Asia’s business events industry has the potential to rebound faster than other continents, but being able to conduct business safely is important, highlighted panellists at the Global MICE Situation in the Time of the Pandemic webinar for Philippine business events stakeholders.
Green shoots can already be seen, according to UFI’s Asia Pacific regional manager Mark Cochrane. He related the example of China, which had zero exhibitions in February, is “slowly, and cautiously getting back into business”.
Although international travel is at a standstill, China’s massive economy has presented a lot of potential for domestic activities, Cochrane noted.
Noor Ahmad Hamid, ICCA’s regional director Asia Pacific, agreed, and pointed out that business events are starting to begin in smaller Chinese cities such as Qingdao, Chengdu, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Xiamen.
Some domestic activity is also happening in parts of Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia, as well as New Zealand – which is slowly easing local travel restrictions – and Australia, according to Noor.
Cochrane added that Asian countries with domestic markets such as South Korea and Japan will open up first, while Hong Kong and Singapore will take longer as these cities rely primarily on foreign participation.
Asian destinations are observed to be on the path to recovery, with Singapore and Thailand announcing recovery packages and Hong Kong offering rental-free venues. These moves bode well for the exhibition sector.
“We have to tell governments that MICE is important for economic growth, and they have to open up,” said Noor, highlighting that it was important for local stakeholders to come together to push for it as well.
Jennifer Glynn, SITE president, pointed out that incentive travel “will come back regionally”, but will likely be with tighter budgets due to weak corporate performance during the Covid-19 crisis. As such, incentive groups will favour destinations closer to home.
To help planners stick to the budget, Glynn suggested that a programme to remote regions, emerging destinations, or the countryside would work, since a majority of incentive programmes usually number from 25 to 50 people.