Face-to-face event enquiries return with new considerations

• Domestic events are materialising this year
• New RFPs have greater curiosity around health, safety aspects and contract flexibility
• CVBs urged to be proactive communications hubs

Business event specialists in Asia-Pacific are starting to see a revival of face-to-face event interest, with some likely to take place as soon as 3Q2020.

Despite “massive amount of apprehension about groups and how big they can be”, Ian Cummings, global vice president, commercial, CWT Meetings & Events noted that clients were starting to consider events for the last two quarters of 2020.

Local face-to-face meetings are resuming

Cummings suggested that this was possible, as governments in certain countries have allowed events to resume, subject to some health and safety restrictions.

Francis Cheong, co-founder and group CEO of Malaysia-based Aavii Worldwide, is preparing for domestic face-to-face events that will come alive from late-September, with most of the interest stemming from pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

He has also just completed “an extremely rare” pitch for an international incentive programme in 2021.

“Multinational clients in Malaysia are starting to look for (overseas event) alternatives because it has been more than four months of business inactivity in Malaysia. (However), clients are only looking at 2H2021 and are still very cautious with decisions,” Cheong told TTGmice.

New selection criteria
With the return of RFPs, event planners have observed a different set of considerations when evaluating potential destinations and event vendors.

Unique activities, exciting venues and appealing attractions in a destination now sit lower on clients’ checklist, according to Petrina Goh, commercial director of CWT Meetings & Events in Singapore. The destination’s track record in coping with the Covid-19 outbreak, safety standards and availability of good hospitals are deemed more important today.

Cheong: pharmaceutical and insurance companies are most active with event plans now

BCD Travel now runs through a comprehensive set of questions, on behalf of their clients, when deciding on a destination or supplier.

According to company spokesperson Agnes Heng, the checklist includes policies on surgical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, guests and event attendees; updated capacity charts with social distancing measures in place; crisis management plan; and the availability of an infection mitigation coordinator onsite; among others.

And with event plans likely to be disrupted by sudden infection resurgence, event planners and their clients are also scrutinising attrition clauses, minimum spend requirements and cancellation or postponement policies.

CVBs as information consolidator
The current complexity around event decision-making, frequent changes to travel and activity restrictions, as well as differing health and safety regulations across destinations, have led event specialists to advise CVBs to be more informative.

Cummings said: “There are some CVBs that we are just not hearing from at all and therefore have no information on their destination. TCEB (Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau) is a great example (of an Asian CVB that is doing it right). I get three or four pop-ups a day on LinkedIn on TCEB initiatives, things that are happening in this industry, and updates on (Thai) airports and airlines particularly their routes and pricing, etc.

Cummings: CVBs should be effective consolidator and disseminator of relevant information from various sources across the country

“Another important piece of information is incentives (for companies to meet in the destination). Some incentives or special treatment for groups will help with decisions.”

He believes that CVBs should now act as communication hubs – an effective consolidator and disseminator of relevant information from various sources across the country.

“We used to think that (destination) information overload for our clients isn’t great, but it is now better to have more information (as that can help improve clients’ perception of a destination),” opined Goh.

She said that in addition to looking to planners for advice, clients also turn to CVB websites in hopes of getting information on attraction reopenings, venue capacity limits, and new pricing structure of event products, especially if rates have been changed to accommodate social distancing requirements and capacity limits.

And if done right, CVBs could well sway clients’ decision with their messaging during this business crisis.

Cheong said: “CVBs will play an even more important role now than ever. They need to think differently about how to inspire travel intent during such unusual times. Their content for training and destination updates need to be revolutionised, such as by focusing on what can be done in the destination before and after a vaccine is available. For example, CVBs can play up faraway yet unique spots and outdoor glamping ideas in remote places.

“CVBs can also work with national carriers to come up with special chartered flights to destinations that are remote yet exciting enough for eager but weary event attendees,” Cheong added.

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