By Katrina Leung, Managing Director, Messe Berlin (Singapore)
Pre-pandemic, the MICE industry in APAC was poised to reach USD441.1 Billion by 2025. Unfortunately, the global health pandemic has had the power to transform the world. In a bid to control the spread of the virus, countries and economies have been brought to a near standstill with many events put to an indefinite halt.
This naturally has a knock-on effect on the MICE industry as it relies on the growth and continuation of the travel and tourism industry. Thankfully, after months of standstill, we are seeing positive signs of recovery as many countries are gradually opening their economies and its events sector, albeit in a slow, steady, and prudent manner that builds confidence among business travellers.
Most notably was the announcement by Singapore that MICE events can soon resume in Singapore as Singapore Tourism Board (STB) open applications to event organisers to host events of up to 250 attendees from 1st October. The move is a sign of confidence Singapore has of the industry’s resilience to overcome challenges brought about by the pandemic. This is also in line with the gradual lifting of travel restrictions and the implementation of green lanes with certain countries across the APAC region.
While such measures are welcomed by industry players, there is no denying that COVID-19 is here to stay, or at least for the immediate future. In fact, some have confronted the possibility that COVID-19 may never end and have taken active measures to future proof their business. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, there is no denying the need for preparation and transition to a new world reality is imminent.
MICE in a Brave New World
So how will business events look like in a world where COVID-19 exists?
We can expect the MICE industry to be inherently different from what we were formally used to. Firstly, as expected, we will see greater emphasis on hygiene and social distancing demands. This is something we are already seeing in action with Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB)’s launch of the MICE Venue Hygiene Guidelines and Singapore’s Safe Business Event Risk Management Framework, and can assume to be here to stay until the pandemic ends or a vaccine is in place.
Secondly, we will see a rise in virtual and hybrid events, and these becoming a mainstay in the future. The technology for virtual meetings has existed for the past decade. However, it has come under the spotlight in the heat of the pandemic for its benefits in connecting and bringing communities together. Collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google documents means it is now possible to make meetings virtual and not have participants be physically present. This is especially powerful and efficient in a time when travel confidence continues to remain low but businesses still need to ensure the continuity of their shows.
This was the case for ITB Asia where we made the bold decision to take the annual trade show virtual to ensure its continuity. From 21 – 23 October, ITB Asia 2020 Virtual will be held on a newly developed platform known as ITB Community. ITB Community will also facilitate a year-long virtual engagement programme for key stakeholders which will allow them to continue forging new partnerships and strengthen existing business relationships with important players in the region.
Lastly, the future of MICE will be one that is smarter as technology and digital tools will play greater roles in automating business processes. Technology is already playing a growing role in transforming business events. However, with the health pandemic, we can see more reliance on technology in enhancing safety and hygiene protocols, such as facial recognition technology, contactless services, and contact tracing applications, as well as businesses capitalising on digital tools to stay relevant and profitable.
Like many other industries, the MICE industry is not spared from the consequences of COVID-19. However, it can prepare for the future and stay ahead of the curve by being nimble and flexible to the changes brought about by the pandemic.
Registration for ITB Asia 2020 Virtual is now open on ITB Community here: www.itb-community.com/itb-asia-2020-virtual. For more information on the agenda and speakers line-up, please check out ITB Asia’s website here.
Note: This article was originally posted on Travel Voice Japan’s website.