The future of MICE: How can businesses adapt?

Ta Loong Gan, managing director, Barco South-east Asia and vice president ProAV, Barco Asia Pacific, shares why companies need to rethink the essentiality of business travel and how they can prepare for the future of the workplace with the help of technology.

Technology has been an important enabler in the adoption of flexible working arrangements

Regional and global business travel for meetings and events was severely limited as a side effect of Covid-19.

Countries such as Singapore are piloting business travel passes, enabling selected senior executives of organisations to travel to a range of countries, thus allowing regular activities to resume. While virtual meetings and events became the substitute for in-person interactions, polls have concluded that professionals find live events to be more effective and intend to return to this format to some degree when the virus is no longer a significant threat.

Technology has enabled flexible working arrangements, and such virtual components are likely to be retained for future events

The pivot to virtual events in the MICE industry has presented planners with the opportunity to incorporate new digital experiences into events and conferences to make these gatherings more meaningful and effective.

These new digital technologies range from integrated event management solutions to augmented reality events. As in-person events resume in the next year, many will retain the virtual components adopted during the pandemic to enhance and improve the overall experience. This approach will also ensure that wider audiences can be reached as business travel slowly returns to pre-Covid levels.

As a result of the current travel restrictions, the majority of former business flyers in Singapore are continuing to conduct business meetings from home.

Technology has been an important enabler in the adoption of flexible working arrangements by empowering unprecedented collaboration in the workplace and revolutionising the way that colleagues and clients communicate and share data.

A Barco ClickShare survey revealed that 78 per cent of employees strongly supported tech-enabled meetings that allowed the participation of remote joiners. The pandemic has shown how efficient cross-collaboration between colleagues, regardless of geographical location, can ensure the sustainable spread of globalisation and international business practices.

Organisations have adopted hybrid models of conducting meetings globally and have reaped the productivity benefits of video conferencing tools. It should continue to do so due to the uncertainty of the spread of Covid-19 which will affect when travel bubbles between various countries will be established as well as when travel bans will be lifted.

Organisations which saw their revenues hit by lockdowns realised that travel budgets could be cut less painfully than headcount. In addition, as more companies unveil “nett zero” pledges to reduce their emissions, another factor has entered the equation: reining in business class flights is a fast way of shrinking corporate carbon footprints.

Meanwhile, the nature of remote employees will lead to more frequent physical meetings in the future. Those who are offsite by default are going to want human connection at some point which will increase the desire to travel for the purpose of team bonding and other social activities.

In conclusion, recovery for the MICE industry will not be immediate but instead will be in phases.

As countries pilot business travel pass and large scale MICE events in the next few months, businesses must ensure that they are prepared for the future of workplace that is emerging by adapting to the changes technology is bringing and start thinking about the essentiality of business travel on their business operations and competitiveness as a business.

As the managing director of Barco South-east Asia, Gan Ta Loong is responsible for revenue and operational management at Barco South-east Asia and Taiwan. While overseeing the business and operations focusing on the healthcare, enterprise and entertainment segments for Barco in the region, Gan is also the vice president for ProAV, events, virtual reality and simulation segments for Barco across Asia Pacific.

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