Hotel Asia 2014 a resounding success

Friday, 12 September 2014 01:35 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The highly-anticipated Hotel Asia 2014 Exhibition and International Culinary Challenge came to a close in Malé on Wednesday. Held over three days, the event featured 130+ stalls and participation of 35 Sri Lankan companies, while recording visitor footfall of over 3,500 buyers. The largest annual food and hospitality event in the Maldives, it was inaugurated by Chief Guest Republic of Maldives Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and was held from 8 to 10 September. A key attraction of Hotel Asia 2014 was the International Culinary Challenge, held from 7 to 10 September, which drew 498 chefs competing in many categories, judged by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS). Success story The event, which filled up 15,000 square feet of exhibition space across four halls of the Dharubaaruge Exhibition Centre, was a resounding success for organiser Maldives Exhibition and Conference Services (MECS), a subsidiary company of Lanka Exhibition and Conference Services (LECS). “Hotel Asia 2014 is a success story for Lanka Exhibition and Conference Services (LECS) and Sri Lankan exporters,” LECS CEO Aasim Mukthar told the Daily FT, adding that the exhibition was a sold-out event. Noting that Hotel Asia was the pioneering exhibition in the Maldives, Mukthar said the event had grown over the years despite obstacles and was now reaping the rewards. His sentiments were echoed by the Vice President of the Maldives, who said Hotel Asia has established itself as the leading F&B trade show in the Maldives and across the region. The Vice President added that, judging by the number of companies participating, Hotel Asia was the country’s most eminent hotel fair. “I hope this event will expand in the coming years and I convey my heartfelt best wishes. High profile events such as this spark tourism growth in the Maldives,” the VP continued, asserting that the environment and tourism go hand-in-hand and eco-friendly companies were welcome in the Maldives. (See box for full speech) An outstanding achievement Meanwhile, Republic of Maldives Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed said: “The 10th edition of Hotel Asia is, without question, an outstanding achievement, which has grown from humble beginnings, and acts as an enabler to newcomers in the tourism industry. It creates a link between suppliers and businesses at the forefront of tourism.” Stating that tourism in Maldives started with just two resorts with a capacity of 208 beds, Saeed said at present there are over 100 resorts spread across the beautiful nation, providing a wide spectrum of hospitality services, including water sports and wellness centres. With the number of tourists visiting the Maldives rising every year, the Government of Maldives embarked on diversifying the tourism product and has launched the Guest House Island Project, which is aimed at fostering a generation of youth entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry. “Hotel Asia 2014 provides a stage for assisting newcomers into the industry to display and promote their unique products and services. The International Culinary Challenge is a platform for young professionals to stage their creations. Today almost 500 chefs representing 20 different nationalities are displaying their creativity here. I would like to reassure the business community that there is still untapped opportunity in the Maldives tourism industry,” Saaed asserted. International Culinary Challenge Running alongside the exhibition, the Hotel Asia International Culinary Challenge – the region’s premier culinary competition – ensured that the exhibition venue was a hive of activity. With succulent dishes being served up in some areas, mocktails being shaken up in others, and intricately-decorated cakes on display at the entrance, 498 chefs competed for honours at a breakneck pace over the course of four days. The challenge provides an opportunity for chefs to display their skills in a competitive manner, with the prestige of being judged by 16 world-qualified judges, noted MECS Country Representative Ahmed Jaamiz, while LECS Project Director and Chief Judge Alan Palmer asserted it was a great opportunity for the participating chefs to showcase their skills. Bocuse d’Or – Sri Lanka President and Waters Edge General Manager Rohan Fernandopulle noted that with this challenge, participating chefs were exposed to a wealth of knowledge, especially via the briefing from the WACS judging panel. (See box) NCE perspective This year’s Hotel Asia event was supported and endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism of Maldives along with the Sri Lanka-Maldives