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A big question remains for business events

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Speakers on stage at a MICE Forum in Macao this week
An industry gathering in Macao this week was told one serious question the business events industry had to address was how to attract and retain Generation Z, its future leadership.

More than 200 people attended the Sands Resorts’ Rediscover Macao mega-familiarisation at their newest resort, The Londoner Macao, which is complete with Big Ben outside and Crystal Palace inside.

Two international panels of industry experts at the MICE Forum discussed innovation and technology for event professionals as well as talent retention and motivation.

The Forum heard that as little as 10 per cent of hospitality graduates remained in the industry after graduating. The audience included students from the local Macao Institute for Tourism Studies. When asked from the stage how many of the students would remain in the industry after graduation, only a few hands went up.

Other panellists, drawn from Asian, European and American industry sectors, suggested COVID had affected the younger generation who no longer wanted to work full time. They said Gen Z preferred a regular 9-5 job compared with the business events industry which presented staff with long hours and constant new challenges to solve.

But an Australian audience member mentioned the elephant in the room: the salary young people were expected to accept, suggesting it was a large part of the failure to attract and retain staff who often went into higher paid IT, engineering or finance roles.

Solutions mentioned included mentor/menteeship programs, rethinking the approach to internships in the sector and seeking staff cross-industry because many skills, such as the soft skills that underpin engagement with clients in the hospitality sector, were usually found in other industries mid-level employees.

On a brighter note, the other panel shared examples of both artificial intelligence solutions in use and the latest advances in hybrid events, including a recent live event staged across two countries using hologram technology that was not discernible to those who did not know that one of the panellists was being beamed in from thousands of miles away. The only challenge was getting the furniture in the two studios to match.

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