyed it. Prioritising and understanding the global and national landscape are very worthwhile directions for one’s energy.

SS: The recent international toxicology conference that was relocated to Sydney. Can you tell us a bit about that?

EB: We first ran the international toxicology meeting in 2015 in Brisbane. Then in 2018, a while ago now, I travelled over to Washington DC for an unrelated client, working on a space conference. While we were there we got an email from the toxicology client based in Melbourne. He learned I was in Washington and suggested I go to dinner with the president of the toxicology board. So off we went to the dinner in Washington with the president whom we’d never met before. We got on like a house on fire; he was with the FBI and very interesting to talk to.

I passed on his details to my colleagues and in late 2021 we got a phone call from the client in Melbourne. He told us they were planning to have their meeting in South Africa, but after holding out for as long as possible, had decided to go virtual.

The association had never done anything virtual before, so the client asked us if we could help them. They said that even if fifty percent of their membership came on board and if we could construct something funky and fun like eighty talks in eighty minutes, we could construct a program.

So they set off with a target of three hundred participants and thirty thousand dollars in sponsorship. That was all over the Christmas period. In the end we had over eight hundred delegates, over a hundred thousand dollars in sponsorship, and three extraordinarily good days of programming and networking events. Each board member had ten minutes to talk about their country, so there was a tourism aspect. Someone walked through a gallery in Tokyo for example; it was very interesting.

The feedback they’ve had from their own communities has been outstanding. It blew away their expectations of what could be done with virtual conferencing. Now we’ve been appointed to do an event for them in 2023 in Hobart, and their world congress is coming to New Zealand in 2025 and we’ve been appointed for that.

SS: Also shows how valuable personal networking can be.

EB: It does.

SS: What’s your outlook now?

Very positive! People internationally have a fantastic appetite for coming to Australia. The Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne bureaux we’re working with are pushing strongly to emphasise that it’s safe to travel, which is important to people. The fact we don’t have to have negative tests before getting on a plane any more and that COVID variants are becoming less virulent is a strong sign of recovery.

In the space we’re in it’s more important than ever to have conferences because scientists can innovate and share research. One of our clients was involved with developing the AstraZeneca vaccine at Oxford University, which has had fantastic outcomes. That can be highlighted across many disciplines. There’s good stories everywhere and conferences can reflect them.

Moving forward, for us, I see us helping clients get their message out better. Pathologists talking to pathologists is one thing but if you can let the world know what conference delegates do, through public lectures, media releases and advertising, that will be wonderfully interesting, informative and productive.

To contact Emma or ICMS Australasia, please click here.

 

Where can you stay for business or leisure, an hour-and-a-half’s easy drive north of Sydney, and pay between $99 and $145 a night for outstanding, functional accommodation? Accor’s Ibis chain may provide the answer, as The Siteseer discovered.

To see first-hand what customers get for these low prices, I headed off north from Sydney for two nights: first to the basic but convenient and comfortable Ibis Budget Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast, then to the ritzier, full-service Ibis Styles at The Entrance, 30 minutes further north.

These properties were a revelation. The Gosford property, on sale online for as low as $99 a night, and which has recently been refurbished, has 78 quiet rooms well set back from a major thoroughfare, comfortable beds and plenty of parking. Some of the rooms overlook a gorgeous green corridor separating hotel and river. Naturally there’s free wifi, USB charging points in all rooms, and block-out blinds to sustain a good night’s sleep.

Ibis Budget Gosford’s cheerful and welcoming General Manager Karen Gibson (left), who’s worked at Accor hotels in Broome, Canberra and Newcastle, is enthusiastic about her property – and the surrounding attractions of the New South Wales Central Coast. “There’s a reptile park nearby, which many guests visit. It’s fascinating and fun for all; I don’t care how old you are! And right next door we have the race course, which is also an attraction for many groups.”

Beautiful beaches, great shopping and dining variety are among the other drawcards, she adds. “An RSL club is a five-minute walk away from here, and there’s a great pub five minutes away in the other direction. You don’t come here to spend time in your room. It’s not a resort obviously. You drop your bags off, you go and explore, you go to bed, get up and go out again. It’s an ideal base for that.”

Many group visitors are from sporting and musical organisations, and the hotel is getting busier, despite covid’s omnipresent impact, Karen says. “We’re expecting a big year ahead. There’s lots happening at Gosford and the Central Coast and we’ve built up a great family of guests.”

From AUD99 a night

While Karen says the Ibis Gosford offers consistently low rates all year, at peak times they may increase because of demand.

More information, click here.

Email: H5442@accor.com

Phone: (02) 4325 7692

Meanwhile, at Ibis Styles, The Entrance, the ebullient young General Manager Aaron Ficyk (below) presides over a different kind of arrangement, and not just because Ibis Styles is an Accor “full-service” brand with more facilities than the more basic Ibis Budget.

Here the new, 52-room hotel, set on a hill overlooking the dreamy waters of Tuggerah Lakes, exists in an integrated relationship with the Diggers RSL club next door. The Diggers is a recently refurbished restaurant and conference complex whose guests typically make use of the hotel’s accommodation, and where hotel guests likewise meet and dine.

