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Shangri-la Hotel, Hangzhou, China

posted Jun 11, 2012, 8:22 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 11, 2012, 9:00 PM ]

(Originally published in 2008)

Hangzhou is well known as a romantic city favored by famous poets and writers throughout history, and the tranquil West Lake has inspired many Chinese folklore and love stories. Today, it is fast developing into a MICE destination with high-speed train service to and from Shanghai, and improved air-links.

Hence, it is no wonder that when the Shangri-la Hotel Group first explored opportunities beyond Hong Kong, it was not Shanghai but Hangzhou that the Group chose to set up its first hotel in China.

Shangri-la Hangzhou is located on a hillslope just facing the West Lake, lush green parks and historic bridges. This location is ideal because corporate meeting organizers can take advantage of its beautiful setting and convenience to hold themed dinner or team activity, be it in the hotel or outside. While organizing a meeting here, do not forget to plan as part of the program, the “Impression of West Lake” musical by world-renowned director Zhang Yimou and composer Kitaro. This musical extravaganza is a visual treat performed right in the middle of the lake, and the venue is just a stroll away from the hotel.

As in Shangri-la hotels elsewhere, the Hangzhou hotel is well equipped with high-ceiling ballrooms and function rooms of various sizes. The ballrooms and function rooms, with a capacity of up to 180 guests, are mostly housed in the East Wing, while the F&B outlets are located in the West Wing. There is also a separate Auditorium Convention Centre that comprises a 582-seat auditorium (lower level classroom, upper level theatre), a ballroom and other function rooms… all in the style of official Chinese government meeting rooms. However, these being historic buildings that Shangri-la acquired, they inherited some architectural limitations to the interior layout and traffic flow, while the décor comes across as somewhat dated.

Hyatt Regency, Hangzhou, China

posted Jun 11, 2012, 8:18 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 11, 2012, 9:02 PM ]

(Originally published in 2008)

Located at another end of the West Lake, Hyatt Regency Hangzhou is nearer to the city centre and shopping district. The hotel lobby is grand with a warm feel, quite distinctively Hyatt-styled. All the guestrooms have a good, unblocked view of the lake.

Hyatt Regency function room
The main ballroom on Level B2 can sit up to 500 people classroom style and can be partitioned into three rooms. Opposite the main ballroom are several smaller function room. A cozy Coffee Bar serves the guests attending conferences here.

What marks the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou special is a new concept The Residence function area on Level 2. The interior décor here is designed to feel homely and private. There is one junior ballroom, two boardrooms and three private rooms here, with a permanent home-styled bar that serves anything from juices to wine. The ceiling of these function rooms is relatively low. Hence, The Residence is most suitable for small corporate meetings with not more than 100 people.

Apart from the function rooms, meeting planners can also hold special functions in the various well-designed restaurants in the hotel. The hotel can also provide catering service for themed functions held outside the hotel.

You may not get a taste of local culture in the Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, but what you get is modern comfort and convenience. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need for a 2 to 3-day conference or corporate meeting.

Kempinski Hotel, Suzhou, China

posted Jun 11, 2012, 7:51 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 12, 2012, 2:23 AM by izess ]

(Originally published in 2009)

One word to describe Kempinski Hotel in Suzhou, China - S P A C I O U S, both horizontally and vertically.  Step into the hotel and guests will be greeted by the high ceiling lobby lounge with floor-to-ceiling glass wall providing a panoramic view of the Jinji lake.

