IT&CMA: Impact is in!

Thursday, 08.10.2009
(Dis)quiet? One thing is certain: For the next three years IT&CMA (Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings Asia) and the co-inciding CTW (Corporate Travel World) will remain at Bangkok Convention Centre. It is also certain that the Director of Meetings & Incentives of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEP) Malinee Kitaphanich will be leaving in late […]

(Dis)quiet? One thing is certain: For the next three years IT&CMA (Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings Asia) and the co-inciding CTW (Corporate Travel World) will remain at Bangkok Convention Centre. It is also certain that the Director of Meetings & Incentives of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEP) Malinee Kitaphanich will be leaving in late October 2009 – however, her successor is as yet uncertain. It is also uncertain when Asia will recover from the financial crisis and Hong Kong will be back among the 265 exhibitors from 33 countries this year (2008: 305).

However, the crisis was rarely mentioned. And the only remnants of last year’s civil unrest were the tighter security measures at the entrances. “It cost us 15 per cent less MICE visitors in 2009,” says Kitaphanich looking ahead, “2010 looks much brighter.” For 2011 to 2013 the venue has already received bookings for 24 international conventions with 500 to 3,000 attendees. “We have launched three new initiatives to boost the market,” she explains.

Until September 2010 Thailand will provide around 900,000 US dollars to subsidise international meetings and incentives. One of the beneficiaries is the Habitat for Community and Unicity congress which will attract 20,000 delegates. The TCEB expects a gain of 50,000 attendees. Nancy Tan, CEO of Ace:daytons Direct Singapore, is happy about this support and would like it to continue, even if first signs of a recovery are already visible: “This is definitely not the right time to stop.”

For David Hughes, CEO of Incentives and Conventions International New Zealand, this sponsoring is just a small factor for the decision, since “the most important thing is, the destination must fit the objective. Besides, nobody can beat Thailand in terms of rates and attractions.”

Thanks to Bangkok’s pulling power the twin fairs have posted a slight gain of 138 visitors, 2,200 pre-registered attendees, with 435 hosted buyers including a large delegation from India and around 40 journalists. “The business atmosphere here is much better,” reports exhibitor Tai Lee Fen of Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre at the Malaysia stand. “After the leisure destination Pattaya at my last show in 2005, this is much better. In Bangkok we have much more exposure.” Tai Lee is going home happy, although she can take no real leads with her she has some potential ones.

Juan Carlos Beneyto, who represents Madrid at the Turespana stand right next to Barcelona, sounds much the same: “I am going to write eight offers, mostly small incentive groups for three or four days.” The contact for companies and incentive organisers at Madrid Convention Bureau raves about the good organisation of the fair and interest of the buyers, especially compared to the US Motivation Show and Confex London.

Indeed the stands and aisles were buzzing, due not least to a tight dating system. You have to make 25 dates, otherwise the deposit will stay put. No problem for the 40-strong buyer group from India. Some even complained about “too few exhibitors for too many buyers.” Most Indians, including Sekar Sankaran, VP Travel Services of Wipro Mumbai, are seeking low-priced offers. Sankaran is still looking for venues for two events at the start of the year. “We are open to any destination but we would like to meet as many tour operators as possible, especially those of exotic places, to see whether they can work within our budget.“

He and his colleagues really get their money’s worth at “Seller meets Buyer” (SMB) – a system that is similar to Speed Business Dating. Ever buyer has his own table and is “beleaguered” by sellers. So it must have seemed to some of the European planners. “Next year we’ll turn it into Buyer meets Seller,” announces Darren Ng, head of TTG Asia Media.

One integral part of the fairs is a comprehensive social programme with pre and post tours, evening events in the surrounding partner hotels like the Centara Grand, Interconti and Grand Hyatt or in venues like the Royal Paragon Hall. By day, seminars flank the shows. While Dave Fotheringham and his colleague Kelvin of Asiaability simply blow away the Recession Blues with a mouth organ, black sun glasses and similarly outfitted audience, Dr. Richard Arvey of Singapore University is seeking the “Recipe for Success, is it in the genes?”. After offering insight into twin studies, his upshot is: “Perhaps”. More clarity was provided by “Green Events: What MICE Practitioners really think” with Robin Lokerman, MCI, Anthony Wong, Asian Overland and Lelei TuiSamoa LeLaulu, development worker and entrepreneur.

For many this is a novel topic, since “a lot of countries in Asia don’t know yet how to act green,” as a Chinese planner explains. “We would need the government behind us to educate the people.” While “quadruple bottomline” is already being taught in the business schools of the western world, green must still be practiced on a small scale here – with an emphasis on “must” according to LeLaulu. “We need to communicate why we are e.g. to stop using carpets, we have to make the impact and outcome clear, instead of leaving the impression of “making it cheap,” says Lokerman and confirms: “Impact is in, luxury out.”

But even given this predominant topic, the matter is clear to LeLaulu: “Instead of risking the ire of increasingly militant non-profit organisations, companies should take simple precautions by offsetting the event’s carbon footprint and delivering benefits to host nations. It is like practising safe sex; if you don’t, you’re dead.” The next chance for more sustainability will be at IT&CMA from 5 to 7 October 2010 under the heading “Redefining MICE in Asia”.

Tom Hulton: „We want the best“

Future Leaders. While Brenton Whittaker of Carry for Kids is in charge of the IT&CMA charity for an orphanage in Bangkok, Tom Hulton spends one and a half days with students in the Future Leaders Forum (FLF). Hulton conducts 14 forums a year, mostly after association meetings and trade fairs. “Since founding it in 2003 with Ray Bloom, we had 42 events with over 3,000 students,” says the meeting pro proudly. Together with MPI he motivates talents to join the industry.
Selected by their professors – from eight universities in Bangkok – they must work in groups to create and present event concepts such as a green incentive programme as a summit pre-tour for Al Gore. The TCEP then sends the team leader and one of the chosen winners to Frankfurt for the FLF at IMEX; in this case it was Supat Kuanpradit and Siwarat Kongthon. Ryan Hanson received an award for the best individual concept – an alternative trade fair. In Frankfurt he has to compete with the best from Poland, Spain and the USA. “We want the best,” confirms Hulton, who is now finally doing what he always wanted to do. “It keeps me young!”.,