By Rod Kamleshwaran from Gaining Edge

In this second article, Gaining Edge’s Rod Kamleshwaran reports on which destinations are now open and how they are handling the return of the MICE sector. He writes that for now under 10 destinations with effective suppression of the virus are fully open for large-scale events with no capacity limits. Others, thankfully, aren’t far behind.

Reliant on travel and large gatherings, the MICE sector is considered high-risk during the pandemic and remains mostly shut. 41 EU countries have open borders for travel, yet events are restricted.

Covid-19 continues to intensify in many emerging and developing economies. Borders in over 100 destinations including Canada, Australia and India remain completely closed.

A consensus is emerging that even with our optimism for a vaccine we will not be covid-free before 2022. We face a long transition phase that is uncertain and volatile before we reach the “New Normal”.

Which destinations are open for MICE events?

It is estimated that over 40 countries are open for events but most have capacity limits and other restrictions.

Country From Capacity
China May no size limit
Taiwan May no size limit
Hong Kong May no size limit
Korea May no size limit
New Zealand May no size limit
Malaysia June up to 250 people
Thailand June no size limit but maximum 20,000 sqm.
Japan June up to 5000 people
Netherlands July no size limit but subject to social distancing
Germany September no size limit but subject to social distancing
United Kingdom October no size limit but subject to social distancing
Singapore October up to 250 people
UAE October subject to social distancing

 

What does MICE activity look like in the open destinations?

Destinations that are widely open are those that have covid under control. Even then, they face the risks of second waves of infections and re-imposition of lockdowns.

China and South Korea have returned by hosting major domestic construction and automotive expos of 62,000 and 45,000 visitors respectively.

First in, first out of covid, China, supported by the world’s largest domestic market, is clearly leading the return of the MICE sector in terms of level of activity. Shenzhen World alone has hosted numerous events with total visitors through its door since covid nearing 1 million.

Supported by large domestic catchments, consumer expos are leading the return, modestly supported by trade expos. Government and NGO events are also showing good form. Local corporate meetings and conventions are only just gaining confidence. Confidence for international conventions is unlikely until vaccination, treatment or effective suppression is achieved. Open borders alone will not restore confidence for the cautious international consumer.

Some of the high profile expos on reopening include:

  • The 2020 Hunan Auto Show, April 20 – May 5 with 62,000 visitors, daily cap 8000 – held at the Hunan International Convention and Exhibition Center, China
  • MBC Construction Expo, May 8-11, with 45,000 visitors – KINTEX, Korea
  • The 98th Hong Kong Wedding Fair, May 22-24, 400 booths and daily cap of 3000 visitors – Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong
  • Taiwan International Stationery Fair, July 3-6, with over 10,000 visitors – Taipei World Trade Center, Taiwan

Germany has led Europe’s return of large scale events with the Caravan Salon Expo held September 5-13 at Messe Dusseldorf attracting 107,000 visitors with a daily cap of 20,000. This is seen as the first large-scale expo with regional attendance.

Venues in these markets are writing the playbook for hosting in-person events in a pandemic with extensive new protocols like pre-registration, temperature checks, face masks, gloves, elevated hygiene, social distancing, and density monitoring.

Virtual and hybrid events are filling some of the void. It is difficult to determine how much demand for virtual events is driven by the free access, try-out, lack of physical options, and downtime. Drop out rates on virtual events are high, but surely the consumer behaviour being acquired will help rapid improvement of digital platforms.

China’s Canton Fair in June was the first large-scale expo held entirely on a virtual platform supported by Tencent. It attracted 25,000 virtual exhibitors but closed with mixed reviews.

Virtual platforms probably have a one-year window to enhance their offer as a serious commercial option to allow it to retain a fair share of the gains made during covid-normal.

Click here to read Rod’s first article in this series. And for further information contact Rod Kamleshwaran from Gaining Edge on rod@gainingedge.com.