The high ceiling continues in the grand ballroom, measuring 15 meters high. This is almost double the height of large ballrooms of major brandname convention hotels.  The ballroom can accommodate up to 1000 guests classroom style, and it can be partitioned into three smaller ballrooms.  With this height, event organizers can plan grand stage designs and there should not be any viewing problem for LCD projections.  The downside is that projectors and additional lightings cannot be hooked up to a ceiling this high, and there are no lighting tracks on the ceiling anyway.  Hence, staging thrusts have to be constructed for any lighting effect.
Outside the ballroom is a wide pre-function area that is excellent for cocktail reception or exhibition.  The pre-function area overlooks the landscaped garden and lake.  Similarly, the pre-function area serving the smaller function rooms one level below is spacious and opens out into the garden, where outdoor reception can be held.  There are eight function rooms on this level, serving group sizes of 45-70 guests classroom style.
There are abundance of space for social functions.  Apart from the ballrooms, pre-function areas and gardens mentioned above, there are three 'jettys' extending onto the lake that would surely be perfect for a memorable outdoor party.  However, it can be very windy during certain parts of the year and time of the day, hence it is best to seek advice from the hotel when considering using the jettys for party.
The guest rooms are also very large and comfortable at 48 sqm for even the most basic category.  And guests enjoys free broadband internet for one week.  Recreational facilities galore with a 27-hole golf course, jogging track, indoor pool and jacuzzi, indoor tennis court and squash courts etc.  However, for a convention hotel with 458 guest rooms, there are only two F&B outlets serving full meals.  This is rather inadequate but MICEreview understands that Paulaner Brauhaus is opening soon and there are plans for one or two more outlets in the near future.
Kempinski Hotel Suzhou, located in the Singapore-Suzhou Industrial Park, is excellent for business travellers and MICE events.  Unfortunately, it is a bit far from the heritage old town and the famous water villages that gave Suzhou the 'Venice of China' title.  If you envisage Suzhou to be a romantic city of canals and heritage buildings, you will not see this anywhere near Kempinski Hotel.

The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel

posted Apr 13, 2010, 9:11 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated May 8, 2010, 5:51 AM ]

Originally published in January 2008


By now, the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel needs no introduction.  Thanks to the successful publicity campaign since its opening in 25 August 2007, people in Asia and beyond must already be familiar with the distinctive images of Venice transplanted right here in Macau, complete with canals and gondolas.  With its luxurious hotel, convention facilities, food, shopping and casino all under one roof, The Venetian has raised the profile of Macau as a tourist and MICE destination overnight.


While gaming is still very much the key activity here, the sheer size of The Venetian’s convention facilities means that MICE is not really playing second fiddle to the casino.  The Venetian has over one million square feet of convention and meeting facilities, comprising the 15,000-seat Venetian Arena for sports and entertainment events, the 1,800-seat Venetian Theatre, and six adjacent exhibition halls with the capacity of some 50,000 people and 5,000 exhibition booths. 


In case you think that with this size, The Venetian is way beyond the capacity of your corporate meetings or trade conferences, the various halls and ballrooms can be partitioned into the right size and ambience for your group.  The space can be configured into up to 108 concurrent meeting rooms.  But perhaps one of the key attractions for an organization to hold a meeting here, is the possibility of having a theme dinner in ‘Venice’ with guaranteed blue sky 24 hours a day, and less the odour from the canal.  Venice’s street scene along The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes is indeed very well re-created, except that the canal water is clean, blue and odourless unlike the original.  The indoor blue sky is also quite realistic and well done.  For those with more faith in the weather, there are also abundant outdoor open space for product launches and theme parties, with canals and gondolas thrown in as standard features.


Supporting the conventions is The Venetian’s 3,000-suite resort hotel.  Of course, event delegates will enjoy the spacious hotel accommodation – all luxurious suites of 650 square feet or larger with private bedchamber, oversized bathroom, a sunken living room and other business amenities such as in-suite fax, printer and internet if required.


Service here is definitely quite professional and efficient.  “We have our in-house training school for our staff and we also work closely with the government on training and manpower,” said Mr Buddy Lam, Director of Public Relations of The Venetian.  On the day of this site visit, the reviewer witnessed how The Venetian’s team efficiently executed a sold-out tennis match between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras at the Arena, despite delayed arrival of the star players and last minute changes that derailed months of planning.


The Venetian looks set to be a winner, if only Macau’s infrastructural development could keep up with the pace of commercial growth…
(NOTE: Since this commentary in early 2008, the Macau authorities have set up an additional new Ferry Terminal, a new airport with direct flights to and from various Asian cities, and more convenient direct ferry services from Hong Kong's airport.) 

