From tropical islands in China and the South Pacific to once sleepy capitals transformed by multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects, we count down the region's five fastest emerging destinations for business events in 2017.
The Sri Lankan capital is in the midst of a mega- construction boom, with projects including a US$3.5 billion Light Rail Transit system and Colombo Port City, a Chinese-backed US$1.4 billion financial hub with malls, luxury hotels, a marina and a Formula One track, promising to transform Colombo into one of South Asia’s most dynamic cities.
Jetwing, the country’s largest hotel chain, has thrown its hat into the ring, with two new MICE-friendly properties set to open in 2017: Colombo Pacific to once-sleepy capitals transformed Seven, a 117-room hotel with 125-seat banquet room by multi-billion-dollar infrastructure and rooftop bar; and Jie Jie Beach, a 180-room projects, we count down the region’s five property one hour south of Colombo with a banquet hall and two conference rooms.
“We have been eyeing an entry into Colombo for some time. However, the conditions weren’t quite right—until now,” says Jetwing managing director Ruwan Samarasinghe.
Fiji Airways added a new route from Nadi, Fiji’s tourism hub, to Singapore last April, and it is understood talks are underway with Air India and Jet Airways for code sharing and connections from Delhi and Mumbai. Given Fiji’s rich Indian heritage (40 per cent of the population are descended from Indian slaves) and the proliferation of Hindu temples, the added capacity could turn the South Pacific island nation into the ‘it’ destination for India’s outbound incentive market in 2017.
If and when that happens, planners will have plenty of places to stay: here you’ll find just about every internationally branded hotel under the sun. The newest, Doubletree by Hilton, a half-hour’s drive from Nadi, opened in June with 120 suites and a mid-sized conference room.
Known as China’s Hawaii, Sanya on the island of Hainan boasts long sandy beaches, year-long sunshine, world-class golf courses, watersports galore and hundreds of resorts and hotels. But cheaper tropical island destinations in Thailand and Indonesia coupled with a lack of English-speaking DMCs has seen Sanya repeatedly overlooked as an international business event destination.
In September, the Sanya Tourism Development Commission took a big step to ebb the tide when it joined the International Congress & Convention Association. Yet the biggest drawcard in 2017 will be the long-awaited opening of the incredible Atlantis resort (pictured above)—a 1,300-room fully integrated convention and casino hotel with a waterpark, dolphin interaction centre and underwater meeting rooms.
In the 15th century, the city of Melaka on Malaysia’s southwest coast was one of the region’s busiest trading ports. Then came Singapore, and Melaka was relegated to the pages of the history books. But following a successful bid to have the city centre and its candy-coloured buildings listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008, Melaka has re-emerged as an attractive MICE destination for regional groups. Its strong Chinese heritage attracts mainland incentive groups, while capital Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are just two and three hours’ drive, respectively.
Melaka’s newest hotel, the 275-room Doubletree by Hilton, is now accepting bookings for December 2017. It will offer 12 event spaces able to host 1,500 guests in total, including two ballrooms.
Tourism in Vietnam is booming—literally. The country received nearly 10 million international arrivals in 2016, a 25 per cent increase over the previous year. And while Ho Chi Minh City remains the destination of choice for leisure travellers, many business travellers choose Hanoi instead as it’s where the most government departments, NGOs, banks and key manufacturers are based.
Add a highly ‘Instagrammable’ Old City, positive publicity generated by Barack Obama’s stay at the JW Marriott last May, plus a new e-visa programme starting February that will do away with the need for letters of guarantee or invitations for travel, and you’ll see why Hanoi is shaping up as one of the region’s fastest-emerging MICE destinations.