By Zeenath Haniff and Kristan Obeng
Sharing similar characteristics regarding what led to their rise with features uniquely their own are many exhibition hotspots worldwide. Some locations are quickly warming up while others are experienced MICE destinations that already created rocket-sized fireworks with their large-scale events. Whether it’s the destinations themselves or their venues, exhibition hotspots are attracting millions of visitors from every corner of the globe. Knowing how to make traveling to a foreign locale a comfortable process, many exhibition hotspots offer convenient services and accessibility to needed infrastructure.
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
The Netherlands makes life easy for the 2 million people attending the 120 tradeshows the Amsterdam RAI hosts each year. Eight minutes away from the airport is Amsterdam RAI, and only three minutes away from this exhibition and conference venue is the RAI railway station. Founded in 1893, Amsterdam RAI is one of the earliest tradeshow organizers; this venue uses its extensive experience to perfect its service offerings.
The ease of exhibiting at Amsterdam RAI is one of the reasons it scored the maximum five gavels in the Dutch National Conference and Meeting Rating system. A key venue offering is the RAI Hotel and Travel Service, which arranges hotel accommodation in and around Amsterdam for conventions at low rates. The Amsterdam RAI Exhibitor Services department provides construction assistance before and during the show, Internet, stand design, in-house suppliers and more. The venue itself provides 48 conference rooms, 84,000 square meters of exhibition space and catered boat tours, and with the addition of the new RAI Elicium building, Amsterdam RAI has become one of the largest European conference centers.
Open since May 2013, the Knowledge Capital Congres Convention Center took advantage of its strategic location in Osaka, Japan, which is the second largest metropolis and accessible from all parts of the country. Congres is Japan’s first convention center to offer comprehensive facilities and be connected via a walkway to a transport hub through which 2.5 million people pass every day, JR Osaka railway station.
Living up to its name and location in Knowledge Capital, a center for information and people, Congres provides a 1,700 square meter hall permanently equipped with simultaneous interpretation booths capable of handling up to six different languages at once as well as high-speed wireless Internet and high-definition cameras for live feeds to conference rooms and video recording. The convention center accommodates up to 3,000 people and includes nine conference rooms.
One of England’s prominent public assembly venues, ACC Liverpool also stands out as a waterfront facility featuring the interconnected BT Convention Centre and Echo Arena, a design first in the UK and something that led to it securing large-scale international conferences. By 2015, the venue will be able to host more major events with Exhibition Centre Liverpool and the integrated Pullman hotel set to open on site. The new venue will link to its sister properties and add 8,100 square meters of exhibition space.
As of now, ACC Liverpool’s properties combined bring 7,125 square meters of exhibition space. Since it opened in 2008, 3.5 million people have arrived at ACC Liverpool, one of the UK’s greenest venues due to its wind turbines and rainwater harvesting. The property also benefits from being next door to a UNESCO World Heritage site and nearby hotel rooms.
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
After transforming from an empty desert land to a thriving society, Abu Dhabi needed a world-class convention center. In the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) lies ADNEC, a privately owned complex that is the center of business tourism. It’s also the largest exhibition venue in the Middle East. Inside the venue are 12 halls offering 73,000 square meters of floor space. In the always-sunny subtropical climate of Abu Dhabi, ADNEC offers much-needed air conditioned exhibition halls as well as other support services for visitors and exhibitors.
The convention center is also capable of staging major indoor, outdoor and marine events. A 162 meter pedestrian footbridge links the venue to its waterfront quayside, which features 19,500 square meters of event space, and a channel depth of 6 meters allows the docking of various marine vessels, such as military ships and super-yachts. Within the overall ADNEC complex is ICC Abu Dhabi, an international convention center that is linked to two major hotels and is capable of seating 6,000 delegates.
Making Jakarta the gateway to Indonesia are domestic air connections to more than 30 cities, a sea port, and rail and road connections across the island of Java, the most developed and populated in its archipelago. Jakarta, which is on the northwest coast of Java, is the center of government, finance and business, with many Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events (MICE).