Melia Hanoi, Vietnam

posted Apr 13, 2010, 8:55 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 18, 2012, 2:20 AM by izess ]

Originally published in November 2007
There are several branded international hotel chains in Hanoi, including the Hilton, InterContinental, Sheraton and Sofitel, etc.  However, the only one that can truly be categorized as convention hotel is Melia Hanoi, Vietnam.


Although the first impression of Melia Hanoi comes across as being a tad old and dated, the hotel does have the most comprehensive function facilities.  This probably explains why most foreign embassies, trade missions and multinational companies hold their functions in this hotel.


Melia has two large ballrooms – the Grand Ballroom on the first floor, and the Thang Long Ballroom on the seventh floor.  The Brand Ballroom can fit 750 guests classroom style, and can be partitioned into three sections if required.  Thang Long Ballroom sits 360 guests in classroom style, and has its own private pre-function area which is not shared with any other function rooms.  Both rectangular-shaped ballrooms have high ceiling, giving them the grand feel and the flexibility in stage or exhibition booth designs, and ensuring good viewing height for projection screen.  LCD projectors and screens, depending on ballroom configuration, are built-in.


There are also eight smaller function rooms on first and second floors to serve smaller groups or for breakout sessions.  But what stands out is the cluster of Lotus private rooms that sit about 12 persons each room.  The interiors of these rooms are tastefully furnished and the rooms are excellent for small breakout workshops or private senior management lunch or dinners.


The set back is that all these ballrooms and function rooms are located on different levels and it can be a bit confusing trying to locate them for the first time.  In particular, Thang Long Ballroom can only be accessed by a special set of lifts located in an inconspicuous corner of the first floor (note: the first floor in not the lobby level, which is located on the ground floor).


In terms of event management, the hotel’s rooming and banquet sales team sees through the whole event from sales to operations.  The advantage for the client is that there is supposed to be seamless follow-through from negotiation to on-site operations from the same hotel sales team, without having to review everything again with convention services team.  However, there is the risk of the sales being overly bogged down by too many projects on their hands that some crucial operational details may be left out on-site.


Nevertheless, the Vietnamese staff are friendly and easy to work with.  Melia Hanoi is a good convention hotel in terms of facilities and location, even though the overall hotel interior and furnishing are in need of a makeover.

The Kunja, Bali

posted Apr 12, 2010, 11:54 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Apr 13, 2010, 12:53 AM ]

Originally published in March 2009

MICEreview has so far been featuring venues with facilities for 100-500 conference attendees. There is also a market for smaller management retreats that has different requirements. Of course, the large five-star hotels would have no problem housing management groups of 10-40 people. However, smaller groups may prefer more private venues than to be dwarfed by other large events happening at the same time in a big convention hotel.

In recent years, many villa-styled accommodation have been sprouting up in Bali’s Seminyak area. Although the main clientele for these villa hotels are couples and honeymooners, they can be creatively transformed for small management retreats. The Kunja Hotel, offering 18 fully serviced private villas, is one of these boutique hotels. 

The Kunja is located on the outskirts of Bali's trendy Seminyak area, only minutes away from one of the island's most famous stretch of golden-sand beaches, myriad of restaurants and shopping boutiques. Its four spacious three-bedroom villas and 14 one-bedroom villas can accommodate between 28 to about 60 guests, depending on the number of single or twin-share rooms. Each villa comes with a large living area, private swimming pool with sundeck, full-service kitchen, en-suit bathrooms and tropical garden. Breakfast is prepared in each villa by the hotel staff, while other meals can be arranged as well. 

The Kunja obviously do not have function rooms of any kind for meetings and seminar. However, the hotel can convert the air-conditioned bedroom into a meeting room for 10-20 people; or the villa’s living area can be used too, but the area is open and not air-conditioned. Another wonderful venue is the Santi Chapel, an all-glass structure built specially for wedding couples for solemnisation ceremonies. The Chapel is probably too hot and glaring during the day to be used for meetings, but it would be perfect for reception or seminar in the evening for up to 30-40 people. This is highly workable since delegates who come here for management retreat would likely spend the daytime doing team-building activities or sight-seeing. 

