Last November, Singapore hosted the Industrial Transformation ASIA PACIFIC (ITAP) event. With around 11,000 attendees, it was not only the destination’s biggest in-person business event since the easing of Covid restrictions, but it was also an opportunity to showcase the value of collaboration.
For the event, Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) partnered technology companies such as Trakomatic and Viatick to develop the Safe Event Tool (SET), ensuring the safety of events through contactless check-ins and contact tracing, while also gathering meaningful and targeted data to drive more engagement.
Richard Ireland, SACEOS president, says collaboration and partnership have been the trump cards for the MICE industry during the pandemic, and will be even more important as events open up again.
The industry – both locally, regionally and globally – has come together over the past two years through sharing experiences, knowledge, data and resources.
Richard Ireland, president, SACEOS
“The industry – both locally, regionally and globally – has come together over the past two years through sharing experiences, knowledge, data and resources,” he says. “This has been vital in helping the global MICE industry not just survive, but to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”
From a practical point of view, Ireland highlights how the insights, learnings and experiences of those regions that have already reopened for MICE such as the US, Europe and Middle East, will be valuable as Asia follows suit.
Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), says that collaboration does not ‘come out of nowhere’. “It is the result of being responsible and understanding,” he says.
“The world has experienced new areas of development – digitalisation, the metaverse, plant-based protein,” he says. “It’s a new area for MICE to play a role in. To be successful, collaboration with related players or industry peers to deliver on these developments is of high importance.”
Technology too has been a strong focus for TCEB with regards to collaboration. It has worked with National Innovation Agency (NIA), Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Thai Exhibition Association (TEA) and Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA) to encourage technology entrepreneurs to develop solutions enabling health-compliant events.
The world has experienced new areas of development – digitalisation, the metaverse, plant-based protein. It’s a new area for MICE to play a role in.
Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau
This collaboration led to the establishment of market platform ‘MICE Techno Mart’ for technology entrepreneurs and organisers to pair up for business, resulting in 21 events being successfully held in Thailand in 2021, where technology solutions were used for hygienic purposes of the events.
Finding a common voice
There’s little doubt of the immense potential that can be gained from collaboration. So why isn’t the events industry doing more of it? For Kai Hattendorf, CEO of UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibitions and Business Events Industry, it’s more a case of the events industry playing catch-up.
When the pandemic struck, many industries knew how to “raise their voice”, talk to policymakers, ask for support and receive it. The global events industry struggled to do this, as it had no common voice. Until now, that is.
This served as a wake-up call: the Joint Meetings Industry Council stepped up and united the leaders of the industry behind a joint narrative for our industry, resulting in the JMIC Global Manifesto.
Kai Hattendorf, CEO, UFI
“This served as a wake-up call: the Joint Meetings Industry Council stepped up and united the leaders of the industry behind a joint narrative for our industry, resulting in the JMIC Global Manifesto,” he says.
“JMIC also established itself as the global umbrella association for our industry, which now works with the United Nations’ UNFCCC [Framework Convention on Climate Change] and facilitated the “Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative”, giving our industry a seat at the table at COP26.”
UFI is now one of a number of business events associations which has jointly established an advocacy bureau in Washington DC, to foster dialogue with US lawmakers.
Francis Teo, president of the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS), points to how MACEOS also joined forces with other associations to make its joint voices heard by the authorities.
“Two of the industry associations that were formed were Unite and Federation of Malaysia Business Associations, MACEOS is one of the founding members for both associations,” he says. He believes that within Asia in particular, different destinations have varying skill sets, making the need for collaboration more pressing and attractive.
“We should collaborate within the ASEAN countries – as a region we share similarities,” he says. “We need more promotion to showcase ASEAN as one market. We have the connectivity of Singapore, the mass market of Indonesia, the diversity of Malaysia and the resilience of Thailand. Each partner country has its strength and we should leverage this.”
We need more promotion to showcase ASEAN as one market... Each partners country has its strength and we should leverage this.
Francis Teo, president, Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers
Kim Suk Il, deputy director, MICE planning & management team at Korea Tourism Organisation, says that following Covid-19, the scope and importance of collaboration has grown.
“Existing MICE functions, such as networking and information sharing continue to be carried out in a rapidly changing environment, leading to innovation in event structure, but these also have to show increased respect for environmental protection and diversity,” he says.
He recognises that as collaboration expands, it may produce more work and that in the short term, revenue may decrease due to these increased costs. But in a world of ever greater uncertainty, expanding collaboration is the only way some industries can move forward.
It is most important for all members involved to share common values.
Kim Suk Il, deputy director, MICE planning & management team, Korea Tourism Organisation
"It is most important, however, for all members involved to share common values,” he says. With that as the base, individual entities will each be able to share their own innovative achievements and work together towards a more improved MICE industry.”
From local food businesses supplying the catering, to audiovisual experts enhancing keynotes, to hotels and conference venues providing space, the events sector, by default, is one of the most collaborative industries on this planet. As events return post-pandemic, collaborative models have shifted up a gear, offering the industry a common voice to effect change and make a difference.
With more insights, knowledge and data than ever before across the MICE industry, the challenge for businesses is to decipher and adapt this insight to meet their customers’ needs.