“Some people have a bit of difficulty getting their head around our integrated relationship with the Diggers club,” says Aaron. “But once they’ve had a site inspection and see the conference facilities, we find it’s very easy to seal a booking.”

The arrangement represents outstanding value for money, he says, with a $49 full-day conference package that includes room hire, morning and afternoon tea, lunch and basic AV hire.

The Diggers manages many local conferences where guests don’t need accommodation, but when people come from Sydney and elsewhere they can get the complete package, explains Aaron. “They can room-charge back to the club and get one seamless invoice at the end of their stay. Plus they can access the club from the hotel and don’t have to leave the premises. And by showing their room key they can get the members’ discounts for food and drinks. This connection with the RSL club is pretty rare in the Accor group.”

The Pavilion Events Centre at The Diggers is a big space that can comfortably seat up to 200, overlooking the lake, and there are a variety of boardrooms for smaller functions. The club is recognised as a specialist wedding reception venue, and is “perfect” for any type of celebration including weddings, anniversaries and business functions, Aaron says. An events coordinator is always on hand.

“One of the greatest advantages for conference and events organisers is the proximity to Sydney,” adds Aaron. “It’s only an hour and fifteen minutes by car, and once you’re here it’s like you’re a million miles away. This entire Central Coast area represents untapped potential.”

The Ibis Styles at The Entrance has 52 rooms, including eight family rooms that sleep four people or five with an optional rollaway bed. Some have views of the lake, and there are wheelchair-accessible rooms on every level. “People generally recognise that we represent great value, even over Christmas and Easter peak seasons when the rates are a bit higher.. We’re four-star rated and guests who come here for the first time are surprised by the quality of the property. You’re getting a beautiful view, and the rooms are modern and fresh.”

Originally from the Blue Mountains, Aaron was involved as part of the opening team for nearby Magenta Shores for Mirvac in 2017. Then he moved to Newcastle to open a Novotel at Newcastle Beach. (Earlier he’d worked as a casual at Ibis Styles.) He was offered his current role of General Manager three years ago when new owners bought the property.

From AUD 125 a night

The hotel has “some fantastic offers” in off-peak times, Aaron says. “We do a winter promotion which is room and continental breakfast for $125. In 2022 we’re doing a devonshire tea offer. People come back every year, they know the package is there.”

More information, click here.

Email: reservations@ibisstylestheentrance.com.au

Phone: +61 2 4336 0400

 

You’re a hotelier. With terrifying suddenness, the Coronavirus decimates your events and leisure business. What do you do? Swiss-Belhotel International’s people did some lateral thinking.

Patrick LaybuttWith occupancies plunging everywhere, and recognising that any crisis can represent opportunity for those flexible enough, the General Manager of Swiss-Belhotel in South Brisbane, Patrick Laybutt (left), and colleagues sat together to put action plans in place.

“It was after the introduction of the various Covid-19 restrictions had been introduced in New Zealand,” Patrick explains. “One of our decisions was to look after clients at our Australasian properties who can’t work from home, people who need an office space, or have come back from overseas and need to stay longer.”

With 134 generously sized spaces ranging from hotel rooms to suites with galley kitchenettes at the South Brisbane hotel, for example, they realised they could adapt their apartment-style set ups to include the attributes of an office space.

 

The result was a “live-stay-work” package, which gives much-needed help to guests while generating revenue for the hotel to continue supporting staff and owners through a difficult time, says Patrick.

The live-stay-work campaign has targeted corporate as well as past and loyal customers seeking longer stays, who were approached via the hotel’s database. It was also aimed at expats returning home. “We worked closely with our extensive network and association connections,” says Patrick.

In South Brisbane, hotel-living package guests can choose, inter alia, a superior room with king-size bed, ensuite and walk-in shower; a river-view suite overlooking the city and Brisbane River towards South Bank, or across the Kangaroo Point cliffs to the city; or a “Swiss SuperSuite”.

SSRV519-Swiss-BelhotelBrisbane-1“Living at Swiss-Belhotel Brisbane in South Bank is like having a permanent office with a feel of home as you experience everything luxury and have a personal haven of relaxation and comfort,” Patrick says.

That means in-room dining, breakfast deals at $17 per person from a selected menu, Uber eats delivered to rooms, in-door pool, gym, unlimited Internet access, 10% off laundry, hand sanitisers in rooms and optional daily or weekly housekeeping.

The response has been great, says Patrick. “People appreciate us being proactive and coming up with a tailored offer that meets current demand. We especially see good pick-up at our Swiss-Belsuites Victoria Park [Auckland] hotel as it’s only five minutes’ walk from a large supermarket and has spacious suites – all apartment-style with balconies.”

Meantime events are obviously on hold given the current clamp-down on gatherings. “Next to general cleanliness, social distance is currently on our mind,” says Patrick. “The health of our guests and associates is our number-one priority.”