Bilateral Business Council and National Chamber of Exporters Sri Lanka. National Chamber of Exports of Sri Lanka (NCE) Director – Trade Promotion M. Shiham Marikar told the Daily FT that of the nine NCE members participating in Hotel Asia 2014, most were already well-established in the Maldives market and were participating to introduce their new products, while the others were hoping to enter the market. “The Maldives is a good market for Sri Lankan products. This is the fourth time we are participating in the exhibition as a chamber and I think the organisers are doing a very good job. All our exhibitors are very positive about the event. Companies here with the chamber include Dankotuwa Porcelain, DSI Group, Samson International, IFCO International – one of the pioneers in the Maldives market in Sri Lankan fruits and vegetables which has been exporting here for many years – and Cargills,” he added. Looking ahead The 2014 event was the largest edition of the exhibition and participating Sri Lankan firms included Cargills, Dankotuwa Porcelain, Dilmah, Serendib Flour Mills, Nidro Supplies, Kelani Cables and Unilever Food Supplies. Serendib Flour Mills, which is already exporting to the Maldives, was participating in Hotel Asia for the first time. “We are looking ahead to the next step,” said Serendib Flour Mills Senior Manager – Sales and Marketing Kalinga Wijesekera, outlining that the company hoped to command a larger share of the Maldivian market. Currently producing 1,000 MT per day in Sri Lanka, Serendib Flour Mills is now exporting 1,000 MT per month to the Maldives and hopes to increase this by at least 200-300 MT in the near future, said Wijesekera. Trade increase of 300-400% For participants, the exhibition certainly pays off. According to LECS Senior Manager Husnie Rauf, after every Hotel Asia exhibition, participants report an increase in trade of 300-400%. “Hotel Asia offers the most comprehensive and contemporary products, services and insights for the food, beverage and hospitality industry, not just across the South Asian region, but across the world,” he asserted. “The event is a trading platform, a knowledge sharing experience, a networking opportunity and an industry driver under one roof.” Pointing out that the Maldives invests millions of dollars into food imports and hospitality equipment, Rauf added that Hotel Asia is more than a regional event, “it is an international showcase and a global business arena”. Hotel Asia has evolved into a much bigger event over the past years and reached international standards, said MECS Country Representative Ahmed Jaamiz. “We had a waiting list of participants and had to unfortunately turn down some applicants since we were sold out weeks before the exhibition. This proves the value of Hotel Asia, which is a one-stop-shop for business and trade. This year we also included some informative seminars and workshops for upcoming chefs.” A special feature at Hotel Asia 2014 was a country pavilion from China for the first time in the Maldives by Beijing Lansing Century Exhibitions. Hotel Asia 2014 was sponsored by Fantasy Ltd. (Main Sponsor – Exhibition) and Bestbuy Maldives (Main Sponsor – Culinary Challenge), along with official partners Total Transport Solutions Maldives Ltd. (Logistics), Promo Lanka Marketing & Euro Kitchens (Equipment), Hospitality Maldives (Magazine) and Category sponsors Unilever Food Solutions, International Foodstuff Company, Elle &Vire, Colavita, Ireks, Blue Band, Ravi Fruit, Sepia International, Hortifarm, Barilla, Lamb Weston, Nidro Supply & Vismark. Pix courtesy Republic of Maldives President’s Office MALDIVES VICE PRESIDENT PRAISES HOTEL ASIA 2014 Following is the address by Chief Guest Vice President of the Republic of Maldives Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, at the inauguration of Hotel Asia 2014: I am greatly honoured to be a part of this ceremony held to inaugurate Hotel Asia 2014 Exhibition and International Culinary Challenge. I must state that Hotel Asia has indeed established itself as the leading international food and hospitality trade show in the Maldives and across the region. Judging by the number of companies participating in this exhibition and the large number of culinary competitions and experts, this is clearly the country’s most eminent hotel fair. Today, Maldives is a world-renowned tourist destination with several international brand names in its tourism portfolio. Fortunately, Maldives is gifted with breath-taking beauty and magical islands, which basks under the sun in all its glory! Tourism, as we all know, is the largest economic industry in the Maldives and high profile events such as this spur trade and growth in the tourism sector. The Maldives is wholly committed to excellence