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Starwood Sharpens Claws for MICE; Reports Good Growth in Asia

STARWOOD Hotels and Resorts will continue to focus its MICE strategy on expanding domestic trade across its Asian properties, while tapping inbound and outbound travel in China and India to drive future growth.

Double-digit growth in outbound travel from China and the fact that India is emerging as the world's second-fastest growing tourism economy provide significant opportunities for the hotel group to service domestic trade in each market, as well as to target the increasing volume of outbound incentives and meetings travellers, according to Lothar Pehl, senior vice president operations and global initiatives, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Asia Pacific.

“For China, the domestic market continues to drive our MICE business in the country while international conferences are also on the rise,” said Pehl, adding that the company would focus on domestic business to drive growth in all of its regional markets.

“Gateway cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou continue to be MICE hotspots. With the opening of (the 4,000-room) Sheraton Macao Hotel Cotai Central last year, we have seen a huge number of meeting requests and forward bookings in this market.”

Elsewhere in the region, Thailand continues to do brisk business from its offering as a total destination. Bangkok and Phuket are most popular, with the latter benefitting from an increase in direct flights from India, which has spurred solid growth in the lucrative weddings market.

Sydney, Delhi, Singapore and Hong Kong also remain hot favourites, while Japan has posted strong growth, partly due to a weakening Japanese yen.

Taiwan and South Korea are gaining momentum as popular group destinations, while demand has surged in Malaysia and Indonesia.

However, the rise in Asian incentive travel had resulted in lead times for bookings coming out of China and India being slashed to as little as one week, noted Pehl.

“It's short haul and short term,” said Pehl. “You can get a group booking with just a week's lead time simply because there's air-seat availability and the package was right.”

Other emerging trends, according to Pehl, include a rise in high-end executive-level groups holding events at Starwood's luxury resorts, renewed growth in motivational sales incentives, and an increase in overall meetings spend with both the number of events and participants per event forecast to rise throughout the year.

Source: TTGmice