A recent research by Maria Arlene T. Disimulacion, associate professor at Manila’s Far Eastern University, analysed the future directions of MICE tourism during and after COVID-19.
“MICE generates foreign exchange, increases trade and investments, provides employment, boosts local economies, and promotes destinations. The major key to its success is the strong collaboration with the travel, hospitality, and leisure sectors that provide products and services for the industry,” she wrote.
“Therefore, any disruption along its value chain may lead to significant losses for its stakeholders: organizers, participants, suppliers, sponsors, and host destinations. Although the industry is resilient, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) may be the definitive crisis that will reset any previous gains from a formerly robust tourism industry.”
For instance, the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) changed completely during the pandemic.
Despite the disruption brought about by COVID-19, the paper argues that stakeholders can gain from the use of ICT when the technology is matched with objectives of sustainability, engagement and collaboration. “To remain relevant in the dynamic, interconnected, fragmented MICE environment, stakeholders must revisit the guidelines issued in response to the pandemic [...] This may refer to an optimal combination of face-to-face and virtual techniques for competitive advantage that may result in improved revenues and profits.”
Disimulacion believes that new conceptual frameworks, innovative formats and replicable business models may help stakeholders navigate MICE post COVID-19. She is not the only one.
IAPCO’s survey on the impacts of COVID-19 shows that almost the totality of members (95%) have been offering virtual meetings to replace physical ones.
Also, 57% of them advised that up to 25% of their congresses or meetings remain virtual or hybrid for this year.
According to 38% of respondents, hybrid meetings will increase at least by 25% of current levels next year, while physical meetings will decrease by 10-25%.
IAPCO member Barbara Calderwood wrote: “Fully virtual congresses may be the engagement technique that associations must embrace right now for their business resilience, but hybrid will surely be the blended congress solution of choice for their robust recovery and growth beyond the immediate impact of COVID-19.”
“Never has there been a more important moment in time for PCOs to demonstrate to associations the full force of their value proposition. We are key in supporting associations with the redesign of their congresses to fit the digital space and in driving engagement with their customers for effective business resilience and growth.”
A new article in the Singapore Business Review says hybrid events are arising in the current post-pandemic era.
For instance, Sino Elite MICE Services is working on technologies for cloud conferences and digital conference solutions. Their clients would previously invite 300 to 600 people and now more than 1,000. “Since the outbreak, we found that previously developed technologies no longer meet the needs of clients,” chairman and CEO Martin Zhao told Singapore Business Review.
Other digital innovations include: virtual scanning for hotels, e-banking for restaurants, AI in venues and smart identification in airports.
To take a step ahead, let’s try to imagine: facial recognition technologies that could read facial expressions in conference rooms and give organisers a better understanding of how their attendees are feeling, real-time translation services through apps, data powered by AI used to match them with like-minded individuals.
Of course, changes won’t come without challenges. One example is data integration and tool fragmentation. “I see bigger events invest a lot of budget into custom design and attempts to extend and increase the attendee experience,” Steen Tromholt, CEO of Conferize, told The Meeting Magazine. “Usually things look good, but the digital design extending the event experience is usually lacking. The reason is: It’s hard.”
But we all look for immersive experiences. As Daniel Newman wrote already four years ago in Forbes, “We live in an age where people want to experience everything. We want to get the most out of life. We want to be immersed in the story, feel like we’re ‘living’ the story, not just reading it. By making your community the main character, and having a keen understanding of what your customers want, you will be able to include them in the story, in the experience, you are trying to tell and sell.”
It may seem like a futuristic scenario, and it is exactly what will reward destinations that are better prepared.
Cvent also made it clear: “It pays to think like a futurist when tech is involved. Innovations like facial recognition pave the way for better experiences, and this includes MICE events. Not only does it make them more engaging, but it also simplifies the event organisation process and gives both the hotel and event planner a better way to collaborate. Meeting planners and attendees expect the same level of technology in their event experiences.”
A joint evolution between buyers and suppliers will be born. In the future, any association will favor a destination that is better prepared technologically, as the destination itself can select the savviest association to host in its space. We are here to see what will happen next.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.