The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) may be acknowledged as Asia’s first purpose-built conference venue, but over the last two decades it certainly hasn’t been the busiest. Despite a high-profile start as host of the 1976 World Bank-International Monetary Fund Annual Meeting, the PICC made very few, if any regional ripples in the years that followed.
The finger of blame can be pointed at a slew of well-publicised factors – political instability, corruption, a sluggish economy, rampant poverty, national security concerns – which, combined, didn’t place the Philippines in a very good light. Meanwhile, neighbouring destinations erected formidable events infrastructures. Among them is the Hong Kong Convention Centre; Bangkok’s Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre; the Singapore International Convention Centre; and the Kuala Lumpur International Convention Centre. It seems like every neighbouring country has built a reputation for good event management and lively after-hours options.
This scenario is bound to change soon, according to PICC general manager Renato B Padilla, who has been overseeing a quiet but determined initiative to get the facility back on track. With the Philippines back in favour amongst foreign investors, hotel groups are planting their flags in Manila, which only means competition for PICC.
Padilla, a veteran Filipino tourism figure, says: “New hotels will come up with bigger ballrooms and, naturally, these will attract some of our clientele. At the PICC, our unique features, together with our latest campaign, will be used to re-enter the international market.”
Leveraging its ability to cater to groups of 1,000 delegates and above, the PICC intends to work more closely with local associations and the Philippine Tourism Board (formerly Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation) in an effort to attract large high-profile events. Padilla says they are currently organising a summit that will take place soon, with these two bodies participating and, for the first time, local government officials will be asked to join in and bid as host. Padilla remarks: “Cities like Tokyo and Bangkok are the prime movers of conventions. What we are currently aiming to do is to get the city governments that make up Metro Manila involved. This is something which has never happened in the past.”
This joint cooperation is reflected in the “Make it Manila” tagline, first used in the 1990s and revived once again for future initiatives to bid for international powows. Also on the PICC's hosting wish list are the World Economic Forum on East Asia in 2014 and APEC meetings in 2015, Asean Tourism Forum in 2016 and Asean Ministerial Meeting in 2017.
With the Philippines’ image improving at pace, Padilla is confident it has a great shot of being considered for one, if not all of these prestigious powwows. Last year’s hosting of the Asian Development Bank conference, which chalked up a record-breaking 5,000 attendees and guests over the three days it was staged, augured well for the PICC’s long-term goals.
Hardware-wise, PICC has gone through gradual refurbishment to bring its 36-year-old facilities up to date, especially in the area of technology. “We have put in the necessary fibre optics,” says Padilla, adding that wifi access is provided free of charge in all public spaces. If an event or show requires larger network systems, the organiser usually outsources the service.
As well as being an event hub, PICC is also a cultural repository, boasting a collection of priceless Philippine art that brings splashes of colour to a formal-looking environment. To cater to smaller activities such as product launches and exhibits, the Forum, a tented venue, was established in 2003. But Padilla says: “We will always be known as a convention specialist. That will remain our primary purpose.”
EXHIBITION AND CONFERENCE SPACE
Built on reclaimed land in iconic Manila Bay, the PICC occupies over 60,000 square metres of floor area and consists of five buildings:
• Delegation Building – housing 12 meeting rooms (six of which are brand new and boast high ceilings with pendant lamps and dimmable halogen light fixtures), two new banquet halls, two boardrooms, executive offices and lounges.
• Plenary Hall – accommodates 4,000 in a theatre setup and features a permanent stage, dressing rooms and VIP room.
• Reception Hall – is red carpeted and festooned with giant chandeliers, also with a permanent stage and dressing rooms. For sit-down dinners, it holds 2,500 guests, and 5,000 guests for cocktail receptions.
• Secretariat Building – the three-storey edifice hosts more meeting rooms, a banquet hall, exhibition areas, a media centre, fine-dining restaurant and cafeteria for 500 people. The multipurpose PICC Forum, accommodating more than 200 standard exhibitions booths and up to 3,000 guests theatre-style, is also found here.
• Security is a round-the-clock priority for the PICC management, with CCTV provided as well as baggage x-ray machines and metal detectors, bomb-sniffing canines and roving security personnel.
• A simultaneous interpretation system is installed in all meeting rooms and can cater for a minimum of two languages to a maximum of seven languages.
• Backbone fibre optics supporting wired and wireless N and G network connectivity is an important feature.
CONTACT Philippine International Convention Center, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, 1307, Philippines
TEL +63 2 789 4789 ext 7022
EMAIL Dinah M Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org or Renato B Padilla at email@example.com
PICC's WISH LIST
• Asean Tourism Forum (Scheduled for 2016)
• World Tourism Congress (Scheduled for 2016)
• Asean Ministerial Meeting (Scheduled for 2017)