While ASEAN has been extensively marketed as a single destination for leisure travel, the same cannot be said for MICE, prompting buyers to call for more visible efforts from governments and stronger public-private partnerships to make that a reality.
This is especially when ASEAN already has what it takes to reach the ideal of a single MICE destination, including good air connectivity and the rise of new destinations within the region, they said.
Twin-country itineraries are especially relevant to the longhaul MICE market as travellers want to maximise their time in South-east Asia, said Susan Soong, assistant general manager of Borneo Destination Management.
“Combined destinations can be arranged for meetings and incentives of between 50 and 100 people. (We can) organise the meeting in one destination and a post tour in another.”
Increasing intra-region links have opened up opportunities for DMCs to spotlight emerging countries like Cambodia and Vietnam in multi-country incentive programmes.
“Since Turkish Airlines opened services from Istanbul to Hanoi and Phnom Penh a year ago, there has been growing interest in these destinations,” said Murat Ayar, general manager of Travel Dreams, Turkey.
“For new destinations like Cambodia and Vietnam, combining both countries is more attractive and make clients’ trips worthwhile,” said Ayar.
Unlike Thailand, whose competitive prices and diverse attractions make it a strong mono destination for his corporate clients, Cambodia and Vietnam need to be combined to attract participants, he said.
Taufiq Rahman, chief executive of Journey Plus, Bangladesh, has also witnessed a growing interest from clients for new ASEAN destinations for corporate meetings and incentives.
“Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have been (top destinations) for us, but Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are new windows (of opportunities).”
To promote ASEAN as a single MICE destination, buyers urged governments to lend greater support to DMCs.
Association events can also be leveraged to promote ASEAN MICE, according to Andang Prasmiko, business development manager of PACTO Convex.
“The main event can take place in one destination, while the post tours, technical visits, etc, can be conducted in other countries in the region.”
What is needed is better coordination between the involved associations and the local governments, although profit sharing poses a challenge.
“Splitting an (association) event means having to balance the value of the whole event (across the host countries),” acknowledged Andang.