The business events industry is being pushed to the brink during this pandemic, and will collapse without targeted financial assistance to shoulder the strain while waiting for industry reopening, the Malaysian Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (MACEOS) said in a press statement.
Under Malaysia’s National Recovery Plan (NRP) – a four-phase exit strategy out of the Covid-19 crisis – business events have been categorised as social activities. As such, these are only allowed to resume in Phase 4 of the plan, but that may be too late, said MACEOS president, Francis Teo.
He elaborated: “For the past 18 months of the lockdown, our industry players have not been able to organise events. The business events industry has also not received any dedicated financial assistance during this period. This lockdown may spell a final shutdown of the industry if the government doesn’t recognise our need to resume business and our contribution towards economic recovery.”
Teo opined that the time is ripe for business events to reopen, with 80 per cent of the adult population in Greater Klang Valley – Malaysia’s economic hub – has already been fully inoculated.
“There is huge potential to speed up the economic recovery process when these business events are allowed to operate. After such a prolonged crisis, the economy needs to be resuscitated, and these tradeshows, exhibitions, and conferences play a crucial role to invigorate businesses again,” said Teo.
When the pandemic hit, the business events industry was the first to be immensely affected with event postponements, cancellations, and eventually a total shutdown of the industry. Malaysia’s industry players reported revenue losses of RM4 billion (US$963,855) since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
In a July 2021 survey conducted among members, 55 per cent of respondents reported a drop in business revenue of more than 75 per cent. Without any business or financial assistance for the foreseeable future, industry players will continue to suffer.
“More than 50 per cent responded they would not be able to sustain their operating cash flow for more than three months. We anticipate a huge unemployment wave as a result,” Teo elaborated.
What’s needed is a strategic plan for the reopening of business events, Teo pointed out. MACEOS has been actively pushing for the reclassification of business events as an economic activity – as opposed to social activity – under the NRP.
Teo stressed: “Business Events cannot be compared to social mass gatherings. Our events take place in controlled and safe environments. Attendees can be guided and protected comprehensively with strict SOPs. MACEOS is ready and prepared to take the lead in implementing the gradual reopening of business events – first locally, then internationally – in a safe and secure manner.”
“But we can’t wait till Phase 4 to begin our recovery work. Unlike other businesses that can reopen and operate overnight, business events require up to a few months to plan and organise events. We need to be allowed to reopen in Phase 3 for fully vaccinated individuals at events with 50 per cent capacity and enable interstate travel to such events, abiding by the SOPs.”