Iloilo City eyes shift from festival to MICE tourism

MEGAWORLD’S Iloilo Business Park (IBP) aims to open 1,000 hotel rooms in the next five years to accommodate travellers and guests of Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions tourism. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

AFTER the Department of Tourism (DOT)-6 successful launched its P50-million, three-year marketing plan for Iloilo to become a premier MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) destination in February 2019, the Iloilo City government unit is now gearing its efforts to shift from festival to MICE tourism.

City Tourism and Development Officer Junel Ann Divinagracia said that since last year, conventions that are being held in Iloilo have been attracting more tourists and have eventually overtaken festival tourism.

“Statistics show that before we are festival driven but now we are MICE driven because most of the tourists that come here are attendees of the regional conventions in the city,” she said.

Of the city’s 1.2 million tourist arrivals last year, 50-70 percent are attendees of various conventions, according to Divinagracia.

Divinagracia added that the temporary six-month closure of Boracay Island in 2018 also boosted the MICE tourism in Iloilo City since some conventions in Boracay diverted to the city.

By October 2019, Divinagracia announced that they will launch MICE packages since they will be expecting two to four large conventions every month in Iloilo.

“The product portfolio of Iloilo City now does not only include arts and culture, culinary, and faith, but also the MICE. We are thankful with tourism stakeholders here especially the accommodating sector for their cooperation,” Divinagracia said.

She added that a MICE alliance composed of tourism stakeholders was created to prepare for the influx of conventions in the metro.



Meanwhile, with the shift of Iloilo City from festival to MICE tourism, property giant Megaworld Corp. is now gearing up to become the center of conventions.

Jennifer Fong, vice president for sales and marketing of Megaworld’s Iloilo Business Park (IBP), said that in the next five years, the IBP will have around 1,000 hotel rooms, up from 475 rooms in order to accommodate travellers and guests of MICE tourism.

“We will have more rooms to accommodate all the travelers. This will further help bridge the gap in the hotel requirements of the city as we remain optimistic on the growth of MICE tourism. We want IBP to be a premiere destination for the MICE,” Fong said in a press conference on May 6.

Currently, Megaworld’s IBP 72-hectare township boasts of the four-level Festive Walk Mall, and two high-end hotels – the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo and Richmonde Hotel Iloilo.

The IBP also houses the Iloilo Convention Center which can accommodate to 3,700 persons.

Fong said the park is 60 percent complete.

Harold Brian Geronimo, senior vice president and head of public relations and media affairs of Megaworld said that the remaining 40 percent will be the commercial district, composed of business and corporate building and boutique hotels.

“In the commercial district, we will have a combination of business and corporate buildings and boutique hotels. The other components we are looking at are recreation and sports facilities, that would make IBP more exciting apart from parks and open spaces,” he said.

By 2023, Belmont Hotel will also open at the park to cater to more convention guests.

On top of these, Geronimo added that they are targeting to fully operationalize one of their transport hubs sometime this year.

The transport hubs would cater to tourism and P2P buses, shuttles, and other vehicles with routes to Southern Iloilo, Iloilo International Airport, Boracay Island and other destinations.

 On March 5, 2019, the City Council approved the proposal of Megaworld to construct, establish, operate, and maintain a transport hub at the IBP.

“The facilities that we are building here at the IBP would be geared towards MICE tourism,” Mr. Geronimo said.



Aside from high-end hotels, Divinagracia said other budget hotels, and destinations are also stepping up their efforts to prepare for the MICE tourism.

“We want to balance it. We have been talking to other hubs and destinations and they are also stepping up their efforts. We are helping them so that they will not be left behind,” she said.

In 2018, Divinagracia reported that even budget hotels recorded high occupancy rate because of the regional conventions and events that are being held in the city.

She also underscored the challenge to enhance Iloilo City’s Dinagyang and Paraw Regatta Festival and create more ways to entice more visitors.

“It’s a challenge because they see na it’s not only January and February that we expect an influx of tourists, its whole year round na so in a way, we are challenged to create more activities,” she said.