Asia brews a bigger pot of MICE alliances

Signatories of the ACA signing
  • Asia see the birth of another regional MICE alliance
  • Two major MICE powerhouses, Hong Kong and Singapore are absent
  • Other established alliances welcome ACA with open arms

When four Asian convention bureaus and an association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on September 2, veteran business events players may have felt a sense of déjà vu: yet another trans-national business events alliance?

The Asia Convention Alliance (ACA), mooted by Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA), includes founding members Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), Seoul Tourism Organization (STO) and Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA).

Signatories of the virtual ACA signing last week

Although ACA is not yet a formal body, it signifies the founders’ collaborative intention. TCEB is currently the central contact point, but all members will work together as detailed in the MoUs.

“We primarily focus on driving business among member territories. While each member has its governing body to address development in MICE, this ACA initiative is a team working to formulate new/existing convention rotation within Asia. CVBs/DMOs that share a similar vision can join,” said Nichapa Yoswee, TCEB’s senior vice president – business.

Currently, the three MoUS are between TCEB and STO; TCEB and MyCEB; and TICA and TAITRA. These bilateral partnerships will enable respective parties to focus on creating or rotating convention(s) between their territories, but this could be extended to other members.

Nichapa elaborated: “Beyond the first counterparty, founding members are encouraged to engage with one another and set up additional bilateral partnerships under ACA. This pattern is, and will remain, a key attribute of the Alliance. In addition to business exchange, ACA is also designed as a knowledge exchange platform upon which members gather to share best practices and propose ideas.”

ACA’s first roundtable is expected to take place in 1Q2022.

ACA formation largely welcome
Veteran business events stakeholders spoke positively of the formation of ACA.

Edward Liu, AFECA honorary president, said: “The formation of ACA is indeed a good initiative, given the current difficulties faced by the MICE industry and global economy. Any effort to work together to bring about a revival of the industry is most welcome.

“(But) to be effective, ACA must have the eventual endorsement and support of the respective convention bureaus in the region.”

Industry observer Lloyd Tan commented: “The formation of ACA is in the right direction, provided it remains committed as an authoritative voice for the convention market to benefit PCOs. It should forge partnerships for business opportunities to serve the wants, interests and needs of the project and not look at self-interest. This will differentiate it from established bodies which are more exhibition-centric.”

On why TICA has joined the alliance, Sumate Sudasna, its president, explained: “As TICA works closely with TCEB, we believe the ACA approach is quite visionary and will be beneficial given that all parties mobilise events – more specifically conventions – from their end, and with alliance partners. As a private-sector partner, TICA considers this a privilege to be involved in the alliance which is inspired to bring tangible results for all.”

However, Hong Kong and Singapore are conspicuously absent from ACA’s slate.

Nichapa said: “The MoU signing ceremony was to announce the earlier agreements between founding members and invite others, albeit we recognise and respect the fact that CVBs/DMOs have their own priorities and direction. While adding more members is a continuous work-in-progress, we wish to focus on the four destinations of the five founding members at this early stage.”

Whither other alliances like AFECA and AACVB?
Juxtaposed with long-established bodies like AFECA (Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations) and AACVB (Asian Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus), Nichapa said ACA’s core business is driving and bringing more conventions to the region, as well as rotations within Asia.

“We work on tangible business exchange from one member to another, with solid interest from the organiser. We support each other in cross-selling destinations when it comes to potential conventions with possible rotation within the region,” she said.

Established in 2005, AFECA’s mission is to “promote and enhance the MICE industry in Asia”, its website indicates.

In welcoming the “new kid”, Vincent Lim, AFECA president, said: “I offer my heartiest congratulations to MyCEB, TCEB, TICA, TAITRA and STO for the announcement on forming the ACA. AFECA supports this initiative because it serves to bring industry stakeholders closer together and boost regional collaboration during a challenging season.

“An AFECA core value is promoting and developing the growth of the MICE and business events industry in Asia. As such, this strategic alliance formation is applauded. We encourage collaborations to create synergy between partners and new opportunities, while fostering friendship among stakeholders in this industry that we are all championing.”

Meanwhile, AACVB, founded in 1983, has fluctuated between action and hibernation over the past four decades. Its latest awakening was in August 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, when MyCEB offered to formally register AACVB in Malaysia and host its office in Kuala Lumpur. At press time, it is still “in the process of registering”.

“We are in the midst of discussions and (are waiting for) approval from Registrar of Societies and hopefully it will be done in due time,” shared a spokesperson from MyCEB, without confirming if AACVB still aimed to bring business events to Asia and support development of MICE capabilities, as stated previously.

In July 2019, Singapore and four other South-east Asian MICE associations (Indonesia Exhibition Companies Association, Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS), Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers, and TICA) signed an MoU, with an espoused focus on research and HR development, but not much has been heard since.

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