Staff Writer
Jan 3, 2019

Readers' Choice: The best of venues and bureaus in 2018

You voted for the best venues and convention bureaus in Asia Pacific, and here they are.

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (left) and Marina Bay Sands.
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (left) and Marina Bay Sands.


Why it stands out

A land-scarce city such as Hong Kong has only a few hotel ballrooms of relatively modest size that can fit large audiences. But HKCEC remains a default choice due to its size, offerings and most notably, its location in Wan Chai close to the CBD. The venue overlooking Victoria Harbour draws prestigious international events such as the annual Art Basel Hong Kong, as well as large consumer-facing exhibitions. 

What’s next

The venue underwent significant infrastructure upgrades in 2018 including a US$3.9 million high-density WiFi installation and 660 new access points by Cisco that will support 20,000 mobile devices concurrently, with scalability.

Late 2019 will see the completion of its Smart Building Management System utilising Internet of Things (IoT) to centralise control of its energy, lighting,
air conditioning, water and other utilities. 

Industry insight

“The thing about HKCEC [is] it probably doesn’t need to work very hard. It’s virtually full at all times of the year, [the management] do a good job of keeping it up to standards.”—Stuart Bailey, chairman, Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association


Why it stands out

Integrated resort Marina Bay Sands (MBS) had a busy year with many major events including Money20/20 Asia, YPO Edge, Medical Fair Asia, the Dentsu Aegis Network Asian Global Leadership Conference, ConnecTechAsia, and ITB Asia. 

The number of association meetings in 2018 was also on the up with three large-scale Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) events on the calendar. On top of that, the venue is working towards expanding its portfolio of medical association meetings especially with the upcoming International Council of Nurses (ICN) Congress 2019 to help its case. 

What’s next

Sustainability is high on the radar for MBS, and will continue to be in 2019. This is on the heels of a LEED Gold certification for ArtScience Museum––the lotus-shaped museum that sits within the MBS cluster of venues. The certification marks good standards in areas of water, energy and waste management. 

MBS will also welcome major nightlife brand Marquee this year, which is set to play host to brand launches and cocktail events. The club will feature tech and sound delights spanning three floors with ceilings more than 20m-high and a full-sized Ferris Wheel for views of the club. 

Industry insight

“MBS is a great venue for conferences as its room layouts are flexible and can accommodate the different scales and needs of the events we organise. We have always had great support from the MBS team, plus our guests and delegates are always impressed by the venue.”— Mathias Kuepper, managing director, Koelnmesse


Why it stands out

The council plays a role in growing Hong Kong as a two-way investment and trading platform that attracts international buyers and suppliers to partake in trade exhibitions and other business activities held in the city. 

Being the gateway to China, Hong Kong plays a role as the ‘intellectual hub’ of the Belt and Road initiative. The council has a business intelligence hub covering this remit, besides another grand plan on the Greater Bay Area integration plan for Hong Kong, Macau and the surrounding nine Chinese cities.

What’s next

The council has 41 fairs and conferences lined up for this year, including the 50th anniversary Hong Kong Fashion Week (Fall/Winter) in January (see story p58), as well as the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show in March. 

Industry insight

“HKTDC is an effective partner due to our crossover interests, and it plays an important role bringing in overseas organisers and delegates for the many trade fairs it organises.”—Simon Lo, manager, marketing services and operations, MEHK


Why it stands out

Is Singapore the best meetings city in Asia? Well, the annual ICCA rankings seem to indicate so with the island-state placing as the highest-ranking Asian destination—and one of just two overall—in the global top 10. A separate Gaining Edge study also ranked Singapore as Asia’s most competitive––ahead of Tokyo, Beijing and Hong Kong. Through all of this success, much credit must go to the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB) which sits under the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). 

Not only does Singapore leverage its status as a popular and well-connected leisure destination, it also manages to set itself apart by way of governmental support and healthy funding––something that neighbouring countries Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are yet to catch up on. 

What’s next

To promote tech adoption for the tourism and travel industry, STB launched the Tourism Innovation Challenge where participants were invited to clinics and workshops to come up with ideas and solutions, after which the opportunity to receive funding and materialising prototypes was available. 

Last year, the Innovation Challenge included a MICE category open to anyone offering solutions for the events industry in areas such as designing engaging content, managing customer data, tracking attendee movement, and managing waste. 

Industry insight

“SECB plays a key role in driving global economic and social transformation through business events not only in Singapore, but directly in the whole Asia-Pacific region.”—Antonio Codinach, regional business director, APAC, PCMA 


Why it stands out

AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) is set to reclaim its edge due to its close proximity to the entry point of the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Being just one train stop away from the Hong Kong International Airport, the venue already offers the most geographical advantage for industrial exhibitions heavily reliant on inbound visitors arriving by air.

What’s next

The Airport Authority Hong Kong’s HK$900 million (US$115m) acquisition of the venue announced in September last year was a strategic move to ensure better land coordination for the venue’s future phase 2 and SkyCity. The latter is a 250,000 sqm commercial development adjacent to the airport’s passenger terminals, and scheduled to open in phases between 2023 and 2027. 

Industry insight

“[The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge] makes it interesting for AWE; there’s potential if they are hosting entertainment events such as concerts. It might be easier now to get people to go to events at AWE.”—Mark Cochrane, regional manager, UFI



Why it stands out

Hong Kong Tourism Board’s sizeable marketing expense approximated at HK$401 million (US$51 million) for 2018-19 propels its Meetings & Exhibitions Hong Kong (MEHK) division to international trade shows such as IMEX in the US and Europe. The division works on a multi-pronged approach with separate strategies developed for meetings and incentive travel, professional association events and exhibitions respectively. 

For example, MEHK concentrates on the mainland China market, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, India and the US with the direct-selling industry as its key focus for the meetings and incentive travel category. The division further invests resources in the European and US markets to bring medium-sized meetings to the city, besides forming strategic partnerships with professional associations and PCOs. 

What’s next

The launch of the high-speed rail and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge has further cemented the territory’s position as a gateway to China. While the division will retain its growth plans for both its long- and short-haul markets in 2019, the bridge helps to better position Hong Kong by way of increased Chinese attendance and more compact itineraries such as tours to Shenzhen’s tech hub. 

At the same time, the division is keen to inject more novelty and local flavour to its offerings following the launch of its ‘Ultimate MICE Guide’ for activities in Old Town Central in 2018. HKTB’s ‘Hong Kong Neighbourhood’ campaign for working-class district Sham Shui Po may likely be given another spin à la Old Town Central for event delegates. 

Industry insight

“MEHK was extremely helpful with new exhibitions such as Asia Fruit Logistica when it first entered Hong Kong a few years ago. We appreciate the support and welcome given, such as the lion dance performance it brought to our show. We are thinking of working with them again for our next event.”—Gérald Lamusse, managing director, Global Produce Events, and SVP, products and new business, Messe Berlin


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