POOL-GYM-Swiss-BelhotelBrisbane-2From AUD1,950 a month

A superior room at South Brisbane is available from $90 per day, $560 per week and $1,950 per month. A “super-suite” starts from $120 per day, $805 per week and $3,300 per month.

The hotel is adjacent to the Mater private and public and Lady Cilento Children’s hospitals and the newly opened Ronald McDonald House is directly opposite. It’s ten minutes’ walk to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and 14 minutes’ walk to The Gabba stadium. The CBD is 3.6 kilometres – eight minutes’ drive – away.

If, as Czech writer Milan Kundera observed, business has only two functions – marketing and innovation – the Swiss-Belhotel is doing both well.

More info, click here.

Email: reservations-brisbane@swiss-belhotel.com

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Swiss-BelhotelBrisbaneRooftopView-1

 

 

Organise an event at Papua New Guinea’s Stanley Hotel and Suites, a towering landmark a five-minute drive from Port Moresby airport, and you can be sure of one thing: you’ll meet Niko Parman.

IMG_1932The Director of Conferences and Events for the “Stanley,” one of few five-star hotels in the wild, exotic territory of PNG, lives on site and puts in as many hours per day as required to keep his clients happy.

“For the client I’m invariably the one-stop-shop,” says the dapper, energetic Australian (pictured left) who’s been here for three years, since the hotel opened. “Large events represent good turnover in Port Moresby, so you have to deliver, and it’s all about inter-personal relationships and trust. They want to see the face who sold the event space executing the event. That’s where I come in.”

 

The space he has to offer them is, he points out, the largest and most flexible in PNG. The hotel’s centrepiece ballroom is complemented by eight smaller meeting rooms which can be set up in a myriad combinations, anywhere from 10 to a thousand people seated banquet-style. The meeting rooms are on the same level; one has an open-air balcony that can accommodate 450 people.

The vast majority of delegates and clients can be accommodated on site in 420 well-equipped rooms (all with work desks), including 80 one- and two-bedroomed apartments, and a Presidential suite which has hosted the likes of President Xi of China. The hotel is targeted very much at business, primarily comprising local and international governments from the US or elsewhere working with PNG authorities, oil and gas mining enterprises, and NGOs such as the International Monetary Fund or Asian Development Bank. “The country is still largely dependent on aid from these bodies, and markets like these are our core. The majority of our business is sourced locally but funded from overseas.”

HyperFocal: 0Why hold an event here? For a start the events management at The Stanley, top-heavy with expatriate talent knows what it’s doing. Its conference-driven MICE business is “massive,” according to Niko, dwarfing food and beverage. Much of it is inbound, and people flying in have to be accommodated. The property typically hosts opening cocktails and dinners, and its F&B outlets are like satellites. Accommodation comes with breakfast, and if delegates have a free night they’ll automatically fill up the restaurants and bars, Niko says. Indeed delegates don’t have too many options about places to go outside the property other than a range of eateries in the big adjacent shopping mall.

 

And that’s a positive for many PCOs. “We’re in a closed environment, so we have a captive market in a sense,” says Niko. “For many conference organisers that’s a perfect business model. They want to concentrate on the business at hand, with few distractions.”

Plus it’s good value. The Stanley charges for venue hire, depending on the size of the space required, and the full day rate is 155 Papua New Guinea kina – about AUD60.

Though Port Moresby has relatively few hotels, Niko says he and his colleagues don’t take business for granted. “In these days of social media, good service or bad service goes viral. If you dazzle people you get repeat business! It works, which is why we have great occupancy rates and we’re the market leader in the city.”

171006-2054The reason for that, too, he says, is consistency. You can have wonderful product but if you’re not consistent a hotelier can run into trouble, he adds.

Niko tries to help ensure that consistency extends to the F&B outlets. The café in the grand, cavernous lobby serves coffee, freshly squeezed juices, sandwiches and pastries, operating from early till 6pm. In addition to the main restaurant, also on the ground floor, the Monsoon Bar is open from 3pm till midnight and the Silverleaf fine dining eatery seats 40 people on the nineteenth floor. There’s an executive lounge, with a clubby feel and excellent canapés after five.

For pre- and post-conference events, Niko can refer clients to trusted suppliers for everything from exhibition booths to entertainers, having attracted well-known names including James Morrison and Samantha Clarke.

From AUD60 per day

The conference rate includes buffet lunch, arrival tea and coffee with pastries, and morning tea with a choice of sweet and savoury items, which more and more guests want. “I can guarantee it’s on par with what Sydney and Melbourne can offer,” says Niko.

More information, click here. Or email dce@thestanleypng.com.

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Reflected candlelight shimmers from the marble floor of the lobby in the Shangri-La Hotel in Chiang Mai. Beside a picture of the King of Thailand, seven young girls clad in gold satin perform an immaculately choreographed traditional dance to celebrate his birthday.

They pride themselves on doing everything well at the Shangri-La Chiang Mai. It may be one of the reasons it’s been acknowledged by the Thai government as having the best meetings facilities of all five-star hotels in this relaxed city of 130,000 people.