This destination also features the 120,000 square-meter Balai Sidang Jakarta Convention Center, which includes two exhibition halls and 10 meeting rooms. To support exhibitors, the venue’s Convention and Exhibition Services managers can handle flower arrangements, lighting requirements and more. Also, an in-house art department designs and constructs stages, backdrops and decorations. Within walking or a short driving distance are various mid- to high-range hotels.
Although not officially open yet, Kaohsiung Exhibition and Convention Center is getting attention; after 10 years of planning and construction, the venue is set to open in April 2014. Its arrival will bring larger scale shows to Taiwan, which already offers an embraced MICE industry that includes 80 B2B shows annually. The venue is expected to have halls totaling 18,000 square meters for exhibitions, lower carbon emissions than competing Taiwanese venues and provide a home for exhibition organizers in the southern part of the island. Taiwan officials hope to make the city of Kaohsiung a major exhibition hotspot with the new facility, which will employ up to 30,000 people and host 30 exhibitions a year, including the Taiwan International Fastener Show.
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
Not too far from beaches, hotels and 30 minutes away from the airport lies the business district of Durban, a city voted the friendliest in South Africa and home to Durban ICC. Consisting of an arena and exhibition center totaling 33,000 square meters of space, the Durban ICC complex has proven its ability to host large-scale conferences, such as World Aids, COP17, World Economic Forum Summit and the BRICS Summit. Able to host 20,000 delegates, 5,000 banquet guests and up to 10,000 for concerts, the venue was voted Africa’s Leading Meetings and Conference Centre 11 times by the World Travel Awards.
SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM
Having hosted its one millionth delegate in September 2013, Scotland’s Edinburgh International Conference Centre is no stranger to the exhibition industry. In the land of bagpipes and kilts, Scotland is the birthplace of golf, containing over 500 golf courses and hosting this year’s Ryder Cup, which is the No. 1 golf tournament on the globe. Rich with culture, Scotland also introduced the ultrasound as well as the first cloned sheep named Dolly, making it the perfect place to host tradeshows and exhibitions on innovative technologies. With so many contributions to the world, Scotland is declaring 2014 as the Year of Homecoming, calling on those of Scottish descent to return during its year-round celebration. Serving 110 flights daily, the country is easily accessible to business and leisure visitors. Scotland also offers the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, with the addition of Hydro Arena to attract live music events; Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, known as the General Electric Exhibition Centre; and Edinburgh International Conference Centre, a leading green facility.
LAS VEGAS, UNITED STATES
Glitz, glamour and gambling define casinos in Las Vegas while its convention centers bring class and co-location to the desert oasis. Growing as a community, Las Vegas Convention Center, Mandalay Bay Convention Center and Sands Exposition Convention Center are not rivals. Working together to increase market share, the facilities aim to grow airlift and visitation to Sin City overall. Contending against neighboring cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, Las Vegas as a whole is aiming to retain existing large tradeshows for the long-term. The exhibition industry giants plan to unite as a pedestrian destination that offers variety both in venues and entertainment offerings.
Converting its former Mariscal Sucre International Airport into the Metropolitan Convention Center (Centro Metropolitano de Convenciones), Quito is expecting to end 2014 on a high note. Having increased its number of conventions from six in 2006 to 97 in 2013, the capital of Ecuador will be able to host over 3,000 delegates. Planning the construction of Yachay, dubbed the “City of Knowledge,” the country’s highlands are slated to be the Silicon Valley of Latin America. Quito hosts science and technology conventions with approximately 60 percent related to the medical field. Improving hotel standards and services will help the country to attract business visitors and fill hotel space.
