Strong indications of growth in Asia-Pacific's business events industry

WHILE the global business events industry continues to suffer from border closures and travel restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

A white paper released on Monday, titled "Reimagining business events - Through Covid-19 and beyond", noted that business events are resuming, with plans for in-person events in 2021 and 2022 in the works.

Revenues are also picking up, with the exhibitions industry expected to register global revenues that are 106 per cent higher than 2020 figures, with regions also set to see significant growth from last year.

The white paper was put together by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), and The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI).

A survey conducted by PCMA in January this year, however, found that one in four planners and 31 per cent of suppliers were willing to travel any distance needed if the programme was worth it.

And for those who attended a recent physical event, 63 per cent of planners and 77 per cent of suppliers said it was worth the extra precautions and safety measures, and they would be willing to do so again.

The white paper also discussed the need for event organisers and attendees to learn how to navigate digital spaces. The report noted that there is a "stronger appetite" for digital or hybrid events in Asia, with respondents more than twice as likely to have participated in such events compared to those from other regions.

Visitors from Asia are significantly more likely to convert from attending a new event digitally to attending in person in the future - 64 per cent of them felt this way, compared to 48 per cent of respondents from the rest of the world.

During a panel discussion organised by Singapore MICE Forum (SMF) and IBTM Wired to launch the white paper, online events and other digital solutions were cited as opportunities for growth.

Veemal Gungadin, chief executive officer of GlobalSign.In and virtual event platform GEVME, said the digital component of events is "here to stay".

"Attendees, sponsors and exhibitors are starting to see and extract value out of that, and as organisers and event owners, we have to now start to learn how to best utilise the digital component," he said.

But organisers and suppliers will have to navigate new questions and challenges in the digital and hybrid environment.

For example, the panel noted that content offerings that may have been enticing in on-site environments might lose some appeal when presented online.

Businesses will therefore have to pivot and look for ways to retain interest in a digital format, according to the white paper. Additionally, businesses that used to focus on physical metrics, such as the size of a venue, may have to realign to other metrics.

In response to questions about ticketing and the monetisation of online content, Mr Gungadin suggested that brands consider subscription models where subscribers can gain access to premium content, or a series of events.

On the whole, the white paper stressed that the vast changes and disruption caused by the pandemic are likely to remain for good.

STB chief executive Keith Tan said the pandemic has emphasised the need to innovate and be nimble in the business events sector.

"This journey of transformation is not a sprint, but a marathon that extends beyond the pandemic," he said. "As Singapore gradually scales up our capacity for larger business events, we hope that resources such as this white paper will continue to guide our local Mice industry to build new capabilities and reimagine the future of business events."

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