Stay in the light

Despite bleak business, some of the region’s CVBs have chosen to remain visible, vocal and useful to keep inspiring their industry partners.

Bangkok’s dazzling landscape at night

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau
Before the pandemic went global, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) set up an online MICE Covid Info Centre for its stakeholders in early February, a platform where situational updates and recommendations are provided. It allows the bureau to keep international clients and domestic operators up to date on official government statements that shed light on how the kingdom is dealing with the crisis.

And as the crisis deepened, TCEB worked closer with both the public and private sectors to tackle pain points of the industry, especially in helping stakeholders keep their business going when business events came to a standstill. Among its efforts are relaxed qualifying criteria for supported business events and funding for venues to beef up their hygiene practices. Financial aid was also provided to help the domestic MICE sector kickstart the economy.

An extensive communication campaign was also deployed to connect and engage with customers. The campaign sought to shape the idea of safety around events, as well as gain an understanding of market trends and client concerns to facilitate the creation of useful packages.

Through its messages, TCEB encouraged industry stakeholders to stay positive and move forward, as well as suggested business models to adopt post-pandemic.

And as the pandemic started to stabilise, TCEB moved into recovery planning. It collaborated with local associations to develop a standardised MICE hygiene protocol, with standard operating procedures (SOPs) at each touchpoint, starting from the airport, through to the DMCs and hotels, until the customers depart Thailand. With these SOPs, TCEB successfully lobbied the government to reopen the MICE sector. – Rachel AJ Lee

Serene Kuching Waterfront in Malaysia

Business Events Sarawak
Business Events Sarawak (BESarawak) stood as an emotional pillar of strength and positivity for those in the business events sector throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its messages reflect strength and positivity, and centred on the community – in line with BESarawak’s branding around the ‘tribe spirit’.

Amelia Roziman, acting CEO, BESarawak, also emphasised the importance of the bureau’s dual role of an active listener and voice of the industry. This allowed BESarawak to take the concerns and challenges of stakeholders to the relevant government ministries, which in turn led to solutions to alleviate the hardships of the industry during such trying times.

In July, following the government’s decision to restart business events in the country, BESarawak organised its first hybrid event known as Tribal Gathering 2020, where it launched the Business Events Sarawak Incentivised Packages.

The hybrid format allowed industry partners from outside the state to witness the event virtually, from the comfort and safety of their offices and homes. It also served to communicate to business event organisers and the industry at large that Sarawak is ready for the future of events – the destination has the digital infrastructure and event technology specialists to successfully execute a hybrid event, should event organisers choose such a format in the future. – S Puvaneswary

Auckland’s landmark Sky Tower rises in the background

Conventions and Incentives New Zealand
New Zealand’s can-do attitude in navigating the pandemic showed through its peak business events body Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ), which lobbied the government for aid and kept communication channels open with industry stakeholders.

While MEETINGS – CINZ’s annual tradeshow in April – had to be cancelled, the bureau launched a recovery plan in the same month and announced it would host a new one-day industry showcase called BE Reconnected in Auckland on December 1, aimed at kickstarting the NZ$5 billion MICE industry. Instead of an expansive programme and exhibition floor, the event would prioritise conversations and relationship-building.

CINZ also announced a partnership with Business Events Council of Australia in June, followed by a strategic agreement in July with the Professional Convention Management Association to stay connected with Asian industry players. A voluntary Covid Code was also introduced to help the government with contact-tracing processes.

CINZ chief executive Lisa Hopkins has been leading the public charge for the recovery of business events in the country. She remained visible in trade and local media as well as in government sectors to highlight the issues facing the industry.

After a second wave of Covid cases and a return to gathering restrictions in August, Auckland has at press time entered into Alert Level 1, which enables unrestricted domestic meetings across the country. This is expected to give decision-makers the confidence needed to plan and book events again.

New Zealand’s business events sector has a new name for its peak body, Business Events Industry Aotearoa, reflecting its distinct role within tourism and events. – Adelaine Ng

Japan’s iconic Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Japan, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TVCB) has been working to bring situational updates to planners and business partners through news posts on its Business Events Tokyo homepage. These updates include newsletters, posted in March and July, which outline rules and guidance on domestic movements and gatherings from the Japan Convention Management Association, Japan Exhibition Association and other key organisations.

In addition, TCVB launched a new webpage, Tokyo Updates Towards the New Normal, to raise awareness of activity in recent months. Set up with Tokyo business events stakeholders, the page introduces guidelines aimed at making Tokyo safe for international conferences and corporate events, as well as bear messages from Tokyo partners and examples of best practice in the new normal of events – remote and hybrid meetings.

It presented examples of Tokyo’s first fully remote conference – the 120th Annual Congress of Japan Surgical Society – which welcomed more than 19,000 registrations from Japan and overseas, and a hybrid meeting of the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases which was attended by 600 people in-person and 2,400 online. – Kathryn Wortley

Scenic Pyeongchang Samyang Ranch in South Korea

Gangwon Provincial Office
Gangwon Province is boosting its destination branding online, riding on the wave of heightened Internet usage throughout the pandemic and restricted movements.

Jeong Il Sub, general director of culture, tourism and sport bureau, Gangwon Province, said online branding not only enhances destination knowledge, it also communicates Gangwon’s readiness to welcome visitors when international borders are reopened.

Jeong added that many previously undiscovered places in Gangwon Province were introduced through multiple online channels, fuelling international interest.

Branding campaigns now focus on wellness themes and include a multilingual video series promoting key attractions under the Clean Gangwon slogan. Gangwon is also working with global influencers and the media to market the destination.

Supporting these communications are webinars and online destination training as well as virtual trade fairs and live-streaming events that engage industry stakeholders.

Gangwon’s visibility is further enhanced by its hosting of the East Asia Inter-Regional Tourism Forum. Along with fellow member provinces, Gangwon maintains a joint risk management system that distributes timely destination updates throughout the pandemic. – Therese Tan

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