In the mid-1970s during the “Thriller in Manila”, Muhammad Ali landed a flurry of blows to sink a severely battered Joe Frazier in front of a 25,000-strong crowd. The epic battle came at a time when the Philippines was leading the Asian pack in terms of corporate events and for the next few years Manila was a natural choice for regional programmes.
But times changed and for the worse. Economic and political instability sapped the country’s energy. The rapid development among its neighbours saw the Philippines lose ground to its Asian rivals. From being the reigning champ, Manila found itself on the canvas.
Now the city’s SMX Convention Centre, opened in November 2007 against the backdrop of the famous Manila Bay, has stepped into the ring.
Once inside the centre, visitors are drawn to its contemporary design – evident in the bright blue benches outside, potted plants and splashes of red on the glass building. Its cool modern interior is met with flowing natural sunlight exuding warmth from the coast in the background. Even after the famous Manila Bay sunset disappears on the horizon, the complex dazzles the neighbourhood with its chic lights.
Standing three storeys high and with 46,647sqm of space, the SMX Convention Centre might not come up tops against regional heavyweights such as Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). At best, SMX Convention Centre provides facilities for small and mid-size conferences.
However, its proximity to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is a major advantage as it minimises travelling time for delegates, who can arrive in the morning for a conference and then catch a flight out of Manila in the evening.
For those looking to stay longer, there are a range of hotels in the vicinity, including The Heritage Hotel Manila and Manila Traders Hotel, both located on Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City.
The nearby Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila provides not only rooms but additional function space, indoor and outdoor, to host complementary functions such as cocktail receptions and dinners.
Another big drawing point for Asian groups is that the SMX Centre is strategically located next to The Mall of Asia, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, giving delegates an avenue to blend business and leisure with a shopping spree.
Besides the 9,130sqm exhibition space on the ground floor, the complex has a total of 10 meeting rooms that can hold a range of gatherings, from as small as 12 people to a combined capacity of 300 for a seminar.
In addition, its five function rooms can seat between 500 and 4,100 guests, where international dining and catering services can also be called upon.
Privately owned by the SM Investments Corporation, the SMX Convention Centre does not receive government-funded promotion from tourism authorities.
However, Czats Lopez, sales and marketing manager, SMX Convention Centre, is optimistic. “With a two-pronged strategy, SMX plans to capture the international market with an aggressive awareness campaign and continued partnerships with government agencies, trade associations, medical societies and the corporate sector to ensure a steady flow of business.
She adds: “We also plan to penetrate the international market through affiliations with globally recognised event groups, advertising in regional events magazines and continued visibility and participation in international conventions.”
In the coming year, the centre is targeting more corporate groups from overseas. SMX Convention Centre has proved to be a good venue for events hosted by international contact centres like HSBC Global Service Centre, Accenture and Convergys. Each of these events had approximately 6,000 delegates.
“Given that we are still in our first year, we have yet to attract a steady influx of international clients. But with the exposure that SMX is enjoying in the market through our active participation in MICE expos abroad, we are bound to fully penetrate the international scene in 2009," Lopez says.
SMX Fact Sheet
Total Cost: P1.8 billion (US$36.9 million)
Total Gross Area: Floor area of 46,647sqm with 34,743sqm of leasable space.
Meeting Spaces: Five function rooms, which can be combined, have a total capacity of 7,100sqm that can be used for a large convention, grand banquet or concert. The 10 meeting rooms range from 79sqm to 94sqm but can be combined for bigger functions. The theatre room can be converted for elevated seating arrangements.
Other Halls: Four exhibition halls with high ceiling clearance of nine meters . They have a combined area of 9,130sqm.
Other Services: SMX offers catering services, kitchen per function room, concierge service, onsite parking for 400 vehicles, client services like business centre, VIP lounge, IT and communications facilities, security, cleaning and tech support services, and events management services. The centre provides a dedicated convention manager per function.
• 3rd ASEAN Tourism Investment Forum (6-7 July 2008)
• Philippine Travel Exchange 2008 (10-11 September 2008)
• 8th International Conference of Asian Clinical Oncology Society (21-24 September, 2008)
• World Chinese Entrepreneur Congress (November 2009)
• Asia Pacific Dental Congress (May 2011)
SMX Convention Centre
tel: +632 556 8888
senior assistant vice president
sales and marketing manager