At the Wellness Tourism Summit’s debut last week, attendees in
Australia meditated on silver linings amid challenging times. For the
event organiser on the other hand, a break in the clouds came in the
form of virtual event technology — and the potential for next-level
The inaugural Wellness Tourism Summit was originally scheduled for
March this year, before the pandemic escalated and prompted summit
founder, Katherine Droga, to hit the drawing board.
“This month's virtual event was not to replace our face-to-face
event. It was an additional strategy for us, post-Covid, to engage with
our current Wellness Tourism Summit registered delegates, as well as a
broader new audience and ensure we add value and insights to the
industry and their businesses right now.”
Titled Wellness Travel Opportunities in a Changing World,
the virtual event kicked off with up-to-date data on consumer attitudes,
coupled with insights on the related tourism opportunities.
Audience engagement was palpable as the event presented fresh
perspectives on itineraries such as consultant Matt Sykes’ blueprint for
a Victoria hot springs trail, as well as nuanced approaches to
alleviating traveller anxiety as shared by cross-disciplinary speakers,
including psychologist Chris Mackey.
High tech can be high touch too
The downside often tied to virtual events is the lack of human touch and personalisation.
But lively chat-box discussions powered by Wellness Tourism Summit’s platform provider, HopIn,
proved otherwise. HopIn’s chat box sits on the same screen as the live
event stream, placing interactions right at attendees’ fingertips
throughout the event.
With attendees reacting to ongoing discussions in real-time (rather
than being limited to breakout sessions and networking slots), the
virtual platform arguably created more opportunities for like-minded
attendees and potential collaborators to find common ground.
For example, Sykes’ blueprint for a hot springs trail drew attention
from multiple attendees, among whom is a lodge operator in Victoria.
Requests for a list of indigenous tour operators also flooded the chat
box following a session with Julie Bishop, director of the Visitor
Experience Branch, NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Also giving the virtual event a sense of live participation was the
meditation session conducted by event partner, The Yoga Shell.
On how the organisers brought the feeling of wellness to a virtual
format, Droga said: “A key factor was to not create too much noise for
delegates attending the event on the event platform. Wellness should
bring calm and balance and we wanted to create this through our event
flow. The virtual meditation session we added to start the event also
helped delegates focus and get ready for the day. This was very well
By adapting to the current state of affairs and organising its first
virtual event, other unexpected upsides also materialised. Droga told M&C Asia:
“We were impressed with the reach of our virtual event and attracted
new people to our wellness tourism tribe from across the globe. This
represented 35 per cent of all attendees, which was great!”
How to better wield technology
Despite the event’s success with interactivity and engagement, there
were some missed opportunities when it came to networking. HopIn offers
nifty networking tools including user profiles and direct messaging
features — but these were absent from the Wellness Tourism Summit.
It is a shame as private direct messaging could mean the difference
between an expression of interest over chat, and the next step of
entering more concrete business discussions.
Meanwhile, there are aspects of technology that will continue to be
out of event planners’ hands. Finite hosting bandwidth, participant
internet speeds and other technology-related contingencies unfortunately
mean that an uninterrupted experience is hardly guaranteed when events
But the way organisers deal with such hiccups can make a big
difference to the event experience. In spite of streaming interruptions
at the Wellness Tourism Summit, organisers managed to keep up engagement
and a sense of continuity through advanced planning and live
Explaining how the team pulled it off, Droga said: “[We had] a plan
in place to share videos post-event and assured delegates that they
weren’t missing out. Having communications drafted beforehand to share
with delegates if technology issues arise is a great way to reduce the
stress, so that your focus can be to resolve the issue at hand.”
Is virtual the way to go?
Instead of sitting around weighing out the pros and cons of virtual
events, some planners have already gotten the ball rolling on hybrid
events, combining the best elements of staged events (the venue and
sense of live participation) and digital enablers (post-event streaming,
event apps with scheduling and social networking tools).
Although, a hybrid event has sometimes proven to be less than the sum
of its parts. The interactivity benefits that a chat-enabled stream
affords tend to be lost on face-to-face events, with participants having
to divide their attention between the physical stage/networking floor
and their devices.
Perhaps, more than whether an event is virtual or physical, the
success of an event boils down to content. As the Wellness Travel
Opportunities in a Changing World demonstrated, quality content that
speaks to the industry’s concerns and presents new ideas and
perspectives is what ultimately drives engagement.
The Wellness Tourism Summit plans to continue
bringing quality content and programming to participants. If things go
to plan, its inaugural face-to-face event will take place in Queensland,
Australia next year with a mix of global and local speakers. The
programme will include speaker sessions as well as one-on-one business