While regional collaboration between various business events destinations in Asia-Pacific is not a lofty aspiration, many are still not ready as they first have to tackle challenges at the national level.
Andrew Hiebl, CEO of Association of Australian Convention Bureaux, said: “We’ve all been so focused on allowing events to occur in our own backyards. (For Australia), that approach is being led by our states and territories which each have their own rules and processes impacting the business events industry.”
However, there is now a far greater need for destinations to share how they have been working with their respective governments and exchange information on what solutions are speeding up recovery, Hiebl opined.
Tourism New Zealand’s international business events manager, Leonie Ashford, said: “I’ve copied some of the initiatives in lobbying the government for more recognition (for the business events sector) from some destinations (in Asia-Pacific) that have done it well. So, sharing best practices and showing how valuable the sector is (would help).”
One way to get the government to listen is by building a national alliance and speaking with a united voice.
Alicia Yao Hong, founder of IME Consulting, relayed how various associations in China are helping the business events sector to get back on its feet, with the domestic meetings and exhibitions sector having recovered to about 80 per cent.
Yao added that non-governmental associations in China have also come together, such as food and hotel associations, to help drive recovery.
Amelia Roziman, acting CEO of Business Events Sarawak, also shared how “industry heads in the sector came together to form the Sarawak Business Events Association”.
“(One way the various regions can work together) is getting governments to speak to governments – as they are on the same level – to convince them how business events can help develop the future economy,” she added.
“By coming together and showing a united front has been a success factor from our engagement with the government, and has opened doors for us,” shared Hiebl.
With their backyard relatively spruced thanks to strong association alliances already in place, Thailand has taken the lead in spearheading a regional alliance.
Nichapa Yoswee, senior vice president, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), said: “We are in the process of forming an Asian convention alliance, where the proposed founding members are China, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.”
This alliance would help in developing more substantial lead generation, and work towards easing travel arrangements between member nations. Nichapa also proposed the concept of joint conventions, where member countries would take turns to host a rotating convention.
In addition, Nichapa revealed that TCEB has initiated a “very promising dialogue” with the Seoul Convention Bureau, and a conversation with Malaysia is next in line. She added she was looking forward to working with stakeholders in New Zealand and Australia as well in the near future.
Agreeing with the idea, Hiebl said: “I think there’s real opportunity for governments in Asia-Pacific to invest in start-up conferences, in particular industries that we specialise in. There’s also an opportunity for us to create events and not just attract events because the region is of a significant size, and (is home) to a large population.”