Government must play an active role in Asia’s exhibition industry recovery

Regional travel bubbles, new subvention funding models, and digital training will spur the recovery of Asia’s exhibition sector, according to industry leaders at a recent UFI Connects webinar that examined the role of government in establishing a ‘new normal’ operating environment.

A flurry of financial support measures has been rolled out across the region. In Hong Kong, the government has introduced a venue subsidy scheme for organisers, but Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) chairman, Stuart Bailey, said more needed to be done to assist cash flow issues.

Panel speakers say that regional travel bubbles, new subvention funding models, and digital training will spur recovery of Asia’s exhibition sector

“We’re disappointed in the way the venue subsidy has been administered,” he said. “Organisers are still required to book and pay for the venue upfront and are reimbursed six to eight weeks after the exhibition.”

Bailey said government funds could be more effectively used to help pay suppliers, subsidise commercial rents for SMEs, or even boost visitor promotion efforts.

Beyond cash injections, executive director of the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau, Andrew Phua, said the bureau is focused on capability development, and provides a subsidy of up to a 90 per cent for training programmes in virtual meetings development.

Phua also floated the idea of a regional travel bubble opening in South-east Asia, and revealed that the bureau is closely monitoring source markets for international exhibitions.

“We’ve also working on a green lane (immigration) clearance so that VIP buyers can enter Singapore, subject to health checks,” he said.

The Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), meanwhile, is formulating market- and industry-specific subvention funds to encourage the return of international business.

The bureau recently submitted a Covid-19 hygiene safety standard to Thailand’s Ministry of Health, and senior vice president – business, Nichapa Yoswee, remains hopeful that events will recommence in June.

Regional travel bubbles could lead exhibitions back to Asia

“TCEB secured 56 international exhibitions this year, five have cancelled, but 51 remain confirmed and will be held in the second half of the year,” she said.

Both Yoswee and Phua said they are collaborating with government, industry and private sector partners to create a roadmap to recovery.

Collaboration seems to be the secret to a speedy recovery in China. Citing the success of the recent 2020 Hunan Auto Show, which took place from April 30 to May 5, Grace Mak, regional director, Asia for E J Krause & Associates Inc., said government acted as a conduit between the local bureau, event organisers and various stakeholders to ensure preventive health and safety measures were well-understood and implemented.

National contact-tracking apps were also utilised to monitor entry and restore confidence among event attendees.

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