IMG_1922They’re certainly the biggest. There’s a total of 2,350 square metres of meetings space here, including a ballroom that can accommodate 1,800 and an auditorium that can take 99. In the sprawling gardens, there’s plenty of room for special events like dinners, team building, lunches, cooking classes, yoga and other recreational activities. Venues in the grounds include the cabana area adjacent to the pools, ideal for smaller events; what the hotel calls its “secret garden;” and the swimming pool area itself which can be used for functions, cocktails and dinners.

 

In some ways this is a typical Shangri-La hotel, with the marque’s well-known tropical gardens, peaceful aromatic spa, selection of pleasant restaurants, sparkling pools, obliging and smiling staff, and 277 flop-down-on-the-bed-and-sigh rooms.

The mountainous surrounds of the upland city, about 40 minutes flying time north of Bangkok, and the hotel facilities combine to make it an enticing venue in every sense, according to Wiyada Sornprapha (top left), Director of Sales and Marketing.

Moreover the Shangri-La is the only hotel in Chiang Mai that has a comprehensive security system for checking vehicles and bags coming into the property, which is much valued by clients, especially those holding high-profile international events here, says Wiyada.

Outdoor venue_Poolside“That’s not to say Chiang Mai has security issues, it doesn’t!” she laughs. “But we live in an unpredictable world.”

Another huge advantage is the property’s location, adds Communications Manager Saranya Buntem (top right). “We’re in the city, yes, but we’re close to markets, five minutes’ walk from our night market, shops, restaurants and the river and we have wonderful gardens and facilities in the hotel,” says Saranya. “The airport is 15 minutes’ drive away. It seldom takes more than ten minutes to get anywhere in Chiang Mai.”

 

Unlike many other Thai cities, Chiang Mai has no big shopping offer or beaches but it’s culturally rich with – because if its elevation – refreshing weather, says Wiyada. And not everyone wants to shop and breathe traffic fumes. “It’s perfect for those seeking a less hectic city experience in a serene and natural green environment,” she explains. She points out that it was declared “Best City in Asia” and “Third Best City in the World” at the Travel + Leisure awards in 2017. It was also recently designated a UNESCO Creative City.

But one of the best attributes of the Shangri-La, perhaps, is cost. Room rates start at around 130 US dollars, while the full-day conference rate is around 60 US dollars, including lunch. “That’s fantastic value considering we’re a five-star hotel and have indoor and outdoor facilities,” says Wiyada. “We’re very flexible. And when we talk about value, we’re not just referring to price; it’s also about value-added and the offer that we have generally.”

The hotel’s events campaign tagline is “Meetings Made More Rewarding”. In practice that means additional benefits that conference organisers don’t expect, like free cocktails, complimentary upgrades and discounts from the master bill.

Deluxe RoomAnd organisers and delegates can select what they like to match their requirements. There’s a “one-stop” events service, with dedicated staff helping organisers through every step of the process, from the time they arrive, she says.

Rates across the board for rooms and meetings depend on the season, with especially good deals available during the “green” period from April until October, Wiyada adds.

MICE clients include Thais (17% of the total business), mostly from Bangkok, while better air accessibility has resulted in growing trade from elsewhere in the Asia Pacific. For example there are direct flights to Chiang Mai now from major cities in China, Taipei, Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and from Hong Kong, which is two-and-a-half hours away.

Indeed the expansion of the China business has been remarkable, adds Wiyada, with Chinese people travelling more than ever before and accounting for over a fifth of the hotel’s MICE enquiries. The Shangri-La has appointed staff who speak Chinese to help cater for this influx.

Events clients also come from Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Europe, the US and Australia. About a third of the conference business is corporate, and a significant percentage of these inbound visitors bring their spouses with them, seeking a holiday or engaging outings, such as visits to the nearby elephant sanctuary.

“Weddings are also a big business for us, both for locals and internationally,” says Wiyada. “We’re considered to be the leading wedding venue in town because of our capacity and car park.”

With beautiful assets, business for the Shangri-La Chiang Mai is likely to continue to expand, and official government figures support this view. Last year, Chiang Mai welcomed around 10 million tourists, 7 million of whom were locals and 3 million of whom were foreigners. As of November, tourist arrivals to Thailand had reached 34.43 million, up 7.53 percent, generating an estimated Bt1.8 trillion (AUD 86 billion) in revenue for the country.

More information:

Call (66 53) 253 888

Email chiangmai@shangri-la.com

Web: www.shangri-la.com/chiangmai

Sukhothai RoomIMG_1905Outdoor venue_Cabana areaOutdoor venue_Secret GardenPhayao RoomCHI Spa Room

 

 

 

 

 

Geoff Donaghy is CEO of the International Convention Centre Sydney, which recently announced a naming-rights partnership with superannuation industry fund First State Super. He chatted to The Siteseer about what this means, and what else is new and exciting at Sydney’s premier, state-of-the-art events venue.

Siteseer: Geoff, what will the partnership mean in practice for the parties, and how will you both benefit?

