Even if borders reopen and travel restrictions are lifted, it will take some time for people to be confident enough to travel to attend business events abroad, with pre-pandemic travel levels still a reach.
This was agreed on by panellists speaking on the topic â€śFacing risks head on â€“ preparing for live association meetings in a time of crisisâ€ť, a session held during the recently-concluded BE@Penang, organised by Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau. In its fifth edition, the event was held virtually.
Regunath Kandasamy, secretary at the Neurosurgical Association of Malaysia, related an example of delegates needing to transit through a few airports before arriving at their final destination, may be apprehensive over the health risks they are exposing themselves to just to attend at event.
And while he acknowledged that virtual and hybrid events are the way forward for associations and other business events, it has its poros and cons. While going virtual will have a wider audience reach and saves time and costs, it could also result in “online fatigue” and technical disruptions.
But eventually, face-to-face meetings will return. However, to reinstil confidence in a destination for international MICE events, Regunath pointed out that the destination would need to have business events SOPs in place and adhered too. The government should also have a proven record for rapid contact tracing to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Tourism New Zealand’s international business events manager, Leonie Ashford, added that the onus fell on organisers and CVBs to convince potential overseas delegates that they are taking all the necessary health and safety precautions.
However, Mona Abdul Manap, founder and CEO of Place Borneo, a PCO headquartered in Kuching, Sarawak, said she did not expect face-to-face international business events to return to Malaysia before 2022.
This is because some of her clients are apprehensive about planning for events due to the uncertain nature of the MICE industry in Malaysia, where lockdowns were lifted and later reimposed as Covid-19 numbers rose.