The holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dust, presents unique challenges for the events industry in Indonesia, APAC's largest Muslim-majority country. But it also offers opportunities for Indonesian venues that offer appropriate solutions.
“Bookings from the government sector and Indonesian companies slow down. They will not have big meetings during Ramadan,” says Marlene Danusutedjo, marketing director at the new InterContinental Jakarta Pondok Indah in South Jakarta.
“Smaller meetings are also done differently,” she said. “Instead of meeting all day, they will start at 3pm and finish between 5:30 or 7pm to break fast as a group. Planners really like to lay it on for these feasts, so our F&B revenue is actually higher during Ramadan.
“After eating, Muslim guests will visit our musalla or prayer room. It gets quite busy during Ramadan but is a permanent part of our hotel's facility as we anticipate our Muslim guests may want to pray five times a day.”
At the Four Seasons Hotel in South Jakarta, most meetings also shift to the afternoon. “But other than that, it's business as usual,” said director of public relations Anahat Arora. “For non-Muslim delegates, planners still want us to provide drinks and light snacks during the meetings. And we offer special Ramadan menus at our F&B outlets.” Offering special Ramadan menus is not unusual among hotel groups.
Cindy Yoong, area marketing director for Marriott, said, “Our hotel restaurants are busier than ever during Ramadan as we have a proven capacity to put on big buffet spreads quickly.”
This year in Indonesia we rolled out '7 Chefs 14 Hands Ramadan Dinner' – a campaign inspired by guests far from home. Every evening, seven chefs from different hotels create home-style recipes and special sweets associated with the nostalgia of breaking fast at one's home village.”
In Malaysia, Marriott hotels mark Ramadan with their ' Celebrate Togetherness ' campaign. Yoong said: “The chefs make special dishes and at hotels with high demand, they extend the buffet offering beyond the restaurant and into ballrooms with live cooking stations. In addition to the usual breakfast menu we put on 'sahur' [Ramadan’s pre-dawn meal].”
Despite the fact that most planners try not to schedule big events during Ramadan, the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) in Kuala Lumpur has three major events scheduled for May: Semicon Southeast Asia 2019, Metaltech 2019 and Automex 2019.
The key to convincing planners and clients to go ahead during the holy month, says sales director Mala Dorasamy, is large-format fast-breaking and prayer facilities: “We have three prayer rooms that can accommodate 720 people, two located near the exhibition halls with a third near our meeting rooms,” she said. “We have seven kitchens, all halal-certified by the Department of Islamic Development so [Muslim] guests can dine with a peace of mind.”
Meanwhile, Alan Pryor, general manager at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, says Ramadan is a quieter month, particularly for short-lead meetings and events. “But as an annual occurrence, it's something we plan for by hosting consumer events where F&B isn't a major element,” he says. This year, those events include the BookFest Malaysia 2019, International Beauty Expo 2019 and Star Education Fair 2019.
“We offer clients a full-day rate where delegates are given a voucher to dine at our fast-breaking buffet. As well as customised Ramadan meeting packages with two-tier pricing designed for groups that have Muslim and non-Muslim guests,” said Pryor.
"For example, we recently hosted our own association education and knowledge exchange session. We didn’t have any coffee breaks but ended with a fast-breaking feast. Almost 200 people attended, many of them Muslims who told us how much they appreciated the itinerary.”