By Lauren Arena
The events industry in Hong Kong and Macau is battered and bruised – first by anti-government protests and now by the coronavirus – but many remain confident that the region will rebound quickly once borders reopen.
Here I speak to Bruno Simões, president of the Macau Meetings, Incentives and Special Events Association (MISE), and managing director of DOC DMC, about the industry’s future.
Tell us about the situation in Macau right now
As in many other markets, we’re in survival mode right now, however Macau’s situation in the region is quite expectational in terms of the outbreak. We’ve experienced very few cases and haven’t reported a new case for months.
Back in February the government decided to close casinos for two weeks, which was unprecedented, but everything is open now, including bars and clubs, and we haven’t experienced any movement restrictions.
We hope our positive track record with the virus, together with our position as a regional business hub, will bring us some competitive advantage during the recovery.
How is MISE supporting the business events during this difficult period?
We recently launched a series of webinars, which have received a very positive response. We even secured a couple of business leads from our first seminar earlier this month. Last week, we partnered with PCMA to host a webinar that shared insights into the realities of hosting virtual events.
We are also pushing local government to introduce some support measures for the industry. We will likely emulate initiatives from regional leaders such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Hong Kong is an important market for us, but, following the civil unrest of 2019, the industry is in bad shape. Most the of the partners with work with in Hong Kong are either bankrupt, closed or temporarily shut down.
How has China’s Greater Bay Area [an integrated economic and business hub linking Hong Kong, Macau and China’s Guangdong Province] and the promise of more multi-city meetings been affected by these back-to-back crises?
This is a very political project, and one that the Chinese government has been working on for many years. In a practical sense, not much has changed for the business events industry and rivalry between the three regions remains.
On a political level, issues remain with regards to transportation and visas, and new infrastructure, like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, is difficult to use.
This is a strategic project that is part of the larger Belt and Road initiative. In the future, I’m sure it will prove beneficial, but for now it exists only on paper. Therefore, I don’t see much of an impact as a result of the recent crises.
As the industry pivots to digital, what tech tools are you harnessing right now?
We mostly use Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Prior to the virus we were using Google products, but these are banned in Mainland China, so we took this occasion to move across to Microsoft, which works much better in China.
Amid the rise of virtual and hybrid meetings, what will the future hold for DMCs?
I believe many DMCs have evolved. They make sense that’s why they still exist. As long as there is need for local expertise, DMCs will continue to remain relevant and viable. In many destinations on-the-ground expertise this is still required.
While we expect to see more hybrid events, live participation will remain critical. In the last few months we’ve seen that virtual events are great for learning and knowledge exchange, but for business, especially in China, face-to-face meetings still preferred.
Bruno is president of the Macau Meetings, Incentives and Special Events Association (MISE) and managing director of DOC DMC, a destination management and PCO in Macau and Hong Kong.