HUNGARY, POLAND, SLOVAKI & CZECH REPUBLIC, EUROPE
Stemming from a 14th century collaboration among its royalty, the eastern European nations of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are promoting themselves as a single convention destination. Containing 48 different heritages, the self-proclaimed “European Quartet” boasts more cultural identities than the U.S. and Canada combined. Without any borders between the four countries or required visa for visits less than three months, travel within the quartet is made easy. Each nation offers facilities for tradeshows and exhibitions: Hungexpo Budapest Fair Center serves as Hungary’s largest convention center; Poland is expected to complete construction on ICE Krakow (Centrum konferencyjne ICE Kraków) this year; next to the Danube River, Incheba Expo Bratislava in Slovakia is easily accessible by highway from Hungary and the Czech Republic; and Prague Congress Centre is the largest facility in the Czech Republic.
Home to a mix of Asian ethnicities for centuries, Singapore has mastered the art of fusion – mixing architectural genius with elements of nature to create up and coming facilities of the future. Quickly becoming the breakout star of the East, all eyes are on this bustling cosmopolitan city. Developed on reclaimed land in 2010, Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre is both a business and tourist attraction, featuring an infinity pool 54 floors up in the sky that overlooks the sparkling Marina Bay. City planning officials successfully transformed the “Garden City” into a “City in a Garden” with Gardens by the Bay – a grove of “supertrees” standing 50 meters tall that double as natural conservatories as well as meetings and event space. Singapore also offers Singapore EXPO, its largest facility, and the sustainable Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Already known as a hospitable travel destination, Thailand continues to raise the bar by enrolling undergraduate students into MICE programs. Over 40 universities have adopted the region’s first international standard curriculum, training students in international conventions, exhibitions, tradeshows and incentive travel. Recovering from a devastating flood that destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau plans to strengthen the industry’s work force in order to attract neighboring Asian nations for meetings and events.
PUERTO RICO, UNITED STATES
No passport is necessary for U.S. delegates traveling to the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Located in the Caribbean, the tropical archipelago can be considered a ‘home away from home’ for U.S. business visitors where U.S. currency and laws apply. The largest convention center in the region, the size, flexibility and location of Puerto Rico Convention Center makes it the anchor property in the island’s business district. Serving 2,000 direct flights from the U.S., Puerto Rico is 2 hours from Miami, 3.5 hours from Atlanta and just over 4 hours from Chicago. As part of its 2013 initiative to rebrand for competitive marketing, the former Puerto Rico Convention Bureau has launched Meet Puerto Rico to market the commonwealth’s meetings and conventions industry for the coming year.
PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
Located in a preserved area, Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center reinvests all of its profits into maintaining the preservation. Offering both indoor and outdoor spaces, the facility embraces the city’s attractive geographical location on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. A popular vacation spot, delegates often bring family and friends that help boost tourism in the charming Mexican town. Making various Condé Nast lists from romance to retirement, Puerto Vallarta is an eco-adventure driven destination poised to increase business travel.
As one of four ASTM International certified convention centers in the world and the only one in Canada, Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) is a world leader in sustainability. Within the last five years, the facility has racked up numerous achievements, including reducing its energy use by 40 percent and boosting its waste reduction by 90 percent. Partnering with Bullfrog Power of Ontario, MTCC provides clients with a tool to record energy usage, the amount of which the city restores to the community through wind energy. While half of MTCC’s business is from the U.S. and international visitors, Toronto’s goal this year is to attract 70 percent international business.
Constantly investing in its infrastructure, the land from down under is coming up on the radar of business travelers around the world. Already claiming U.S. visitors as its second largest event segment, Australia is fixing to be a global destination. Brisbane’s two convention centers will be undergoing upgrades in 2014. Considered one of the world’s most livable cities, its unbeatable location next to the Great Barrier Reef offers a nautical experience for delegates. Opened in 1987, Adelaide Convention Centre was Australia’s first purpose-built convention center designed to emulate the surrounding mountains called Flinders Ranges. With a food and wine focus, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre promotes a farm-to-fork philosophy that caters to a number of dietary and cultural needs. First expanded in 1999 to host the Olympics, the 25-year-old Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre is undergoing another renovation. In 2016, Sydney will also welcome the International Convention Centre, poised to be the largest in the country and to be linked directly to light rail.