Japan’s convention bureaus are working to increase the number of in-person attendees at their conferences even as key stakeholders in the country’s business events industry encourage greater uptake of technology for hybrid events in the short- and medium-term.
Japan hosted 3,620 international conferences in 2019, attended by almost two million people, but only 222 in 2020 – mostly in January and February before Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic.
With Japan adopting a slow approach to the return of inbound visitors, the country’s Council of Stakeholders for the Resumption and Development of Safe MICE has predicted a continued push for hybrid events and made recommendations to host cities to improve hybrid capabilities while encouraging more in-person attendance from overseas participants.
Asako Shiomi, a spokesperson of the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau, said: “We need to try harder to attract on-site attendees, otherwise we will lose the economic impact of MICE.”
She added that the bureau “is now making a new MICE strategy based on the current situation”.
Hironobu Fujimura, director of Business Events Tokyo at the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB), said it is “vital for Tokyo to attract large numbers of in-person participants when holding conferences in a hybrid format”.
To achieve this, TCVB will continue to develop engaging experiences and content for Tokyo to appeal to participants and increase in-person participation,” he shared.
However, TCVB expects hybrid events “to dominate for the time being,” he said, adding that a new Tokyo Metropolitan Government subsidy programme for hybrid conferences, which covers expenses for equipment related to live-streaming and recording, is “a driving force in encouraging the hybrid format for conferences”.
Although most destinations are expecting to reach or surpass their 2019 business event revenue by 2023, according to a recent survey of business events venues in three continents by the International Association of Conference Centers, Japan’s business events industry is expecting a slower recovery, perhaps with rebound in 2024 or 2025.