in tourism. Our country plays a significant role in the global hotel industry and aims for the highest levels of achievements in hotel construction and design, sustainability and marketing in global hospitality. I am delighted to state that the resorts in the Maldives are iconic and truly innovative with the world’s first underwater spa and all-glass underwater restaurant opened here in the Maldives. We are extremely proud of this achievement. There is a strong green conscience in the country and a desire to care for our environment. There are even numerous resorts in the Maldives today designed and built to be eco-friendly, reflecting the harmony of life. This shows the encouragement for the environment and social sustainability. The Government focuses on delivering a conducive and prudent business environment for the growth and development of the hospitality industry. As we all are well aware, the environment and tourism go hand-in-hand here, as in other places. On these beautiful islands, the environment must be protected to sustain tourism and the country. Therefore we warmly welcome eco-friendly tourism to the Maldives. Although our descendants are from neighbouring countries, the culture and heritage of the Maldives is rich in its own very unique way. The country’s very own culture and traditions are very strong with a distinctive Maldivian touch to everything including its traditional music, dances and food. With the Maldives being a leading destination worldwide, I believe that it’s fitting and perhaps the best place to host this kind of exhibition. I applaud the organisational team of this exhibition for putting together this dynamic and lively event! I hope that this event continues to expand and grow to be the leading regional event for tourism trade. I wish to conclude by conveying my heartfelt best wishes for the success of this excellent exhibition. CULINARY CHALLENGE AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN A key attraction of Hotel Asia 2014 was the Hotel Asia International Culinary Challenge, held from 7 to 10 September, which drew 498 chefs competing in many categories, judged by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS). As LECS Project Director and Chief Judge Alan Palmer asserted, the challenge is a “fantastic opportunity for chefs to create new dishes and improve themselves”. Noting that the chefs were learning while cooking, he emphasised that the debriefing from the judges was possibly more important than the competition itself. The popularity of the event shows in the numbers – in 2002 there were only 40 chefs participating, this time there are 498, noted Palmer, a WACS Certified Global A Judge. In a quick interview with the Daily FT on the sidelines of the Culinary Challenge, Bocuse d’Or – Sri Lanka President and Waters Edge General Manager Rohan Fernandopulle said the rise in the number of participants shows how eager the chefs are to compete, with more than 50% being Sri Lankan chefs. This years’ event is also offering scholarships for the chefs to encourage them to participate in culinary competitions, sending them to Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong. “I was judging the beef category; it was amazing. We have to taste 50 dishes, in groups of 10. Each group takes one hour so it’s a lot of work for the judges as well when the hours add up. There are about 20 categories and most of the categories are live categories, which is encouraging, since they have to cook from scratch,” said Fernandopulle. Outlining the benefits of participating, he said the event enables chefs to vastly improve their knowledge while also learning how to compete. “First, when you participate, you are already a winner. Before you participate, you go through many things, such as doing research and finding out about the dishes which have won medals. Secondly, by participating, you learn how to compete; and you also learn through the others. At the debriefing, every single competitor is told their plus points and weaker points. They will also see which dishes are better. You can improve your knowledge by participating. The debriefing alone is educational; you tell the chef what is wrong and what they can do better. Unlike in the past where you couldn’t even see the judges, it’s more practical now and up-to-date. I think it’s a very good thing. “There are some participants who are very good, some need improvement. If you are working for a better chef and a better organisation, automatically you are also switched on at that level. For chefs at hotels which don’t have highly qualified chefs, this is a good platform to learn and see what the current trends are. There are in things and modern things, how to look at food from a different angle,” Fernandopulle asserted.