New events infrastructure will soon juxtapose with traditional spaces in Fukuoka, an appealing mix overseas planners cannot refuse. By Kathryn Wortley
With the opening of numerous new business events facilities, a rapid uptick in both hybrid and in-person events and the return of face-to-face business meetings overseas, 2022 was a busy year for Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau (FCVB).
In the past 12 months, staff have been stepping up efforts to promote Fukuoka as a destination for the new wave of international events, first via online meetings and through fam trips, and from mid-2022, at in-person events such as IT&CM Asia in Bangkok and IBTM World in Barcelona.
They have also been redeveloping the city’s unique venue and unique experience programmes while updating sustainability offerings for event organisers. Sustainably made eco bags are now available for incentive group attendees, while 2023 will see the launch of a new activity booklet designed for overseas event planners.
To facilitate event hosting, the FCVB joined the Hybrid City Alliance in August 2021 “to increase cooperation, share information and strengthen our city’s links with other international bureaus,” said Kenneth Macphie, spokesperson for the FCVB.
Throughout 2022, the FCVB provided subsidies to help organisers hold events in the city. Incentive groups, as well as organisers of hybrid meetings and conferences in Fukuoka were all able to access financial support for their events.
Recent city development has allowed Fukuoka to improve its business events offering.
Two new large-scale venues, the Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall B, and Hakata International Exhibition Hall & Conference Center, opened in spring 2021.
Located at the Fukuoka International Congress Center, the pillarless 5,000m2 Hall B is equipped with ceiling suspension apparatus and lighting control. Meanwhile, the Hakata venue boasts an exhibition area, a multipurpose hall, several smaller meeting rooms.
Looking at specific markets, Macphie noted the FCVB is building on long-term demand in Fukuoka’s business events offering, particularly corporate events and incentives, from Asia Pacific countries.
Staff have long been focusing their marketing and sales activities on travel agents running large-scale events but, in 2022, have expanded their efforts to also “speak directly to corporate buyers to encourage future large (incentive) groups to visit the city,” he said.
This comes as interest has been growing in recent years, thanks to the city’s easy access from many parts of the region, as well as its improving range of facilities.
Fukuoka also announced the Tenjin Big Bang Project, an initiative capitalising on the relaxation of regulations on the height of buildings in Tenjin, its downtown area.
About 30 old buildings in the area are set to be redeveloped in the coming years, which will see “huge investment and redevelopment of the commercial centre of Fukuoka,” noted Macphie, who added that the project has already resulted in the launch of modern business events hardware.
These forthcoming new builds include The Ritz-Carlton, scheduled to open in spring 2023.
Other infrastructure improvements include JR Kyushu’s September 2022 launch of a new bullet train line linking Saga and Nagasaki Prefectures, which will improve access between Fukuoka and Nagasaki. The new Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen line will shorten travel times between the two cities, allowing event organisers to easily incorporate trips to other parts of Kyushu into their Fukuoka itineraries.
“For event participants coming to Fukuoka City from overseas, it is now even easier to experience the fabulous history and countryside around Kyushu,” said Macphie.
The FCVB has also begun increasing its promotion of Fukuoka as a gastro-tourism destination following the city’s listing as a gourmet destination in travel guidebook Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2023 list. Fukuoka was the only Japanese destination to be named in the “Eat” category, helping it stand out as particularly attractive for gastro-tourism group tours.
Due to the “rapid return of domestic exhibitions” to Fukuoka, the FCVB is working to bring more international exhibitions to the city, as well as large “symbolic events” such as those centring around the arts, culture and sports, Macphie shared.