The impact of COVID-19 on the MICE industry is nothing short of catastrophic. But in its wake, the pandemic left valuable lessons that served as opportunities in reinventing and improving events in a post-pandemic era.
As part of its inaugural annual Halal in Travel Global Summit 2021, CrescentRating gathered top personalities from around the world for its conference session titled ‘How will the MICE Segment Adapt to the Pandemic Impact’.
The virtual activity went live on July 27 with Indonesia, Singapore Tourism Board Area Director Mohamed Firhan Abdul Salam as its moderator.
Its panelists include Edward Liu, Managing Director of Conference & Exhibition Management Services / CEMS; Nasser Deeb, director of Halal Expo Canada; Noor Ahmad Hamid, Chief Operating Officer of Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau; and Mamadou Ndiaye, Chief Executive Officer of Appsaya.
Even if the public health crisis has given birth to new forms of socializing, face-to-face interactions are bound to return, underscoring the value of physical events not only on a personal level but also in socioeconomic terms.
In a recent white paper titled Reimagining Business Events through COVID-19 and Beyond, jointly published by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau (SECB), Singapore Tourism Board (STB), and UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry), members of the event industry are now more upbeat on their hopes to resume business compared in the past months.
“Overall, optimism has continued to grow, with 69 percent of event planners and 64 percent of suppliers feeling hopeful in June, compared to less than 50 percent of both types of respondents in January,” portions of the report stated.
MICE experts during the conference all agreed that face-to-face events will still prevail once the pandemic will be suppressed and further downgraded as an endemic, albeit in a new and better way.
“It is human nature that we need to meet, whether our friends, families, and business colleagues. And face-to-face interaction is something that is irreplaceable. That is without a doubt, and without a question,” Ahmad said.
And while a full-blown resumption of the business events industry is yet to come to fruition, they stressed the need for players to take note, reflect, analyze and learn from the crisis so they could reshape and improve moving forward.
“The limitations in the pandemic really taught us a lot,” added Ahmad.
Similar to how living organisms survive, businesses engaged in MICE must also learn how to adapt to changes around them. And the rapid changes society underwent during the pandemic were reminders themselves.
Possessing skills for adaptation enables event organizers to be more flexible to respond to unforeseen developments, and to some extent - jump on new opportunities that could contribute to growth.
For one, members of the MICE sector are advised to prepare for a surge in demand for experiences based on real and actual connections like trade shows, a slight departure from the dominant virtual activities.
“People are tired. People are tired of being at home, in lockdown. Everything is affecting that. So, I think the way it is going to be is there will be more interactions in terms of travel and the MICE industry. There will be some complementary aspects like digital platforms but actual trade shows will never be replaced,” said Deeb.
For the events industry, the COVID-19 stressed the importance of having the right kind of innovation in order to thrive during times of uncertainty and volatility.
“We are looking for the right technologies, the right features that would enable the exhibitors to have effective communication or connect with the trade buyers,” said Liu.
Ndiaye also shared Liu’s sentiments and attributed this as the factor for Appsaya’s success.
Appsaya, a Kuala Lumpur-based start-up, is a business matchmaking online platform for event organizers.
Its CEO shared during CrescenRating's conference session that identifying what their clients are looking for during the pandemic ultimately prevented them from closing down.
“Let’s start from the customer. We should build technologies and provide solutions that meet the customers' needs,” Ndiaye explained.
Things are indeed looking bright for the events industry as it sets to return to pre-pandemic levels.
But experts believed organizers and delegates must apply the best practices they implemented in coping with the crisis to improve events in the future.
“This pandemic, as I have said, may be really unprecedented but it has provided us the opportunity to move forward, in a better way, for the Ummah,” Ahmad said.
Putting significance on health and hygiene protocols is highly encouraged moving forward.
Executing hybrid types of conventions, which refer to a mix of online and offline segments, was also suggested as a new and maybe, a better way of boosting conversions.
“I personally believe in (the value of) physical trade shows but we can only do a good hybrid show provided we have a good physical trade show. The two can go together but if we can help solve the problem in getting effective communication and engagement between the exhibitors and visitors, then I guess there’s a good chance that virtual show will play an important part in the new normal,” explained Liu.
Learn more about insights on the future of the MICE industry straight from our panelists by clicking the video below.
Check out similar webinars, insights, and opinions from experts worldwide on what the future of Muslim travel holds in CrescrentRating’s Halal in Travel - Global Summit 2021 by clicking this link.