Air Power

Events company Routes, an organisation founded by Mike Howarth in Manchester, UK, holds multiple programmes every year bringing together various arms of the airline industry.

This guest list includes airlines, airports and industry suppliers, who wish to exchange experiences and find potential partnerships in the industry and the expansion and addition of new airline routes.

For the organisation’s 14th World Route Development Forum, the group chose the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (The Centre) as its venue of choice. With nearly 2,500 delegates from around the world, numerous exhibitors, breakout sessions and meetings, as well as cocktail receptions and daily catering requirements, The Centre had its work cut out.

But with extensive planning and an innovative and flexible approach that allowed for changes to be made as the event evolved, delegates had an outstanding time, and most importantly, the goals of the organisation were not only met, but surpassed.

Air Power

Mark Mulligan, events manager for the Route Development Group (RDG), says: “Routes 2008 in Kuala Lumpur was a huge success and this is due in part to the efficiency, professionalism and dedication of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre’s staff. The location of the centre close to a wide range of hotels, simple connections to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and a spectacular setting beneath the Petronas Twin Towers created a unique impression on our international delegates.”

As soon as centre was chosen as a destination, the team began to plan. The Centre’s deputy general manager, Adam Mather-Brown attended the Routes 2006 in Dubai to familiarise himself and to gain a better understanding of the event’s logistics, various setups and requirements.

The three-day networking event required coordination of 40,000 pre-arranged meetings between 700 airport operators and 450 airlines.

Air Power

Routes CEO Mike Howarth explains: “While supporting and consolidating current route development activity, we still need to look forward to the next upturn and develop strategies and plans for the future.”

With that in mind, The Centre was set up to cater to exhibitors and their potential clients, in part to facilitate meetings, and always with an eye toward traffic flow and ensuring that delegates got the most out of the event.

Angeline Lue, The Centre’s director of sales and marketing, says: “During the event itself, daily meetings were scheduled between RDG and the Centre’s team, including the executive chef, beverage manager, exhibition services manager and floor supervisors. These meetings, held twice a day, were to walk through the event programme and requirements and to continually improve on things in various areas.”

Transportation and accommodation arrangements for such a large group can often seem daunting. However, as Eric Layden, vice-president  for Emerging Markets & Government Relations, The Route Development Group UK, says: “Right from their arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, delegates were taken good care of with great transport and accommodation arrangements, while the venue of the forum, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre was excellent.”

This translated into arrangements with individual hotels, charter buses that met delegates at the airport and dropped them at the hotel, as well as efficient transportation to and from hotels and The Centre. Seamless pick-up, drop-off and in transit logistics meant that delegates were on time to meetings and were able to enjoy every minute of the event.

Behind the scenes, The Centre and the Routes staff worked to ensure every detail was perfect, delegates witnessed the finished product, with several creative components.

The exhibition, which was called the Networking Village, was housed on a single level in 9,710sqm of column-free exhibition space.

Says Lue: “The quality and presentation of the individual exhibition stands proved exceptional, highlighting exhibitor creativity and making the setting an excellent ice-breaker.”

Indeed, the space provided plenty of fodder for conversation, with space allotted to individual presenters to create lighting, colour tones and seating arrangements of their choice. The common thread throughout was the choice of chairs – high-backed chairs draped in white fabric, which gave the hall a streamlined effect, while still allowing individual companies to express their brand or image. 

Lue adds: “The casual setting and relaxing atmosphere of both the meeting and exhibition spaces ensured that this created an environment conducive to networking and conversation, which was the core purpose behind the Routes event in the first place.”

The exhibition hall was designed to link directly to the Airline Meeting Hall, a two-tiered, 2,000sqm temporary structure constructed on the adjacent carpark. “This strategic arrangement and specially designed meetings space ensured convenience and easy access for delegates going to and from the exhibition and meetings.”

To keep delegates on time and aware of the passing minutes, large flat-screen televisions were strategically placed throughout the exhibition hall showing the time, and were also used as message boards.

