As Japan looks to re-emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has recalibrated its event safety protocols in a bid to boost its MICE industry.
“Exhibitions are important to the economy, and we believe that we should contribute to the economy by holding exhibitions while implementing thorough infection control measures,” the Japan Exhibition Association stated in a document titled ‘Exhibition Industry Guidelines for Preventing the Spread of Covid-19 Infection’.
However, tourists are not part of the relaxed border measures, which only extends to short-term business visitors, visa holders and foreign students.
Japan's business playbook
From 8 November, fully vaccinated business travellers from US, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and more than 60 other approved countries can enter Japan — subject to a three-day quarantine, down from the previous 10 days. Business travellers will also need to provide proof of vaccination at immigration.
Safety measures carried out at Japanese airports include transparent plastic screens at counters, temperature screening, safety distancing, optimum air ventilation, and disinfection, cleaning and sanitisation.
Travellers are additionally required to download the COCOA (Covid-19 Contact-Confirming Application) app on their smartphones, preferably before flying into Japan. The short-range communication function allows the app to detect other users’ smartphones which the user comes within a proximity of 1m for 15 minutes or more, and notify the user of any possibility of Covid-19 contact.
“For organisers who wish to hold events in Japan, do take note that all staff and attendees have to download this app for contact-tracing purposes,” said Felicia Lee, Japan travel and MICE specialist of Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) at a PCMA webinar on 10 November.
Lee also highlighted that event attendees and organisers should secure their own form of private transportation prior to arrival as they are not allowed to use public transportation.
Throughout their stay, travellers are encouraged to avoid close-contact setting, crowded places and closed spaces, dubbed the 3Cs as outlined by the Ministry of Health, Japan.
Observing Covid-19 best practices in events
Post Olympics, two key measures guiding Japan's recovery are: proof of full vaccination, and testing negative for Covid-19.
For instance, the government revised event guidelines on 19 November, which include lifting the four diners per table rule at F&B establishments, and removing the spectator cap at large-scale events.
The latter is however subject to a new system which checks if delegates are jabbed or test negative for the virus. Organisers must also adhere to the various venue's prefectural anti-virus plans, such as banning loud cheers.
Previously, Japan's MICE guidelines dictated a maximum capacity of 5,000 attendees at large-scale business events, or 50% of venue capacity, whichever is larger.
The new rules are expected to kick in starting late November.
Beyond wearing a mask at all times (from start of move-in, duration of the event and completion of move-out), event organisers, delegates and staff are encouraged to maintain a safe distance of two metres. According to JNTO's Lee, smaller venues can reduce this distance to one metre.
Other industry guidelines include:
• Temperature taking at entrances
• Contactless registration
• Acrylic panels or plastic shields at interaction points
• Pre-packed food or bento served at mealtimes
• Increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection within facilities
• Allocation of a room with first-aid facility for isolation of suspected Covid case
• Records of all attendees to be kept for at least three weeks after the event for contact-tracing purposes
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Japan has gone through numerous cycles of on-and-off state of emergencies, the most recent of which ended in September.
The first large-scale congress to happen amid Covid-19 was the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which took place from 7-12 March 2021, with more than 5,000 global participants — most of whom joined online, while a limited number attended in person at the Kyoto International Conference Centre.
With the updated MICE safety measures, Japan Exhibition Association is urging "organisers, venue managers/operators, supporting companies, exhibitors and visitors to acquaint themselves with prevailing conditions in the prefectures where events are set to take place.
"The content of these guidelines may be reviewed and revised as necessary based upon the advice of experts and changes in infection rates. We will strive to ensure that exhibitions can be held continuously by revising and recommending infection control measures that match the situation”.
Additional reporting by Natalie Joy Lee