Small management groups looking for alternative style accommodation and meeting venue should definitely give The Kunja a try.

MICE Hotels in Bali

posted Apr 12, 2010, 11:43 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 11, 2012, 9:07 PM ]

Originally published in March 2008                                                                  (Photos from top left: Westin, Grand Hyatt, InterContinental, Ritz Carlton)

Looking for hotels to hold conferences and corporate meetings in Bali is not a problem, as there are many well-known brand-name hotels on this island. Here’s an excerpt of MICEreview’s site evaluation of key convention hotels in Bali:

The Westin Resort Bali, together with the adjoining Bali International Convention Centre (BICC), has a whole range of function rooms to cater to different needs. The Nusantara ballroom can comfortably sit up to 600 people classroom style. Unlike the hotels reviewed above, all the function rooms and hotel lobby here are housed within the air-conditioned complex... The Westin Resort Bali may not offer stunning views or exotic architecture, but it gets MICEreview’s vote for offering comfort and logistic convenience to event organisers and delegates.

Grand Hyatt Bali’s Convention Centre has up to 25 meeting rooms of various sizes to cater to different group requirements. The Karangasem Ballroom, with high-ceiling and built-in full-sized stage, houses up to 350 people classroom style... whilte the Grand Ballroom can accommodate up to 800 people classroom style. Many beautiful sites within the hotel compound are available for theme parties and dinners… but they are spread-out all over a sprawling piece of land, so getting from one point to another can be quite a bit of a walk.

InterContinental Bali Resort offers a ballroom that can fit 300 people classroom style, supported by several smaller rooms for breakout sessions. The hotel comes across looking a tad old and is in need of renovation. Perhaps the most attractive reason for hosting an event here is not what is within this hotel, but outside. Just a few steps away from the hotel’s beachfront is the famous stretch of Jimbaran seafood restaurants that serve delicious, fresh seafood barbeques. Perfect for a dinner on the beach (watch-out for the waves) while watching the sunset on the horizon.

The Ritz Carlton Bali (now known as Ayana Resort & Spa), best suited for group sizes from 30 to about 150, is perched on a very private, hilltop site in Jimbaran overlooking the Indian Ocean. Here, conference delegates can pamper themselves in the high-tech aquatic spa pool or indulge in a wide range of body treatments at the resort’s Thalasso Spa facility. The most breathtaking theme dinner location is at the pool near the bottom of a cliff with crashing waves right below. Thumbs up for ‘wow’ factor, but from a logistic point of view, it would be a nightmare for event organisers because there is no elevator to transport people or materials from the top of the cliff to the pool, which is several hundred steps below.

Centara Grand, Bangkok

posted Apr 12, 2010, 11:34 PM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 11, 2012, 8:55 PM ]

Centara Grand Hotel Lobby
In the past issues, MICEreview had always focused on reviewing practical logistic details of function rooms such as size and dimensions, shape of rooms and configurations, audio and visual facilities as well as service.

In this issue, MICEreview shifts focus to look at the hotel’s general infrastructure and guest room facilities because these can also make or break an event even though they may not be core to organizing an event.  Moreover, the excellent ballrooms, function rooms and meeting facilities at the inter-connected Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld cannot be faulted.

Centara Grand’s interior is spacious and modern looking.  The lobby located not on the ground floor, but on the 23rd level…reminiscent of Grand Hyatt in Shanghai but about half the height.  The lobby layout is great for event group check-in, and the connection to the convention center is conveniently located on the same level.

However, for a convention hotel with 505 guest rooms and with the ballroom capacity to hold events of up to 6,000 people, the number of elevators serving hotel guests is inadequate.  There are only four elevators serving the 23rd level lobby and guest rooms above, up to the executive lounge on the 51st level.  This makes the waiting for elevators a very time-consuming affair.  At the time of this review, one of the four elevators was out of order, making matters worse.  As a comparison, Shangri-la Hotel in Bangkok has eight elevators serving 25 levels.

