Chinese MICE players keep their spirits up

It's still far from business as usual, but companies in China are doing their best to cope

The Covid-19 outbreak may have sunk MICE business to China in the last two months, but industry players attempt to keep spirits up and remain hopeful with steps being taken to soften the economic blow.

Pacific World China reopened its Shanghai office on February 24 with a few staff members working flexible hours on a rotation basis while a majority continued to work from home.

It’s still far from business as usual, but companies in China are doing their best to cope

According to country manager and newly-elected general-secretary on the SITE China board, Violet Wang, the government-encouraged home quarantine which kicked in a month ago gave employees “rare time” to spend with their families and loved one, as well as the opportunity to “polish their cooking skills”.

On a more serious note she added that employees were “voluntarily picking up other related professional skills like graphic design or learning a language; while the company also organised some conference professional training courses.

Pacific World China has also rolled out a #BringchangewithME campaign, an individual and corporate initiative to “battle” the virus and prevent another outbreak.

“By incorporating illuminating and meaningful environmental and social sustainability elements into event programmes, #BringchangewithME aims to change mindsets and behaviours,” she explained.

Wang commented that while the Covid-19 outbreak had created business risk, it was also an opportunity for the industry to unite.

For instance, Kris Van Goethem, managing director, MICE, leisure and sport, Thomas Cook China, shared that parent company Fosun had bought and donated large quantities of medical supplies – sourced globally – for distribution to hospitals and health workers in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak.

As of February 17, the Fosun Foundation and 30 companies and organisations have jointly donated to medical institutions in Hubei, Chongqing, Wenzhou and other regions with a high incidence of infection some 290,230 masks, 543,206 sets of protective clothing, 13,300 goggles, 146 non-invasive ventilators, and one negative-pressure ambulance.

Similarly, Sarah Keenlyside, CEO, Bespoke Travel Company, revealed to TTGmice one US client asked how it could go about donating to charitable organisations in China.

Bespoke, which has operations in Beijing and Shanghai, has had to implement salary cuts, Keenlyside noted, but the company was also finding ways to help its small team find alternative sources of income. “We are doing our best to cover people as much as possible for now.”

“We had to reduce costs to an extreme degree. We have given up our WeWork offices, are working from home and have cut back on subscription services and cancelled non-essential spending and expenses,” she elaborated,

Ricky Yang, deputy general manager of Guilin-based Easy Tour China believes the virus outbreak will eventually be controlled, but indicated that business for 2020 will be “tough”.

He is banking on the fact that domestic travel will see an explosive growth later in the year, once the virus is under control. This is as Yang forecasted that inbound travel will not recover in the coming three months.

As for how Easy Tour China is coping, Yang shared: “We have some profit from last year kept in reserve which can be used for salary payment this year.”

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