Meetings on sand: The Philippines’ coastal town of Davao is a fledgling MICE destination

Pic: Maen Zayyad/Shutterstock

DAVAO, well known for its world class beaches and resorts, is a popular travel destination. Last year, the city recorded 1.98 million arrivals of which 121,604 were foreign visitors.

But this coastal commercial center on the island of Mindanao is also fast emerging as a business and MICE tourism hub for the southern Philippines.

In 2014, the city successfully hosted several large-scale events including Philbex Davao and the BIMP-EAGA Business Leaders’ Conference. This together with high attendance and visitor ratings arguably helped put Davao on the map as a desirable MICE location.

Having shown clear potential, the Department of Tourism along with local government and a number of strategic partners including AirAsia and Cebu Pacific have been working hard to promote the city as an upcoming MICE destination.

Central to this is the city’s Let’s Meet in Davao program which was launched earlier this year at the 23rd PTTA Travel and Tours Expo. It offers various incentives which are divided into three packages to encourage conference planners and organizers to hold events of all sizes in the city.

Some of the things on offer include special airline and accommodation rates; discounts on car hire and at restaurants and retail outlets; welcome packs and a complimentary room at the SMX Convention Center.

But it does not end there as Daphne Alojado, branch head at the SMX Convention Center Davao, which is vice chair of the initiative, explains: “This program is not only a program shared between tourism players, but it also includes different business sectors in ensuring that guests, especially those who will visit Davao for the first time, will have a memorable experience which they can share with others”.

These efforts appear to be paying off. Alojado added, “The full implementation of the Let’s Meet in Davao program through roadshows was done this year, and we expect an increase [in the number of bookings] for 2017… at least two conventions a month.”

The city is well prepared to deal with needs of MICE tourism and continues to invest in and develop its facilities. The SMX Convention Center Davao is the only venue of its kind in the Southern Philippines to accommodate 5,000 attendees in a theater-style arrangement.

The city also boasts somewhere in the region of 8,000 hotels rooms, with more developments due to open over the coming months including The Aeon Towers Hotel and Condominium, the DusitD2 and the Dusit Thani Residence.

MICE in Davao looks set to gain further momentum with several events already slated for next year including the ASEAN Ceremonial Dinner as part of celebrations to mark the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN.

But Davao has a further appeal to some: “There is an increase in interest to hold events in the city—aside from the MICE Davao program initiatives – people are curious about how the city is being run by the former Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte,” Daphne said.

All things considered, Davao is one to watch as a rising player in MICE tourism in the Philippines.

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