Geoff Donaghy: [It’s] a commercial arrangement with mutual benefits. For First State Super the partnership gives their brand the opportunity to be in the heart of Darling Harbour and significantly increase their visibility while providing benefits for their members.

But the relationship runs much deeper than that, and shows their confidence in our operation. First State Super is an existing equity partner in the ICC Sydney project and we both see this as a great way to align our values, cultures and businesses. It’s this aspect we’re very excited about exploring and advancing.

ICC Sydney_Convention_No Highway_20190324-578-2SS: How successful was the recent PCO Roundtable and what key lessons did participants take away?

GD: Our PCOs are a very important client group for us, and in March this year we held our second PCO Roundtable. PCOs act on behalf of many of our major international and national clients so it’s immensely important we communicate with them our developments, improvements and advances on a regular basis. [Afterwards clients such as] the CEO of Associations Forum and panel moderator John Peacock applauded us for establishing such a close relationship with PCOs, as did WALDRONSMITH Management Managing Director Kate Smith.

SS: Would you mind pointing to a couple of what you consider to be some other important events at ICC Sydney in the past year or so and why, looking back, they were successful?

GD: Over the past twelve to eighteen months we’ve delivered many major events that have been successful in their own right. [For example] the ASEAN Australia-Special Summit held in March 2018 saw twelve heads of state attend our venue for a high profile and high-security event, which our team delivered seamlessly. In October 2018 we also delivered Sibos, the world’s biggest financial services event. This saw us welcome more than 7,600 business leaders, academics and entrepreneurs from 150 countries.

Exhibitions are an equally important business segment for us and we’ve a number of major repeat events returning to us annually. The Sydney International Boat Show, which uses all of our exhibition space and event deck and builds a major temporary jetty facility in the adjoining Cockle Bay area to display yachts and super boats, is returning to us for the third year in a row next month.

320SS: What are your most important business segments? Do you still see big opportunities in the Asian incentive business?

GD: ICC Sydney was designed to [host] a broad range of market segments – from national and international conventions to trade and consumer events as well as important local events like gala dinners and sales meetings. We’re also the major down-town entertainment venue for the city, which sees us arrange live concerts, musicals and comedy shows.

In terms of economic contribution, venue capability and city reputation, international events are [obviously vital] for a convention centre like ours. Earlier this year we held our second annual CEO Asia Roadshow visiting Japan, China and Singapore as these are markets in which we see enormous growth and potential. We’re also ramping up our activities in North America [resulting in] significant success for both corporate and association events.

SS: Would you mind sharing some facts and figures about how important the integrated ICC Sydney has become for the state and national economy?

GD: Sure. Our first two years of operation saw events we hosted delivering a significant impact for the economy of New South Wales. According to a Deloitte Access Economics study in 2018, delegates attending ICC Sydney generated $820 million in direct expenditure for the state, an increase of $35 million on the $785 million direct contribution of the previous year. International and interstate visitors helped generate 72 percent of the total expenditure, resulting in more than 1.57 million overnight stays in Sydney accommodation and the creation of 5,248 full-time equivalent jobs for the local economy. Next month we’ll be releasing our 2018 and 2019 figures, and we expect these results will further show our contribution to the local economy.

320SS: Does ICC Sydney represent value for money and why?

GD: It has a burgeoning reputation for the highest quality of operation and with both client and delegate satisfaction ratings at 99 percent, yes, we believe we offer very significant value for money.

SS: How well have the people of Sydney embraced it?

GD: ICC Sydney has become the venue of choice for Sydney. As a landmark venue in the city we run a wide range of public events from children’s shows and exhibitions to those hosting international artists such as Kylie Minogue and Seinfeld. We also support events for charities like the Variety Children’s Charity Annual Christmas Party and Stand Tall event involving over 6,000 high school students. Earlier in the year we hosted the inaugural VIVID School, which brought together STEM students and budding artists from years nine to twelve from across the state.

SS: What are the priorities for you and your team right now?

GD: It’s a given that success will attract competition and our industry is immensely competitive, across the globe.

[So] the most important priority for our team is to maintain the highest-possible standards at the highest-possible level of consistency, ensuring we’re constantly reviewing and refreshing what we offer to clients across all our market segments.

SS: Are you still enjoying what must be a hugely challenging job? What pleases you most?

GD: Opening and establishing a world-class venue does come with challenges. What pleases me most is watching the team come together and receiving recognition for their extraordinary efforts across Australia and around the world. This is what I find most gratifying as a CEO in the venue business.

More info: sales@iccsydney.cominfo@iccsydney.com

GEOFF INSIGHTS

Geoff Donaghy is Director of Convention Centres for venue management specialist AEG Ogden, which operates convention facilities in Australia, Asia and the Middle East including the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney).

CIC Portraits 100914.CEO of ICC Sydney, Geoff DonaghyHe is CEO of the ICC Sydney, which opened in December 2016 and established as one of the world’s leading convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities.In addition to his role at ICC Sydney, Geoff is Director of Convention Centres AEG Ogden and the immediate past President of the Brussels-based International Association of Congress Centres. He is on the executive committee of the Joint Meetings Industry Council.

