Online engagement continues to baffle event planners in Asia,
according to results of Northstar Meeting Group’s Asia Planner Pulse
More than 140 planners were surveyed in late 2020 and 68 per cent
identified attendee engagement as the biggest challenge in planning
virtual and hybrid events. This may be cause for concern as close to 30
per cent of planners reported the status of 2020 meetings and events as
“scheduled but moving to virtual platforms”.
Meanwhile, 22 per cent of events were cancelled and 37 per cent
postponed to 2021. While positive news surrounding vaccines for Covid-19
has buoyed the industry, uncertainty lingers over the speed of
distribution — especially now that destinations, like Thailand and
Japan, are experiencing renewed lockdown measures following a spike in
cases during the festive season.
Twenty-eight per cent of respondents said the earliest live events
being planned are for Q2 2021. Planners in the region also expect to see
smaller meetings (with approx. 250 delegates) and to plan more events
at resorts, signalling pent-up travel demand and the need to re-energise
and refresh teams once travel restrictions are lifted.
Nevertheless, to prepare for the 'new normal', 67 per cent reported
undertaking digital skills training for virtual and hybrid events.
Generally, planners expect hybrid meetings to lead the charge in
2021, with one respondent stating that even after the immediate threat
of Covid-19 has passed, lingering travel restrictions in countries that
are either "more cautious" or "more affected by the pandemic" could
curtail in-person event attendance.
"These restrictions will affect MICE event participation
significantly — and so will the repercussions from the economic crisis.
The latter will diminish the "pool" of MICE event attendees and
According to the survey, event planners are also gearing up to face the following challenges in 2021:
- Restoring trust among clients and prospective event attendees;
- Negotiating cancellation policies with venues and hotels;
- Battling the perception from clients that hybrid events are cheaper than a physical event;
- Encouraging team members to accept and embrace a 'new normal' instead of waiting for the return of 'the good ol' days'.
Interestingly, the pandemic has not dampened planners’ interest in
Southeast Asia, with little change in preferred destinations pre- and
post-Covid. The top five post-Covid destinations for events are:
Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia (respectively).