After a year of virtual meetings, the industry is definitely ready to return to in-person sessions, but hybrid events are here to stay, according to the Seoul Convention Bureau (SCB).
SCB recently announced long-term plans to transform the industry into a hybrid model, which the bureau believes will be the global standard in a post-Covid era.
These plans will support both face-to-face and screen-to-screen business interactions, with the destination also stepping up its Information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, while enforcing ongoing stringent quarantine measures for in-person events — factors SCB have pegged behind the success of going hybrid.
When the pandemic first hit, Seoul came up with a series of what has now become "permanent gears" — or support systems to make it easier for events to resume safely.
This includes the PLUS SEOUL support programme with a lowered minimum number of participants to access funding; booking Infection-free Zones which are sanitised throughout an event; or the Reassuring Package, which includes safety services such as emergency medical insurance, language services, general hotel concierge services and transportation reservations.
Most recently, SCB introduced the Virtual Seoul Playground, a gamified 'metaverse' for virtual team-building.
Last month, SCB became the first in Asia to join the Hybrid City Alliance — joining fellow convention bureaus in Hague, Geneva, Prague, Ottawa, and Durban in offering a one-stop-shop contact point for multi-hub hybrid meetings.
Making it more attractive for planners to plan virtual and hybrid meets in Seoul are the rounds of financial support available.
When booking the Virtual Seoul Playground for instance, 3D graphics come as a complimentary add-on, while up to KRW$10 million (US$8,900) is also given as a stipend for operating expenses.
SCB is also looking to pull international traffic back to Seoul. Event planners looking to bring global conferences to town can expect easier
funding application requirements, while receiving customised support throughout. This includes consultation, official supporting letters, presentation tips and a maximum of KRW$200 million during the hosting phase.
Exhibitions go hybrid
On the exhibitions front, SCB is in the midst of developing a strategic growth plan to speed up hybrid and zero-contact measures — with the eventual goal of executing an international exhibition comparable to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas.
A total of 34 exhibition organisers will be selected for each stage and provided support of up to KRW$80 million. Consulting services in international marketing and IT technology will also be provided to assist with the transition to a hybrid format.
The Korea Exhibition Organizers Association has also stepped in to help build an online platform for the event.
Looking ahead, the SCB said it is confident in gaining "an increased level of global competitiveness" within the local exhibition sector.