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Mice Net : December 2008
news There were 651 exhibitions at ITB Asia with organisers anticipating greater numbers for 2009. Youth Olympic Games staged in Singapore, attracting an expected 20,000 participants and visitors. Already 170,000 people work in tourism in Singapore. When Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa open that number could swell by 100,000. Marina Bay Sands™, expected to be completed at the end of 2009, will combine world-class convention and exhibition facilities, a luxury hotel, an iconic ArtScience Museum, Las Vegas-style gaming, state- of-the-art theatres, entertainment and an unparalleled spread of shopping and dining outlets in one landmark structure. It is a S$5 billion project, which includes a 2500-room five-star casino, and will offer 100,000 square metres of flexible exhibition halls, meeting space and pillarless ballroom. It will also have two 2000-seat theatres. Resorts World at Sentosa is the other mammoth project. Key attractions will include Universal Studios Singapore, The Marine Life Park, the Maritime Experiential Museum and the Equarius Water Park. The integrated resort will have six on-site hotels encompassing 1800 rooms. The hotels include Maxims Residences, Hotel Michael, Hard Rock Hotel, Festive Hotel, Equarius Hotel and Espa Villas. RWS will also have a myriad of entertainment offerings, including gaming. In terms of meetings space, facilities will be vast. It is estimated that RWS will be able to host approximately 12,000 delegates in three venues: Le Vie Showroom/plenary hall (1600 theatre-style), ballroom (7300 theatre-style) plus almost 3400 delegates in another 22 meeting rooms. ITB Asia seminar stream Part of any high-quality exhibition has to include a serious seminar stream, and ITB Asia delivered, in part, on this strategy. There were a number of seminars that sounded good but delivered little, including one on the future of technology in the business travel space, and another on sports tourism – “the new engine of destination marketing”. Neither provided anything of take-home value to delegates. The hotel leaders’ forum did provide some interesting information, although again it missed the mark on so many fronts. Panel participants at this event included president of Starwood Hotels & Resort, Asia Pacific, Miguel Ko, Chairman of Accor Asia Pacific, Michael Issenberg, chief sales and marketing officer of the Jumeirah Group, Apo Demirtas, owner of the New Majestic/Hotel 1929 in Singapore, Loh Lik Peng, and JIA Boutique Hotels’ Yenn Wong. Michael Issenberg said the hotel sector was in for a difficult year in 2009 “and possibly longer”. “I think it’s going to be pretty tough. Travel is going to drop next year. I am definitely concerned,” Mr Issenberg said. “If you’re a banker there is going to be a perception – even if they have the money – they need to be seen to be being more prudent.” He said competition between hotel groups would be particularly fierce. “Will there be some rate decreases? Yes. When we are quoting for a conference six or 12 months out it will be competitive. Customers will be looking for bargains.” Mr Demirtas agreed, saying there would be soft spots and a slow down in business travel. He said he did not believe the downturn would be as long as some expect. “2009 will be a challenge but I don’t think it will be as long and lingering as it was in 1997,” he said. Another seminar, The Global Online Picture, painted a bleak future for those who were not entering the online space in the travel business (see page 4 this edition). The next ITB Asia will be held in Singapore from October 21 to 23, 2009. mice.net 31