Japan’s MICE sector upbeat, buoyed by domestic bookings

Hybrid events are helping to keep international engagement in the interim; Tokyo pictured

Hotels in Japan, particularly Tokyo, are seeing encouraging green shoots in the business events sector, despite current restrictions on international travel.

Many share that they have hosted more events or secured more bookings in recent months, mostly for small-scale meetings and F&B functions for the domestic market, and hybrid events.

Hybrid events are helping to keep international engagement with travel restrictions still in place; Tokyo pictured

For the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel, it has seen an uptick in sales since the October launch of its ā€œConnect with Confidenceā€ initiative, which applies vigorous anti-virus countermeasures by Marriott International and the local government to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Kate Coughlan, the hotelā€™s director of international sales, says hybrid events have taken precedence for short-lead events in 4Q2020 and 1Q2021, ā€œallowing local guests to attend and connect with events happening simultaneously throughout key Asia Pacific locations in order to create a large-scale event that would have previously been a live attendee event in one venue.ā€

Business tracks, or reciprocal green lanes, launched in recent months to facilitate short-term essential business between Japan and a number of other Asian countries have also brought board meetings to the hotel.

Coughlan considers such steps ā€œa positive start to opening up to the wider business community on a global scale for future MICE business.ā€

The resumption of large-scale events in the summer following the easing of the Japanese governmentā€™s limits on capacity, has also helped bring events back to large venues.

The Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau reports having supported exhibitions and events to come to Osaka in recent months. It is also receiving a growing number of inquiries from corporates based in Japan and overseas.

Asako Shiomi, a spokesperson of the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau, pointed out that domestic exhibitions and hybrid events are returning with vigour.

Hotels and other venues are also recognising that, until in-person international business events fully resume, domestic and hybrid events will play an important role in sustaining their operations, prompting them to be increasingly flexible with meeting clientsā€™ needs.

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