As I travel around Asia, particularly in China, speaking at, and chairing, large scale Conferences, Events and Expos, I am always struck by the huge sums of money being spent by organisers to put on a big show. Whilst in the western world, people attend conferences based on the quality and relevance of the content (opportunity to learn) and the networking (opportunity to meet valuable connections), in Asia its often more about the scale of the show (opportunity to give face) and the food (expression of the local culture). It seems to me that this is a great opportunity for leading players in the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (“MICE”) industry to promote their capabilities in Asia and capitalise on the growing demand to:

From my research, the addressable market for the Meetings and Events industry in the Asia Pacific region is currently around $230 billion, a number which is predicted to grow by over 8% per annum to nearly $450 billion in only 6 years time by 2025. That’s a big number.

I recently chaired a panel discussion at the annual conference of Meeting and Events Australia (MEA) on “Unlocking Business Potential in Asia” which provided some interesting insights with the help of two experienced MICE experts, Geoff Donaghy and Mike Williams. Here are some of the key points that came out of this session:

1.) Asia is not one market

It goes without saying, but it’s often forgotten, that the Asian region is made up of many countries displaying a huge diversity of nationalities, cultures, language, history, customs and even types of food. It would take a lifetime to master any one of these countries (particularly China or India) no matter lumping them all together into one homogenous grouping.

We mainly talked about Japan (a large domestic market which offers good potential but, being quite insular, takes time to break in), Malaysia (an important market for the MICE industry in SE Asia), India (an emerging giant) and of course China (the fastest growing market in the region).

My research and experience on the ground suggests that China’s outbound business and leisure travel markets, which has seen significant growth over the last few decades, make it the world’s most valuable outbound travel market and offers huge potential to the MICE industry based on the following:

 2. Refine your Product Offering

Key products to focus on are:

A few key points were made in relation to the above:

3. The Three “Rs”

Geoff Donaghy came up with three key points for everyone to take away from the session:

Research – do your research. Pick one market only, based on proper objective research, not ‘gut feel’ or arbitrary emotional factors, and understand (a) where you’re going (b) why you’re going there, and (c) what you hope to achieve when you get there.

Relationships – focus on the relationship not the transaction. It takes time to build trusted relationships in Asia and you should take this slowly and with a genuine intent to make friends. (See my “Three Cups of Tea” ebook on this topic)

Realism – it takes time and hard work to do business in Asia. Be realistic about this and focus on the journey as much as the destination.


The Asia Pacific region is expected to lead the way for global growth in 2019 and is already being hotly contested by leading Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (“MICE”) organisers in many destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Europe (particularly France and UK) and the USA (notably Hawaii) who are starting to see the long term economic benefits (in the tourism, retail, education and real estate sectors) from hosting large scale events for Asian audiences. It is likely that Governments will start investing more money into their local MICE industry to support these activities and to stimulate demand from overseas.

This creates the perfect opportunity for leading MICE players, attractive destinations and major conference centres to get serious about building a long term, sustainable and effective Asian strategy. Contact us at for support or advice in this area.

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