The Asia currency crisis has caused a huge drop in intra-Asia tourism, and American leisure travelers continue to avoid Asia, fearing the region's instability. The result--great bargains for meeting planners.
"Hong Kong hasn't been this price- attractive in years," says Mark Barrett, director, USA/Canada Hong Kong Convention and Incentive Travel Bureau, Hong Kong Tourist Association in Chicago. Some hotels are running at under 50 percent occupancy and hotel rates are dropping by 40 percent, says Barrett. "And I'm not talking the two-star, three-star properties," he stresses. "I'm talking the five-star hotels."
More good news, Barrett says, is that the hotel tax dropped from five to three percent this month and the airport departure tax will be cut in half when then new airport opens in July.
Barrett assures planners that nothing much has changed since last July's hand-over from British to Chinese rule. Just back from the area, Barrett says, "The only change that I picked up on is the new flag. It's not the mainland China flag. It's a picture of Hong Kong's flower, the Bauhinia." For information, call (312) 329-1828, or visit www.hkta.org.
In Korea, not only are hotel rates 35 to 40 percent lower than usual, but hoteliers are eager to provide convention planners with "above the norm" services, because the U.S. dollar is worth so much more, says David Kim, public relations manger, Korean National Tourism Organization, Fort Lee, N.J. For information, call (800) TOUR-KOREA, or visit the Web site at www.knto.or.kr.
Other Bargains: * The Eastern Oriental Express is offering reductions of up to 13 percent off scheduled rates through August 1999. The train's 1,200 mile route passes through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Call (800) 524-2420.
* Prices on Japan Railway passes are the lowest they've been in four years for North Americans. New is the "flexi" option on the JR East Pass (includes the five bullet train lines), which allows four days of travel at any time for the same price as five consecutive days of travel. Call the Japan National Tourist Office (212) 757-5640.
Meetings Coming Up * Greater Washington Society of Association Executives Springtime in the Park, June 4, Sheraton Washington D.C., (202) 429-9370
* Alliance of Meeting Management Consultants Second Annual Education Forum, June 4-5, Condado Plaza, San Juan, Puerto Rico, (800) 200-2774
* American Society of Association Executives 17th Annual Legislative Summit and the first American Associations Day, June 10-11, Renaissance Hotel and Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., (202) 626-2734
* American Society of Association Executives Nashville 1998 (annual meeting and exposition), August 15-18, Opryland Hotel Convention Center, Nashville, Tenn., (202) 626-2734
* Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress, July 12-14, Hyatt Regency San Diego/San Diego Convention Center, (972) 702-3000