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August 24, 2010
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ASIAN FOCUS:Competing for air




With CIBTM just around the corner, Daniel Tschudy looks at the performance of the Asia-Pacific region's top cities and the differences in how succesfully they promote their product to the global meetings industry.

The Asia-Pacific region is, without really being aware of it, fighting for its position within the global meetings industry. And, given the lack of “global confidence” in some of its key players, this is a difficult game to play. As hard as it sounds for many in the region, no one is waiting for the Asia-Pacific. For example, North America has its own problem (promoting itself abroad) and the Gulf States continue to push forward driven by their huge financial weight.

 


Picking up the pieces: Hong Kong is capitlaising on business from those not
confident enough to take the plunge with mainland china

 

Pan-Asian competition in the meetings industry is much more fierce than those in the wider meetings community realise, both for inbound business and for business from within its boundaries. On top of this, past political rifts – such as between Japan and Korea, or Malaysia and Singapore – mean that a truly “Pan-Asian” co-operation to promote its facilities to the global community is still not feasible. It will need another generation, or two, before a truly united Asia can be presented to the world’s meetings industry. Furthermore, China, Taiwan, Japan, and the Oceania-countries would need to join in order to establish, a true competition to the US or the European Union (EU).

For now, Asia-Pacific destinations still mainly work on their own. Bangkok, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, as well as Sydney, are performers on the global platform. Meanwhile, cities like Manila, Seoul, Taipei, Osaka, Tokyo, and even Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, are struggling to keep up.

Hardware vs software
Key to establishing a truly global awareness destination is confidence. Of course, some destinations are strong in “hardware”, meaning real estate developments, financial industries, airline seats and hotel rooms, and other key infrastructure elements. And others are better in “software”, in other words service quality, life balance, health, wellness, friendliness etc. The key point is: some have it and some don’t. And much of what sells is based on confidence.

For example, Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai are self-secure and narcissistic, so they just go-head with developments and promotions; and they make a lot of noise about it. Others are uncertain or even confused, and therefore lack the power of convincing global audiences. Japan’s cities are excellent examples. Great destinations, excellent services and fine infrastructure yet they are too modest and insecure. The global meetings markets can feel that; either consciously or unconsciously. And then, they don’t book business. The reality is that strongest make a lot of noise and by doing so they win business.

If we look in a bit more detail, some cities are more suitable and better placed within some of the meetings sector:

• Beijing seems to be making headway as a global conference and congress hub. The capital's attitude is well suited to the congress industry
• Shanghai is making its mark as a quirky and entertaining Incentive-City
• Singapore aims at mass tourism now to achieve its substantial growth objectives
• Macau is risking its opportunities with issues about real estate and gaming scams, but is more interested in targeting internal Asian business
• Hong Kong is getting business from those clients who have not quite got the confidence to stage events in mainland China, and the ex-colony is finding positive energy again after a decade of politically motivated insecurity
• Bangkok is not getting too much business beyond the incentive industry, but masses pay well too and tons of mass tourism is being channelled to or through the capital
• Sydney is actually still a bit too lazy to do more, and remains something of a sleeping giant ‘down under’

Meanwhile:

• Tokyo is remembering the “good, old days” that never were
• Osaka keeps looking at Tokyo and hopes for clues and left-overs
• Manila still does not really know where it is within a global perspective
• Seoul is ‘lost’ because of an old and ‘no-win’ border-issue
• Kuala Lumpur would love to do more, but turns too often back to its old values
• Melbourne… what happened to Melbourne anyway?

I am not worried about the powerful Asia-pacific hubs, but the global competition is rough and tough and, again, no one is waiting for the East. The reality is that the strong ones will be ok and the weak ones will need to battle harder, or they will lose.


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