“All eyes will be on South Korea next year due to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang,” says The Appointment Group’s event director Vicky Hartley. “We’ve proposed South Korea to a few of our clients for their 2018 events and beyond —it’s a dazzling country that offers visitors a colourful assortment of regions to explore.”
PyeongChang, about two hours’ drive east of Seoul, offers outdoor activities year- round, but the best time to visit is in winter when its mountains are blanketed in snow. Phoenix Snow Park, Alpensia Resort and Yongpyong Resort are among the ski resorts hosting events for the 2018 Winter Games.
The Olympics will further boost PyeongChang’s reputation as a world-class winter incentive destination—the region hosted 1,100 employees of cosmetics company Millionaire Club Indonesia last February.
Vietnam continues to be a top destination for clients of Grass Roots Asia and The Appointment Group, with Da Nang in particular emerging as a key contender. The Appointment Group’s Hartley says the coastal city, known for its sandy beaches and nearby Marble Mountains, offers culture and stunning scenery.
“Hosting the APEC Leaders’ Summit in November put the spotlight on Da Nang and will result in an upsurge in interest throughout 2018,” she adds.
Grass Roots Asia Pacific’s strategic meetings manager, Chantal Challenger, agrees: “Da Nang will be a major player in the MICE industry with a new international convention centre that can accommodate events up to 3,000 delegates, offering ballrooms, meeting rooms, and supporting accommodation by Furama Resort as well as Ariyana Beach Resort.”
Myanmar’s largest city looks set to shine in 2018 after gradually gaining traction as a MICE destination over the past 18 months. Grass Roots’ Challenger explains: “Yangon is on the radar and 2017 saw peaked interest from clients with new government initiatives acting as a catalyst for increased numbers of business travellers. Plans for development of infrastructure including international hotels will support growth.”
Pan Pacific Hotels Group made its Myanmar debut in November with the opening of the 336-room Pan Pacific Yangon. The 375-room Sheraton Yangon will open in July 2018, and Marriott recently revealed plans to open a 200-room Courtyard by Marriott in the city in 2019.
These developments, combined with stunning attractions such as the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, make Yangon increasingly appealing.
While Sydney and Melbourne both bagged a spot in Cvent’s top 10 Asia-Pacific event destinations in 2017, South Australia’s capital Adelaide is currently enjoying a boom that looks set to continue. This is largely thanks to the opening of Adelaide Convention Centre’s (ACC) East wing following a nine-year redevelopment costing almost A$400 million (US$300m).
In September, the city hosted its largest ever business event, the 68th International Astronautical Congress for 4,470 delegates. Adelaide also won its first mega-incentive in June, hosting 3,000 sales representatives from Perfect China.
Adelaide Convention Bureau chief, Damien Kitto, says that interest in Adelaide has never been higher: “We have record numbers for conventions and we’re seeing a new opportunity in corporate meetings and incentives with interest coming out of China and Southeast Asia.”
Increasing demand for new experiences is putting destinations like Bhutan into the mix according to Nicolle Sing, director of client services, FreemanXP Singapore.
“Companies looking to explore unique destinations within Asia-Pacific are starting to turn to Bhutan and its neighbouring countries. Their culture, scenic locations, improved accessibility and history allows for incredible incentive programmes,” she says.
Ovation DMC also sees potential in Bhutan as an emerging MICE market— the company announced a partnership with Dharma Adventures in May 2017. Ovation director of strategic partnerships Hugo Slimbrouck says Bhutan suits smaller groups and is a destination for “meeting planners who dare.”
Next year will see the hotly anticipated opening of Six Senses Bhutan—five resorts designed to be to be visited in succession for a unique journey through the Kingdom.
Sandwiched between Myanmar and Laos in the mountainous far north-east of Thailand, Chiang Rai is also fast growing in popularity among MICE groups seeking alternative experiences. The Appointment Group’s Hartley says that while Bangkok and Phuket are still the most popular destinations in Thailand, “clients are also becoming interested in other destinations such as Chiang Rai, which offer something quite different with great activities to create an enticing programme.”
From elephant trekking to ziplines and river rafting to rock climbing, there are numerous outdoor activities to suit groups with a taste for adventure. Hotel options include the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort and Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort, or for the ultimate retreat, the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle offering 15 luxurious safari tents.