Routes Asia lands in OkinawaBy Megan Gell
05 Jun 2017
The annual aviation conference and exhibition brings together industry stakeholders to discuss new route development throughout Asia-Pacific. It also includes networking events and an educational programme.
Okinawa Convention Centre served as the main venue, while the welcome reception was held at the Hilton Okinawa Chatan Resort. Networking events were held in a nearby gymnasium, transformed for the purpose.
The central theme was to give delegates an authentic Okinawan experience during the networking events and tours of the island. Okinawan cuisine and entertainment were offered, and delegates took part in local handicrafts such as calligraphy, pottery and traditional coral-dyeing.
The welcome reception had an Okinawan theme. Rebecca Teale, senior host and project manager, UBM, says: “The official opening ceremony for the event involved breaking open casks of local liqueur awamori with hammers. There were traditional dancers, a local band and a mixture of Western and Eastern cuisine to cater for all tastes.”
At the networking evening there was traditional and modern entertainment. The martial art of karate was developed in Okinawa and a highlight of the evening was a karate demonstration performed for the delegates. There was a sit-down buffet for 800 people, a DJ and dancing.
“The networking evening and marketing awards evening was held in a gymnasium, but the dressing of the room completely transformed the setting so that its usual function was not apparent,” says Teale. “It provided a great setting and it was close to the convention centre, plus the staff were flexible enough to accommodate our needs.”
The tours at Routes events are always popular, primarily because they enable delegates to take time out to see the best local attractions. “The glass-bottom boat, Cape Manza and Okinawa World day tour were the most popular,” says Teale. “The second most popular activity was the half-day tour of Shikina-en Gardens, Makishi public market and Tsuboya Yachimun Dori. Third was the half-day tour of Shurijo Castle with traditional Okinawan coral-dyeing.”
Routes holds global and regional events all over the world at different locations every year, so the biggest challenges are always language and culture. “Fortunately the parent company of Routes—UBM— has an office in Tokyo with English-speaking staff,” says Teale. “This was a great help as they managed the operations side of the event.
“The peripatetic nature of the events means that we are always looking for new suppliers. This time it was compounded by the fact that Okinawa is some distance from the Japanese mainland. However, we took guidance from our host, the Government of Okinawa Prefecture, and UBM Japan to overcome this.”
Long-standing supplier Barker Audio provided the AV, Okinawa Congress Corporation served as DMC, Co-Lab built the stands and travel management company Gray Dawes booked the hotel rooms.
The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) supported the recruitment of local government attendees and Japanese airports, and also had an exhibition stand at the event.
Routes events revolve around meetings with airlines to discuss potential new air services. “Most of the meetings are scheduled before the events take place, but we also have a system to request meetings on-site,” says Teale. “However, airline delegates are very busy at the event and there can be a delay when responding to meeting requests. This time we brought tablets for them to use in the meeting hall and we encouraged them to deal with the on-site requests more regularly.”
As the event continues to grow, identifying suitable hotels and venues that are large enough is also challenging.
“We took practical steps such as building a marquee at the Okinawa Convention Centre, creating the extra space for a meeting hall,” says Teale. “This required additional construction time and the wifi, electrics and carpeting had to be factored in.
“Okinawa Convention Centre provided an ideal setting for the event with excellent infrastructure. There was good security, high standards of cleanliness and attention to detail.”