The SMX Convention Center in Davao has been open for just over a year and already it has hosted some of the most important trade events in the region, putting Davao squarely on the map to be a future leader of MICE tourism in the country.
As the largest city in the Philippines – in terms of land area – and its third most populous, Davao serves as the main trade, commerce and industry hub of Mindanao, which makes it a prime location for the booming MICE industry.
SMX Davao is the largest and the first privately owned and managed convention and exhibition centre in the south, and the biggest outside Metro Manila. It is located on the third level of SM Lanang Premier, the fourth largest SM Shopping Mall in the Philippines and is located just 2.5 km away from Davao International Airport.
Since opening in September 2012, SMX Davao has hosted more than 350 events with an average occupancy of 25 to 30 per cent according to Daphne Alojado, senior event manager at SMX Davao. The events it has hosted so far include the International Film Expo, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) National Convention, the Philippine Councilors League, the World Food Expo (WOFEX) and the Mindanao Business Conference (Minibizcon). On the entertainment side, the concert hall has hosted acts including Dionne Warwick, Patti Austin, David Pomeranz and Abbamania.
The 4,745 sqm facility can accommodate around 5,000 people and 380 exhibit modules along with three fully air-conditioned, carpeted function rooms, designated kitchen and five meeting rooms ranging from 50 to 170 sqm, which can seat 24 to 135 banquet guests when combined.
Targeting the MICE market has been a strategic move for Davao, which is known as the urban centre of the south. As the only convention centre of its size on the island, SMX Davao has played a vital part in boosting the city’s prominence.
“When SMX opened it was a chance for the city to bid for bigger groups. Before its opening, major events were only held in Manila or Cebu and Davao has been clamouring to have these events for years,” says Alojado.
“When we opened in 2012, the Department of Tourism (DOT) commended us because there was no big space for people to hold exhibitions and events except for function rooms in hotels. Hotels can only accommodate up to 500 people while SMX Davao can hold more than 5,000 delegates theatre-style across its function rooms,” adds Grace Aquino from the communications department of SMX Davao.
To further boost its position, SMX Davao has partnered with DOT to launch the “Lets meet in Davao” programme. DOT regional chief tourism operations officer Eden Josephine L. Davi says he wants to encourage private establishments to individually promote themselves as venues for MICE by offering incentives such as allowing organisers to use DOT information counters at Davao International Airport.
“We have to make the organisers see that we can provide for them so we can get more MICE markets to fill our hotel rooms,” says Davi.
MICE delegates are already heading to the venue, which hosted MICECON last March, which was supported by DOT and Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority. The event attracted 1,500 delegates – three times more than the expected number of participants.
MEETING MICE NEEDS
Davao’s hotel accommodation and tourism infrastructure capacity has significantly expanded since the city hosted the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) back in 2006.
“We have 7,000 rooms in the city and a lot of malls and restaurants have opened. Our convention centre is located inside the mall, which gives guests the convenience of dining and shopping and accommodation with Radisson. There are also different relaxation options. People can go to the beach and try different water activities or stay in a resort,” says Alojado.
The eight-storey, 204-room Park Inn by Radisson opened in March last year to supply the projected demand for hotel rooms. Other recently opened hotels include Ayala Land’s Seda, Airasia founder Tony Fernandes’ Tune Hotel and the locally owned JTC Tower Plaza, which has 311 rooms.
An increase in budget flights to Davao has also made domestic travel to the city easier and cheaper. Most international visitors will still have to fly through Manila, as the only international flights that arrive at Davao International Airport at present are those from Singapore via Silkair.
Data from DOT shows that about 567,000 visitors arrived in Davao City in the first half of 2013, an increase of 10 per cent from in the same period the year before.
This year, SMX Davao will host several medical conventions, and the venue is also preparing itself for APEC Leaders Summit events due to take place throughout 2015.
“So far it’s been more local participation. In the future we hope that SMX will hold international conventions. We’re looking to try and hold bigger meetings. This will happen hopefully as soon as 2014,” says Alojado.
CONTACT Daphne Alojado, senior event manager
Tel: +63 82 285 1045