EVERY year, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) produces one of those global country and city rankings that can either be shouted from event venues’ rooftops, or quietly forgotten. The Philippines was modestly ranked by the 1,000-member, Amsterdam-based world body in June, but the nation’s events sector seems busier than ever, and many of its professionals believe they can attract even more internationl meetings.
Dinah Gonzalez embodies such optimism on the “front line” of Philippine MICE. As the marketing and events management director of Manila’s 70,000-square-meter Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), she is refreshingly realistic about the nation’s international association events status.
“We hope that we [in the Philippines] will further improve our standing in the ICCA report by next year, considering that we went down by one notch in 2014 [from 49th in 2013 to 50th in 2014],” Gonzalez says.
However, the Philippine events industry and its “ICCA ranking” can improve, she says, citing “the country’s robust economy, improved peace and order situation; hotels and infrastructure developments; new roads for access and connectivity, and upgraded airports”. The nation’s growing popularity as a tourist attraction “should [also] help boost our collective efforts towards attracting more international associations to choose the Philippines for their events”, Gonzalez adds.
More important, the Philippines is building an up-to-date MICE track record, particularly with the nation’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, she explains. The nation can build on this achievement, Gonzalez says. “We should definitely capitalize on the international exposure that our hosting of the APEC meetings would bring,” she tells MICE News Philippines. “Aside from promoting trade and investment, the event will showcase the Philippines as an ideal MICE venue.”
And with 2016 being an election year, “the integrated marketing communications programs of the Department of Tourism must be carried over to the next administration, as these campaigns have proven to be effective in promoting the country globally”, Gonzalez adds.
An ICCA member, PICC has also been busy with some impressive events, recently, such as the Department of Education’s “Sa K to 12: Kayang-Kaya Kung Sama-Sama” event (attended by President Benigno S. Aquino III, above, May 29); and the Miss Manila beauty pageant (bottom) in the Plenary Hall (June 24); the Department of Trade and Industry’s Slingshot MNL, the official APEC Startup event (July 6-7); and the July 1 launch of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion, which was attended by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands (below) at the Reception Hall, among others.
Built in 1976, the PICC is arguably the nation’s “Cathedral of MICE”, but it is no sleepy relic. It’s now busy, renovated, and connected with WiFi, simultaneous translation and plenty of event tech. It also has 400-vehicle parking. And unlike many freshly built MICE venues facing the “growing pains” of new daily operational routines, the PICC is used to accommodating world and association leaders.
“After close to four decades of operations,” Gonzalez says, “we [at PICC] have successfully hosted some of the region’s biggest and most historic events over the years, because of our proven track record for excellent service by our dedicated team of professionals.”
The PICC’s decor (left) also appeals to association event planners because it reminds delegates that their conference or exhibition is being held in artistic, musical Manila, the capital of the Philippines – not a metal and glass “box” that could be in Singapore, Hong Kong or Shenzhen.
The venue “has always been supportive of associations”, Gonzalez explains. PICC has already held preliminary events for APEC 2015, and it will also be one of the venues for the APEC Leaders’ Meeting on November 18-19, which have been designated National Holidays. It is also the venue of choice for Philippine association chiefs. On December 3-4, PICC also hosts the 197-member Philippine Council for the Advancement of Association Executives’ Association Executive Summit III, and its “Ang Susi” Awards.
“We provide full assistance during the preparation of their bids to host international association conventions/events,” Gonzalez says. “We are also very supportive of the Tourism Promotions Board’s initiatives to promote the country as a MICE destination.
The center is also expanding. “We will also launch the new Meeting Room 1, a venue for bigger gatherings, in time for the APEC meeting in November, this year,” Gonzalez tells this website. “Meeting Room 1 can accommodate as much as 900 people,” she says. “It is equipped with a built-in stage, state-of-the-art lights and audio equipment, and modern interiors.”
The construction of a new trade exhibit and special events hall will also start next year, Gonzalez adds. “The 5,700 sqm permanent structure may be subdivided in three halls by sound-proof dividers,” she says. “It will have complete amenities such as pre-function lobbies, sufficient loading bays, appropriate floor load, service pantries, and modern airconditioning technology.”
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will also build the BSP Museum within the PICC grounds in 2016. “Art collections and historical artifacts owned by the BSP will be on display at the museum,” Gonzalez says. “The museum will be an added attraction for delegates attending events at the PICC, complementing the Center as a MICE destination.”
Such developments suggest the latest “ICCA rankings” might be a blessing in disguise – a lowly base for future boasts. The nation’s equal-50th ranking with Vietnam grates many in the Philippine MICE world, but there is also a feeling in the industry that things are getting better, and we’re working.
This month, MICE News Philippines reported that the internationally acclaimed Madrid Fusión Manila returns for a second international gastronomic festival on April 7-9. If APEC 2015’s delegates return home tanned and happy after productive meetings here in November, more MICE work could follow. Then those “ICCA rankings” will rise.