MICE industry players in Macau are investing in digital tech solutions to spur the recovery of meetings and events amid the re-opening of borders with China.
The Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), for instance, launched online seminars for local entrepreneurs on brand competitiveness, preparing them for the Macao Franchise Expo 2020, happening from 22 to 24 October at the Venetian Macao. Two other concurrent events will proceed at the venue: the 25th Macao International Trade and Investment Fair, and the Portuguese-Speaking Countries Products and Services Exhibition (Macao) 2020.
“Given China’s success in controlling the pandemic and the containment here in Macau, we’re expecting growth in the MICE market to emerge from the mainland," said Daniella Tonetto, general manager, sales & marketing, Sheraton Grand Macao and The St. Regis Macao.
Local confidence driving events
While the Government has yet to approve large-scale events, Rutger Verschuren, president of the Macau Hotel Association, said a strong sense of community spirit has spurred the return of small events.
“No one is really nervous about gathering, so that’s an advantage,” he said. “Informal gatherings started in late August, local meetings of about 30 pax are also coming back – we are opening very cautiously.”
Local event companies have also quickly pivoted business strategies, investing in new technologies and diversifying services. “We’re ready to do hybrid events,” said Bruno Simões, managing director of event management companies smallWORLD Experience, and DOC DMC Macau.
“We’re also creating virtual event manuals so we can relay the message that once [event planners] are ready, we have the right expertise.”
To support MICE companies affected by the pandemic, IPIM created a 24-hour hotline for enquiries and, in August, hosted the Committee for the Development of Conventions to exchange ideas on ways to promote Macau as a safe destination to the international market.
“We’re organising MICE training workshops online, inviting consultants and senior practitioners to share their knowledge on how to respond to the current pandemic, covering issues such as hybrid events, AI applications for business events, and crisis management planning,” said an IPIM spokesperson.
Preparations are also ongoing for various events in the second half of 2020, including the 11th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum from 2 to 3 December, and Guangdong and Macao Branded Products Fair 2020 from 11 to 13 December.
What are industry players saying?
Still, coupled with the US-China tensions, China promoting subsidised travel within the mainland, and the strain Covid-19 has placed on the economy, Macau’s trade players understand that visitors may not want to travel so soon.
What Verschuren has seen is local businesses lobbying the government to relax restrictions on gathering, while players like Simões are calling for greater collaboration to ensure Macau’s offering remains fresh.
The veteran hotelier also believes that once borders open, “offers to travel into Macau will be better than ever, and by October, we should see business-related visits and day trippers coming in”.
Integrated Resorts, Sands China shares the same sentiments.
"As restrictions are eased and cross border travel is permitted, we remain hopeful with the MICE demand from China. As pockets of the industry begin to recover, we are starting to see traveller behaviour adapt to the new
normal. China is presenting some great opportunities in MICE with the opportunity to stimulate the entire travel ecosystem," shared Kris Kaminsky, senior VP, hotel operations of Sands China.
“To be more attractive in the incentive travel segment, Macau needs key ingredients like unique and historical venues, shows, off-site restaurants and unique experiences. Macau MICE stakeholders need to work together and make this happen,” Simões said.