Change and collaboration will help industry overcome Covid-19 challenges: SACEOS

; Singapore CBD pictured

Ongoing efforts by the Singapore Association of Conference and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) to build resilience in the industry hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, has seen an expansion in the destination’s MICE ecosystem and a rise in membership.

SACEOS’ membership has grown by around 15 to 20 per cent – rising from 110 in late-2018 to 130 since then, and 160 now – when its constitution was amended in 2020 to expand its outreach to include event technology; lifestyle and sports companies, and festival event organisers.

Local MICE players need to look into reconstructing their business model to survive this challenging period; Singapore CBD pictured

New members include interactive, digital and experiential company Trinax; Azeus Convene, whose clients include global universities and colleges for top-level council and campus-wide meetings; and Freeman, which provides event marketing and management services including content development, audiovisual setting and logistics.

According to SACEOS, new members see the “power of voice, community and networking” it provides, in particular for SMEs.

The October 2020 launch of the SACEOS Event Industry Resilience Roadmap (IRR) to guide the safe resumption of business events, supported by the Singapore Tourism Board and Enterprise Singapore, provided guidance on implementing safe business events, solutions for hybrid events and an overview of new capabilities needed to transform the industry.

The IRR, a “living” document that will be updated in line with the evolving pandemic situation and health and safety standards, is being developed into a “technical reference” for Singapore and will be launched soon, according to SACEOS.

Its president Aloysius Arlando, said the emergence of hybrid events is not the end as the impact of the pandemic on the industry is still evolving. “It will be a long journey and a jerky one,” he noted, adding that the effort has to shift “to build back stronger in enterprise development growth and capabilities”.

Arlando, who is chief executive, venues, SingEx-Sphere, said the whole industry had to level up and work closely with the authorities in piloting events; and not only those that have been badly affected.

He continued: “Even with the vaccine rollout, it is very clear it does not mean we will go back to normal. It will not be the pre-Covid-19 normal because the virus is evolving and vaccinations are only part of the arsenal. We still have to brace for pandemic X (should there be one) and the end is not in sight.”

Despite the low number of local daily cases, Arlando also noted Singapore, as of February 19, 2020, has been in DORSCON (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) Orange, which indicates the virus is severe and spreads easily from person to person, for more than a year.

Describing this “lull period” as a “new model” Arlando said SACEOS had been helping members to change, but “change is tough” as pivoting to digital events is not providing the income players are looking for and there is also additional costs with safe event protocols that need to be put in place.

“The industry is changing, and changing at a different pace. It is important for different enterprises to take the first few baby steps,” the association head pointed out.

“Resources and assistance from various government agencies will help, but industry members must be willing to change, change soon to the new trajectory and learn what clients need and are hungry for.”

Arlando noted that a good number of members are “trying to figure out how to best pivot”, and cited examples of some investing in broadcast studios and green screen technology.

Calling the attempts encouraging, he stressed change has to occur throughout the industry.

“Some players are going to fall. For those who are uncertain, they must ask what they want to be, look at the support and schemes available or move to a new industry. We cannot sugar coat it,” he opined.

On industry-self help attempts, SACEOS executive director, Bita Seow, noted the association “can do with more participants” for its MICE webinars, acknowledging there are many options in the marketplace.

More encouraging, she noted, was the interest in its SG SafeEvent Ambassador programme, in partnership with NTUC (National Trade Union Congress), which has provided training for some 500 “freelancers” in the industry to help them pick up new skills and additional sources of income.

Seow is optimistic a target to double the number before the end of the year is possible.

And during last month’s webinar – Bring Back Events With Ease organised in partnership with Bona Technologies Systems and ADERA Global – SACEOS honorary treasurer, Don Tsai, again urged industry members not to “passively wait for the pandemic to blow over or to continue to expect more support from the government”.

Instead, he advised participants to do more to reconstruct their business models, to reach out to and collaborate with SACEOS, and other partners, to overcome challenges, and to familiarise themselves with the IRR SACEOS has crafted.

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