The guest rooms, though spacious, do not seem to have sufficient hooks and places to hang clothes and towels in the bathrooms.  And for a hotel that was still in its ‘soft-launch’ stage, it was surprising that some of the fixtures already showed signs of wear and tear, due to impractical design.

Having said that, the rooms do come with high tech facilities such as 32” LCD TV with connection to notebook computers made more convenient by locating next to the working desk, DVD player and mini hi-fi system, and of course broadband connection.  Hotel staff were also really friendly and helpful.

Shangri-la Hotel, Bangkok

posted Jan 17, 2010, 8:04 AM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 12, 2012, 1:29 AM ]

(Originally published in September 2007.  The Hotel has since been renovated and revamped)
Bangkok is vibrant convention city.  It is supported by large convention and exhibition facilities and many local and international hotels.  However, for a conference and exhibition of about 400-600 participants, major convention halls are way oversized, while hotels with the capacity to house such events are far and few between.  Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok is about the only few hotels that can cater to an event of this size.


Situated along the Chao Phraya River, Shangri-La Bangkok has a large ballroom at the lobby level and is supported by many smaller function rooms that are ideal for breakout sessions.  The Grand Ballroom, newly carpeted in late 2005, is able to fit 600 pax classroom style.  Its high ceiling ensures that projection screens can be seen by audience from all angles.  The Grand Ballroom has the flexibility to be partitioned into Room I, II, and III seating 330, 180 and 180 persons respectively classroom-style.  However, none of the rooms are exactly regular-rectangular shaped, making it somewhat difficult to centralise the stage and seating arrangement in relation to the built-in projection screen.  Hence, depending on the configuration of the partitions, it is advisable for event organizers to rent separate projection screen(s).


The large ballroom is served by an equally large pre-function foyer and a very wide corridor.  This grand foyer and corridor has more than sufficient space for registration area and cocktail.  They can even serve as exhibition space when necessary, although the height is too low for booths towering above 2.8 meters.


Similarly, the function rooms on the lower lobby level are also served by another large pre-function foyer.  In addition, there are also function rooms at the adjoining Krungthep wing of the Hotel.  Together with its many restaurants, café, cruise and lounges, Shangri-La Bangkok is more than capable of housing several events at one time, or holding a grand event with plenary conference, exhibition and multiple simultaneous breakout sessions.

The Oriental, Singapore (now known as Mandarin Oriental, Singapore)

posted Jan 17, 2010, 7:46 AM by Kawai Loh   [ updated Jun 12, 2012, 2:51 AM by izess ]

(Originally published in July 2007)
Mandarin Oriental Ballrrom
The Oriental is conveniently located in Singapore’s Marina centre, and is within walking distance to the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Suntec City.
  Fully renovated and re-opened in 2005, the hotel is ideal for meetings or banquet of 200-250 people.  The interior décor of the main ballroom and pre-function areas are modern with a touch of class.  The ballroom is fitted with built-in ceiling mount LCD projector and boasts state-of-the-art sound system.


Due to the architecture of the building, the ballroom is in a curved shape, hence poses some challenge in conference seating layout and in optimizing viewing angles of projection screens.  But in the hands of experienced event managers, this should not be a major problem.  The other issue is that the ceiling height is somewhat low, hence the ballroom set-up tends to lack ‘grandeur’.  However, this problem is also an advantage for the hotel, as past conference organizers and speakers alike had commented that the shape and height of the ballroom resulted in more intimacy and connection between speakers on stage and the audience.


If a conference group fills up the capacity of the main ballroom to the maximum, then finding a suitable private lunch venue for the delegates may require some creativity on the part of the hotel and event managers.  This is because the pre-function area is not quite large enough to fit over 200 people for even a standing buffet lunch.  Having said that, the hotel does have several smaller rooms and F&B outlets, which, depending on availability, the creativity of the event manager and the flexibility of the organizer, may be turned into venues for lunch receptions.  Especially the function rooms on the fifth floor, they offer good view, natural daylight and a cozy atmosphere.


Although it does not have sufficient space for larger conference and exhibition, The Oriental is a beautiful and classy venue for prestigious, up-market conferences, product launches and gala dinners.

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