Geoff’s experience in the business events industry was born from his airline and hotel industry experience. He headed the Cairns region’s successful tourism and convention bureau for five years before managing the 1996 opening of the Cairns Convention Centre. He also served for five years as Chairman of the Business Events Council of Australia. He has been awarded the Australia Centenary Medal by the Federal Government, the Australian industry’s Outstanding Contribution Award, and the Joint Meeting Industry Council’s Global Power and Profile Award.

 

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There are many wonderful hotels in the Thai capital city, but IHG’s five-star Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park in the heart of the CBD can justifiably claim to be something special – attractive in price and aesthetically pleasing to boot.

When they step into the street-level entry a short way from the roaring traffic of the “Rama IV” thoroughfare, an elevator whisks arriving guests to the lobby and reception area on level 23. This is a peaceful, tastefully lit space of mirrors, sombre panelling and comfy chairs and sofas.

Crowne-Plaza-Bangkok-Lumpini-Park_Sathorn-Meeting-Room-01_Low-Res_RETOUCHNearby, glass-walled elevators glide up and down a soaring atrium whose walkways provide access to all of the 243 guest rooms. A few steps away, also on the 23rd floor, the Panorama all-day-dining eatery has a terrific bird’s-eye view of the city.

The Crowne Plaza Lumpini Park has a selection of meeting venues at good prices. For example, a full-day meeting package starts at around AUD 75 per person per day, including the notorious Thai taxes and services charges. It allows for room rental from 8am to 5 pm, complimentary coffee and tea throughout the meeting, morning and afternoon coffee breaks with two kinds of snacks and fruit juices, a lunch buffet of grilled meats and fish, prawns, sushi and sashimi at the Panorama on the 23rd floor, or a Chinese set lunch at the (outstanding) Xin Tian Di restaurant a floor below.

Twelve meeting rooms, 145 square metres in total, are set over the entirety of the 21st floor, and the largest of these, when fully opened-up, can accommodate 400. Its best-known venue is “The White Room” with sweeping walkways and staircase and much in use for parties after weddings. “[It’s] more like an art gallery than a function room,” says a hotel spokesperson. “So your product or service is ‘framed’ to be the focus of attention at all times. The White Room has been designed to promote and flatter any event, whether it’s a product launch, press conference, wedding or mini-exhibition. It’s also ideal for company events as well as private parties and receptions.”

The guest rooms themselves are adorned in bright, jazzy and engaging colours, with rack rates starting at around AUD 210 a night, which is competitive, to say the least, for a five-star property.

But the facilities are what you’d expect – five restaurants and bars, a spa, outdoor pool overlooking the city on Level 24, outdoor jacuzzi and a well-equipped fitness centre.

The hotel “guarantees” PCOs that it’ll respond to enquiries within two hours and provide a full proposal by the next business day. At the end of meetings each day a Crowne meetings director will proivide an itemised account of that day’s expenditures, gather feedback and handle further requests.

There are also club floors with lounge benefits like free breakfasts and cocktails, all-day snacks, late check-outs at 4pm and complimentary laundry and local calls.

More info: Call +66 (0) 2632 9000 or click here.

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After malt whiskies in the club lounge, we return to our room on the thirty-third floor of the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, and find a note from the concierge. It’s a follow-up to a request my wife made earlier in the day.

“We have checked with the silversmith in the convention centre, and they can fix your silver necklace,” the message says, “but it will take seven to 10 working days.”

Richard Greaves 1 squareIt then lists another jewellery store that can fix the broken clasp the same day, 30 minutes’ cab ride away.

It’s the kind of obliging assistance we received continually during a recent four-day stay at arguably the finest meetings and convention hotel in Hong Kong.

Our 40-square-metre club room, with its vast white bed, muted carpets and colourings and classy artworks, had panoramic views of Victoria Harbour – and, everywhere, the city’s slim, towering skyscrapers which at night gleamed and twinkled like a giant jewellery box.

The food, service, facilities and proximity of this property to the pulse of the city may help explain why it’s won a swag of industry awards – such as best business hotel in Asia, best meetings and conventions hotel in Hong Kong, best city hotel for business events and others.

But there’s plenty of competition in the luxury hotel category in Hong Kong. Why should PCOs favour the Grand Hyatt? Richard Greaves (pictured above), Area Vice President and General Manager, is clear on this. A key factor that sets the hotel apart is attention to detail and emotional engagement with clients and guests, he explains.

“We strongly believe that to create exceptional event experiences for guests, we must first make the effort to get to know them beyond a mere superficial level, more like a friend,” he says.

Seafood & Oyster Bar + Salad Bar_3mb“How else can we expect to exceed their expectations and create the special details that make an event memorable?”

