Asia Pacific is expected to see continuous growth in the meetings and events space, largely thanks to consistent year-on-year expansion in China, the world’s largest business travel market.
Three Chinese cities—Shanghai (1st) Beijing (3rd) and Chengdu (10th)—are named in Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s 2018 Meetings & Events Future Trends report as the top cities for meetings and events in the region for 2019; even though southern cities Shenzhen and Guangzhou are dropping out from the rankings compared to 2018.
Across the region, meeting size is predicted to increase by 3%. A burgeoning presence of multinationals in Vietnam, Myanmar and Philippines will heat up the meetings and events scene in these markets, contributing to increased inbound and outbound travels. Sam Lay, senior director, APAC, CWT Meetings & Events, however noted that these fast-growing markets should focus on training the meetings and events professionals to support the growth in the industry.
Yet China’s position as the jewel of the region will see it account for 59% of APAC’s new hotel openings next year, with Shanghai leading the pack with 125 developments that will add 25,750 new rooms in the city.
The report notes that prices in Shanghai are on par or higher than other major cities outside China. Meanwhile, second and third-tier cities such as Chengdu and Chongqing are emerging destinations for domestic events and international trade shows.
Incidentally, APAC ranks just behind North America in new hotel projects with more than 4,200 hotels being developed while it leads in new room additions with more than 900,000 new rooms in the region.
Elsewhere, mature markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul are leading in conferences focused on thought leadership rather than trade shows. The developed markets are also expected to be ahead in innovations and creative venues. For example, Changi Airport will welcome Jewel, the largest indoor garden in the city state that features a 40-metre waterfall, topiary gardens and canopy bridge suspended 23 metres above ground next year. The Canopy Park Event Plaza fashioned under Jewel’s glass and steel façade has a capacity to accommodate up to 1,000 guests.
On the top tech trends for 2019, CWT predicts that the future will be phygital—a cross between virtual and hybrid meetings. CWT is nevertheless convinced that virtual meetings will not replace live events, but the former will play an important role in enhancing live event attendance. Increasingly cheaper VR technology, along with accessible AR tools on mobile on the other hand may sound like good news to event planners but CWT cautions that the technology must be properly advanced to create effective immersive experience.
The report also identifies a major shift in content next year with emerging formats such as engaging attendees in content creation through questionnaires, as well as involving them in identifying the topics and speakers.