[MICE Trend] COVID-19 Accelerates the Shift Towards a Hybrid MICE Industry

By Seoul Convention Bureau

  • The MICE Sector Going Hybrid in Physical in Virtual Environments
  • COVID-19 Accelerates the Shift Towards a Hybrid MICE Industry

The popularity of hybrid events is growing at a faster-than-expected pace. A hybrid event is an event that takes place at a physical venue while allowing the audience to engage in interaction on its virtual platform as well. This new type of events is rising as a potential breakthrough for the MICE industry, which has been feeling the deep impacts of the coronavirus pandemic for the past few months. MICE companies are now actively turning to hybrid events, combining them with digital marketing options like social media, VR, and IoT.

Many players in the MICE sector have been pursuing hybrid events for the last decade. These events are called “hybrid” as they welcome visitors to their physical venues while livestreaming the event to engage audience on their online platform as well. Hybrid events are fundamentally different from virtual events in that the latter takes place online only.

The advancement of meeting technology led to a gradually rising popularity of hybrid events. Although hybrid events were not as much at the center of attention as some new technologies, the widespread pandemic of COVID-19 put the kind under the spotlight. Naturally, digital marketing events are among the quickest to turn to going hybrid.

DIGIMARCON Midwest 2021, a digital marketing conference and exhibition scheduled to take place in Chicago in June 2021, is already open for registration, welcoming audience from a wide spectrum of industries. MozCon, another digital marketing conference, decided to go fully virtual this year. It was a change of course after continuously combining online components such as posting promotion videos online. More theatrical performances and fashion shows are also livestreaming for their audience.

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‘Why pay for an online event?’

The answer is simple. It’s lucrative. Considering that enabling human interaction is a core mission of the MICE industry, no wonder why many experts in the sector are not sure about whether hybrid or virtual events without face-to-face meetings could attract a large audience who are willing to pay for the event. The recent dramatic growth of online events in the U.S. might shine a light on such suspicion.

A recent USA Today article, “The future of conference: Will events remain virtual after lockdowns?” showed the U.S.’s online event industry has seen growth of 1100% year-on-year. The CEO of Socialive, a video broadcasting tool maker, said their customer base has grown by 90% and their revenue has grown 146% since the beginning of March when the pandemic started to spread throughout the world. USA Today said many hotels and event planners are trying to combine virtual and in-person experiences, which consumers are willing to pay for.

According to the recent Global Tourism Dashboard released by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the global tourism industry witnessed a year-on-year growth rate of -22.4%. The figure plunged to a staggering -57%, the lowest on record, in March when the coronavirus outbreak started to sweep the world. The UNWTO stated that this translates into a loss of 67 million international arrivals and about US$80 billion in receipts. It also pointed out that the current scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals of 58% to 78% for the year.

Hybrid events might be the only solution that could save the MICE industry. Mayank Chowdhary, the founder of a large business event platform called 10Times.com, shared his thoughts on hybrid events in his article for the Financial Express.

“Industry players can consider adopting the hybrid model to tide through the pandemic. At the same time, when the crisis is over and physical events are back on track, the added virtual dimension can function as a critical revenue generation supplement. Until then, organizers who are thinking of cancelling or postponing their events can instead consider virtual or hybrid models as viable alternatives.”

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