It’s a familiar theme, often-repeated by hotel operators, but the Grand Hyatt’s success suggests that it’s not just talk. The hotel has 22 flexible event venues which are much in demand for repeat business for meetings, incentives, conferences and private parties, catering for anything from 12 to 1,600 guests. The Grand Ballroom is one of the largest in the city, while the Poolhouse, an outdoor venue overlooking the swimming pool and gardens, can be set up to handle welcome or farewell cocktails.

 

In particular the hotel is a sought-after spot for weddings, of any size up to 888 people. Accommodation is included in wedding packages and there are preferential rates in its 542 rooms and suites for the guests. “We’re honoured to be regarded as the hotel for glamorous events,” says Richard.

“Our service team has always been our most recognised asset. It takes years of training and expertise to take care of the logistics of week-long events, as well as the everyday needs of conference guests and others staying at the hotel at the same time.”

Attendees have much to choose from pre- and post-conference, Richard adds. “The city, especially Wanchai where the hotel is located, has a lot to offer.”

Grand Deluxe City RoomFor example they can visit the Wanchai wet market for a glimpse of local everyday life. Or take a tram for a slow tour around Hong Kong Island, visit heritage buildings and temples around Wanchai, hop on the Star Ferry to cross Victoria Harbour, or shop in Central and Causeway Bay (10 minutes by taxi).

There are 11 restaurants and bars in the hotel, and a great spa (The Plateau) atop the building.

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong’s clientele typically includes financial and tech companies, and it hosts many medical and pharmaceutical conventions. Because it’s located next to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, it’s naturally popular with people attending trade shows.

 

From USD 245

So, what everyone considering arranging an event immediately wants to know: how much does it cost to book this gem of a property? Room rates online start from around USD245, and the Club rooms – offering access to the big club lounge with its jaw-dropping views of the harbour and sunsets – start from around USD 500. The conference full-day rate is from around USD154 per person, but the operators stress that PCOs and other event organisers should contact them to start a discussion about prices and venues.

Siteseer says:

In the pantheon of good hotels in the former British colony, this is up there with the best. To help celebrate its thirtieth anniversary this year, most of the event venues have been renovated, as have the classy, understated rooms and suites. The club lounge, to which we had access, offers drinks all day and a free-of-charge, sumptuous buffet in the evenings. The eclectic mix of Asian and western fare here included pastas, patés, dim sims, seafood, soups, salads, hot and cold savoury taster dishes and much else. The staff were smart, charming and never missed a trick. Because it was my wife’s and my wedding anniversary, a bottle of champagne awaited us in the room when we arrived. And a charming card. We look forward to returning.

More information:

+852 2584 7068

hongkong.grand@hyatt.com

Click here for more prices.

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Karmina De Ungria, an ebullient young marketing executive at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manila, says The Peak is like nothing else in the city of 13 million people. She may have a point.

“It’s something very new to the market and sets a whole new standard in dining and entertainment,” says the enthusiastic Karmina (pictured below), Director of Marketing Communications for the Grand Hyatt hotel in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Manila.

IMG_1872Why? The Peak is a dining and bar complex atop the towering Grand Hyatt building – said to be the tallest structure in the Philippines at 318 metres. Occupying the sixtieth to the sixty-second floors, The Peak is a classy amalgam of interconnected, enticing indoor and outdoor terrace drinking spaces and cosy indoor eateries, most with sweeping views of the Manila skyline and the blue waters of the bay. Indeed its design, conceptualised by Tokyo-based international design firm Nao Taniyama & Associates, was inspired by penthouse living, with one room flowing to another, says Karmina.

 

It includes a grill restaurant, music lounge, whisky bar and The Peak bar, each flagged as a destination on its own. The centrepiece of the grill is an open kitchen where guests can view their food being prepared by Chef De Cuisine Manuel Baenziger.

“I think it’s what many guests are seeking right now,” Karmina adds, standing on a deck on the sixty-second floor, looking at the ramparts of the city below. “The views are exceptional [which helps to make it] an experience in itself.”

GHM The Peak VerandaHere, events organisers could consider the cosy Speakeasy restaurant (main picture) and waterhole which can be booked privately and accommodate up to 30 guests with a minimum total spend of PHP 80,000 (about USD 1,500). That’s about fifty bucks a head – reasonable given the attributes of the venue and the quality of the food and drink, ranging from Bordeaux to Bollinger and Maryland crab cake to Aussie wagyu beef. The hotel itself is spanking new, opened last year, which gives the entire complex a fresh, swanky appeal.

“We see a lot of the local market, as well as visitors who are looking for premium dining and entertainment,” says Karmina. “Of course Hyatt’s a well-known and established brand and we’re very pleased with how our rooms, restaurant concepts and event facilities have been received by the market. Everything’s been designed to give our guests a grand experience.”

The Peak is incorporated in the Grand Hyatt Manila hotel. For reservations and more details, call +632 8381234 or email thepeak.manila.grand@hyatt.com.

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Driving through the eucalypt forests of the Blue Mountains, two hours west of Sydney, a traveller comes upon a curious set of domed, crenellated buildings, perched atop a steep escarpment. What is this place?