Concurrently, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and Routes ran six events on the third level of the centre which also allowed delegates and sponsors to mix and mingle.

Dato’ Seri Bashir Ahmad, managing director, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad says: “This first (global) Routes in Asia has been a very successful event for us and all delegates have had successful meetings throughout the three days. This edition has also been fruitful for us as we managed to talk to several potential airlines and will follow up from there.”

As global culinary tastes become more sophisticated as well as more diverse, often event coordinators struggle to prepare five-star food that appeals to one and all. Routes featured several cocktail parties, all with a different theme, as well as exhibitors in the food service industry who needed facilities to create the dishes that would wow their to-be clients.

In addition, prior to the event, RDG was offered a customised food and beverage option and special menu tasting “to allow them to sample the cuisine that would be served during the actual event, taking into account the delegates’ profile,” says Lue.

The result was delectable options during the day and several special receptions and cocktails hosted by sponsors.

“During the welcome reception hosted by Malaysia Airports, the Centre’s chef introduced local favourites onto the menu, serving up satay and Roti Jala (a Malaysian-style crepe with curry chicken),” she says. Both proved a hit among the international delegates, and more importantly, “the diversity of Malaysian cuisine created a wide variety of choices for guests with a strictly vegetarian diet as well as those with various dietary requirements.”

On another evening, a cocktail reception was hosted by Beijing Airports – the host for the next Routes event. The culinary team, led by executive chef Richmond Li, tailor-made a menu with an Oriental touch.

“The menu featured the Centre’s signature dish, Peking Duck Roulade, a traditionally roasted duck complemented by a bouquet of vegetables with grape coulis and hoisin sauce and served wrapped in an omelette crepe,” says Lue.

As it was served in bite-sized portions, it was easy for guests to handle while mixing with other delegates.

Creating a complete ambiance, Lue says: “The evening’s setup was further enhanced with an ice carving of the spectacular Great Wall of China, specially crafted by the Centre’s chefs for the evening.”

Details that reinforce the theme are key to designing an atmosphere conducive to meeting the host or client’s goals. In this case, delegates were treated to the sights, sounds and tastes of China from start to finish.

The culinary team also worked closely with the exhibitors to understand their catering requirements, including Andersson Food & Akvavit, a franchise system with over 100 restaurants, in the preparation of Scandinavian gourmet canapés for their guests. The team ensured that The Centre’s cuisine not only met the high standards of the delegates, but could also be handled easily as guests networked with their counterparts at the exhibition stands.

Andreas Hebeis, GASTRO-SIRvice from Dreieich, Germany, notes: “I run a catering service in Frankfurt, Germany. During the year, I service about 20 trade fair stands and anywhere between 200 to 250 events around the world. In Kuala Lumpur, I organised the catering for Airport Frankfurt (Fraport). The food and beverages delivered by the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre was excellent and was always served right-on-time.”

The success of any event depends upon all the elements coming together: planning and preparation, delegate participation, design and food and beverage.

For 2008, the organisation and the venue ensured that opportunities for networking, partnerships and increased dialogue among those in the airline industry were top priority.

As a result, delegates left feeling that meetings, exhibitor interaction and cocktail receptions surpassed all expectations. Turnout for 2009 is expected to increase, owing in large part to 2008’s overwhelmingly successful Kuala Lumpur event.



Angeline Lue, director of sales and marketing, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre talks about the proactive approach to potential problems.

“There was an initial concern over the crowd traffic flow for lunch at the catering kiosks in the exhibition halls. To address this, the catering and culinary team designed six buffet lines for each catering kiosk in Exhibition Halls 1, 2, 4 and 5 and carefully coordinated the luncheon venue layouts, ushering conference delegates to different lunch venues. A mock-up of the lunch setup was arranged prior to the event.

“Utilising the catering kiosks in the exhibition halls as lunch venues proved beneficial to the exhibitors, as it drove traffic in the direction of the exhibition, thereby maximising opportunities for meetings and discussion between delegates and the exhibitors,” she says.



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