Here’s why Cambodia could be Asia’s most underrated destination for MICE tourism
MICE tourism in Cambodia has been steadily growing since 2012 when it officially emerged as a viable sector of the country’s tourism market. So far in 2016, more than 200,000 people have traveled to the country for business, an increase of 3.4 percent on 2015.
Much of the country’s MICE activity takes place in the easily accessible regions of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The government has done a great deal to encourage foreign investment and improve the infrastructure in these areas to boost tourism.
It has also demonstrated its continued dedication to the sector through the development of a national MICE strategy which it promotes together with the Ministry of Tourism.
These efforts have clearly been successful as last year Siem Reap was chosen to host the first UNWTO/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture; an event that was attended by some 900 delegates from 100 different countries, many of which were ministers, experts and stakeholders.
So why should Cambodia deserve to be at the forefront of the MICE industry? Well, to start with…
A growing number of MICE venues
Cambodia’s commitment to the sector is most visible in the continued development of conference and event venues. The country now boasts a number of luxury, state-of-the-art convention centers and hotel meeting facilities capable of accommodating both national and international events.
In the capital Phnom Penh, Nagaworld offers an astounding 25,000 square meters of flexible meeting space. It is home to the country’s largest hotel convention space, a 6,500 square meter pillarless ballroom that can accommodate more than 1,500 guests.
It also has a dedicated MICE team to assist with event planning and management. The Diamond Island Convention Center is another substantial venue, favored for its central location near to major hotels and attractions.
In northern Cambodia, Siem Reap has several impressive venues. The largest in the city is the 9,000 square meter Sokha Convention Center, which opened only last month. The impressive Grand Ballroom can host as many as 2,000 people for an event.
Significantly, it offers a Halal kitchen facility making it an ideal MICE venue for ASEAN member countries. Elsewhere in the city, the amply sized Angkor COEX has the capacity to support various events from exhibitions and conventions to product launches and trade fairs.
Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have a number of hotels close to MICE venues which range in standard from three to five stars. Strikingly, they provide exceptional value compared to hotels of similar quality in other popular MICE destinations like Thailand and Singapore.
Many of the luxury five-star hotels like the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort and Intercontinental Phnom Penh offer substantial meeting and event facilities of their own in addition to modern rooms.
Taking this concept one step further, developments like the Sokha Siem Reap Resort and Convention Center and the Thansur Bokor Highland Resort cater almost exclusively to the needs of MICE travelers, providing an all-in-one solution that is likely highly appealing to event organizers.
Tourist sights and attractions
Many of the largest and most desirable conference and meeting venues in Cambodia are only a short distance from well-known tourist attractions. From the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh; to unmissable heritage sites like Banteay Srei, Bayon and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.
Attendees can explore some of the world’s most famous monuments and temples, and see some of the kingdom’s national treasures all within the course of a MICE trip and with a little extra planning.
Travel connections and accessibility
Cambodia is easily accessible by land, air and sea; with several land crossings in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and two international airports and seaports.
The availability of affordable, direct daily flights makes air travel the most popular route into the country. This year, 55 percent of all international visitors arrived at either the Siem Reap or Phnom Penh airports.
Air travel may well get cheaper and easier following acceptance of the Open Skies Agreement in May this year, which eliminated various flight restrictions and prompted more competitive ticket pricing.
Relaxed visa rules
To further encourage tourism, Cambodia has made it easy for visitors to obtain visas making them available at both Phnom Penh and Siam Reap airports and at several land crossings as well as online.
Nationals from certain ASEAN member states are even exempt altogether including Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam; and may stay for up to 30 days without a visa.
Travel agencies offering MICE-related advice
As recognition of Cambodia as a serious destination for MICE tourism grows, so too does the number of companies offering MICE management in the country.
Travel agencies like Aurora Travel, ICS, B2B Cambodia and Angkor Destination Travel handle everything from venue hire, hotel accommodation and logistics; to excursions, corporate gifts and visa arrangements.
They aim to simplify event management and encourage visitors to explore the real Cambodia beyond its air-conditioned, high-tech meeting facilities. This, of course, is vital to ensure continued investment and growth in the kingdom’s tourism and hospitality sector.
Although Cambodia is relatively new to MICE tourism and has a long way to go to reach the status of countries like Singapore and Thailand, it still has plenty to offer.
With continued investment in infrastructure and promotion of the country’s clear benefits and opportunities, it is highly likely that more MICE organizers will carefully consider this destination when event planning.