Stretching for a kilometre and looking out over the vast Megalong Valley and red crags of the mountains, the complex resembles a cross between an old-style European spa and the art-deco Radio City building in New York. Step inside – and enter the extraordinary Hydro Majestic hotel, one of the quirkiest events venues in New South Wales.

IMG_1855This is a world of fanciful, almost baroque, style where lofty public rooms and bars pay tribute to the whims and art of the rich and famous of the earliest Twentieth Century. Further exploration uncovers a history that reflects human endeavour and hedonism in equal measure.

“We had electricity here five days before Sydney did, provided by coal supplies from down in the valley and generated by our own boiler,” laughs Adam Holmes (left), Operations Manager for the Escarpment Group, which owns the property. “When you think about those days, you wonder how on earth they got everything up here.”

Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton, died of heart failure at the hotel in 1920. Australian opera diva Dame Nellie Melba sang here, as did English singers Dame Clara Butt and Nellie Stewart. Other guests included the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Many of these visitors were friends of Mark Foy, a colourful, womanising retail baron who opened the hotel in the winter of 1904. It was then Australia’s first health retreat, a place where woman drank separately from the men and a Swiss expert was brought in to design especially customised diets and steam treatments for guests.

Inspiring venues

Today the Majestic Ballroom, which can seat up to 250 for a seated dinner, and other function spaces offer extraordinary views of the valley below and serve as inspiring venues for weddings and corporate events, says Adam. But the views are not the only good reason to organise an event at The Hydro, he adds.

Hydro Majestic, Blue Mountains, Flavours of NSW, Amanda Davenport, 2016“The hotel is a destination in itself, and you take a journey back in time when you visit it. It’s no cliché!”

Indeed the owners’ fairly recent refurbishment has ensured that none of the original structures have been “built over”.

“It’s lovingly maintained, yet each area of the hotel has a different theme which is evident when you walk through it,” says Adam, a Sydneysider with hotel management experience in the Middle East, Maldives and Mauritius. “That’s why we have a strong events business and a wedding here almost every weekend.”

Each one of the 67 bedrooms has a view of the valley, too, as does the main dining room, the Wintergarden, which resembles a spacious, silver-service eatery on an old-style transatlantic cruise liner.

The cuisine here is as mouth-watering as the view. On a recent Siteseer visit, starter options included butter-poached lobster tail and seared nori-crumbed tuna, while mains choices were organic lamb loin and pan-seared duck among others. For every dish there were accompanying wine suggestions. In another restaurant, The Boilerhouse, the hunger-busting lunch menu included a rich bouillabaisse and crumbed porked chops.

One of the lasting impressions of the property, in all its spaces, is tranquillity. In the bedrooms, which have views of the valley below, there’s a hush of the kind urban dwellers sometimes become aware of when they suddenly find themselves in the countryside.

IMG_1843The Hydro Majestic is one of four properties in the Blue Mountains owned by the Escarpment Group. The others are Lilianfels resort, Echoes hotel and Parklands Country Gardens and Lodges. (The latter is a relatively little-known asset, says Adam, attractive especially for small, discreet conferences. It has 28 rooms.)

For delegates there’s much to do in the mountains, Adam adds. To facilitate events and team-building, Escarpment uses companies including Pinnacle, Team Building Australia, Fantastic Aussie Tours (rock-climbing, abseiling, canyoning), Scenic World, which operates one of the steepest train journeys in the world, and Dry Ridge vineyards in the valley below. The Retro Bus Company, which runs an old clipper bus, does food and wine tours in the area.

“Then every two to three months we host the Hydro Express, a train that travels from Sydney’s Central Station on a Saturday and Sunday and stops at Medlow Bath station across the road from the hotel,” says Adam.

 

“Over 220 guests off the train spend about three hours here, look around, have lunch and go for walks. We don’t organise these tours but we’re fortunate enough to have had the train named after us.”

A prime advantage of having conferences at the Hydro is the fresh air and ability to simply enjoy fantastic scenery, with little noise and few people around, he says. “You have time to think, to sit and do nothing and look at the view in a wonderful environment. And you can say you’ve been to a World Heritage-listed area; there are not too many of those around. [The Blue Mountains are] over a million hectares of sandstone plateaux, escarpments and gorges blanketed in forests including 91 species of eucalypts.”

From AUD85

Conference day rates at the Hydro start from $85 per person, based on a minimum spend. Most of the events business is from Sydney, though more Japanese groups are visiting, Adam says. Many clients are corporate, and the weddings business is obviously mostly at weekends. “We organise our own special events, too, like our Rio-to-Rome dinner where we’ll have a live band in the Wintergarden dining room. Or in February we’ll have our Roaring Twenties promotion which is a celebration of the 1920s; everyone gets dressed up accordingly and has great fun.”

Times outside school holidays or special days like Christmas are generally better options when you’re seeking the best conference deal, he adds. “Mid-week, too, is quieter, because our room rates fluctuate.” (Rates at these times start from around AUD230 a night)

More info:

www.escarpmentgroup.com.au

Ereservations@hydromajestic.com.au

Ph: +612 4782 6885

 

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