By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo

ILOILO CITY — Megaworld Corp. is aiming to make its Iloilo Business Park (IBP) the new city center as Iloilo’s tourism sector shifts more towards the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) segment.

Jennifer P. Fong, IBP vice president for sales and marketing, said they plan to fully develop the 72-hectare complex within the next five years, with 40% of the area still unbuilt.

The IBP currently houses the 3,700-capacity Iloilo Convention Center, the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo, and the four-level Festive Walk Mall.

Ms. Fong said among the targets is to have around 1,000 hotel rooms from the existing 475 to accommodate more MICE participants and other tourists.

“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,” she said in a press conference last week.

One of the additional hotels expected to be operational by 2023 is the Belmont Hotel.

Harold C. Brian Geronimo, Megaworld senior vice president and head of public relations and media affairs, said the remaining 40% area will be transformed into a commercial district, mainly 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.

Mr. Geronimo added that they are aiming to have the transport hubs within IBP, which have been approved by the Iloilo City council, fully operational within the year.

The transport hubs would cater to tourism and point-to-point buses, shuttles, and other vehicles with routes to southern Iloilo, the Iloilo International Airport, Boracay, and other destinations within Panay Island.

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

Iloilo City Tourism and Development Officer Junel Ann T. Divinagracia said that since 2018, the conventions held in Iloilo have brought in more tourists compared with festivals, including its biggest one — the annual Dinagyang Festival every January.

“Statistics show that before we were 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 visitor arrivals last year, up to 70% were MICE participants, according to Ms. Divinagracia.

“By October, we will be launching MICE packages and after that we are expecting two to four large conventions every month in Iloilo,” she added.

Last February, the Department of Tourism-Western Visayas office launched a P50-million, three-year marketing plan for Iloilo to become a premier MICE destination.

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