We explore how COVID-19 affected the MICE industry. Are new innovative technologies and digital solutions a permanent change or just a temporary fad?
COVID-19 has affected all aspects of the hospitality industry, from hotels and restaurants' closures to travel restrictions and cancellations of meetings and events. With an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, hospitality leaders and other industry leaders worldwide have been experimenting and adopting new technologies, digital solutions, and pivoting to online platforms. While keeping health and safety protocols in mind, industries have adopted "touchless" technologies that minimizing contact while maximizing care.
According to Meetings & Conventions Asia, the value of the global MICE industry was projected to hit US$1.4 trillion in 2025. However, with cancellations and postpones of meetings and events in 2020, numbers may look different. Pre- COVID-19, the MICE industry plays a significant factor in the growth of an economy. Stimulates tourism, especially during low season, and usually converts MICE travelers into leisure travelers. Meetings and conferences are critical platforms for building connections and partnerships, catalyzing business growth, content discovery, interest-based engagement, and driving economies forward. Traditionally in conferences, participants assemble in a hotel or events hall, includes lots of close contacts, members sitting together, sharing buffet, and networking and conversing in tight areas.
Conferences to festivals to sporting events have either been canceled or postponed due to travel and lockdown restrictions and the sake of public health. The global mega-event Expo 2020 Dubai postponed the event to October 2021 due to the virus's impact. Macao International Environment Forum & Exhibition, which is hosted annually, was canceled. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is delayed to 2021.
MICE industry leaders, planners, venues, tech visionaries, and vendors quickly shift many physical events to virtual events with innovation and creativity from tech start-ups and businesses.
How are MICE leaders and planners making an online event platform successful?
The meeting and event industry has presented planners with the opportunity to incorporate meaningful and useful powerful technologies and digital experiences into future events and conferences. Planners will be asked to get more involved in the production, digital marketing, and technical side. Global Sign.in provides technology for the events industry by educating customers and providing consultation for resources to guide meeting planners to transition live physical events to virtual ones. While still ensuring audience engagement, collaborating, and proper quality content, online platforms will provide live-streamed and pre-recorded conference content. To keep attendees engaged in a virtual setting, the content experience must be interactive with live Q&A, question upvoting, embedded presentations, collateral, speaker details, and more. Instead of passing a microphone among audience members for Q& A sessions, Sli.do is a system that allows users to submit a question through an online chat system. New tools enable attendees to network and schedule appointments with staff or exhibitors, explore and visit virtual booths, share real-time feedback and upcoming sessions. Sponsorship and exhibitors are critical to an event's success by using event technologies to enable the sponsor to manage their profiles to maximizes their ROI directly. Sponsorship having a virtual booth would create a welcome area to meet and greet attendees.
Entertainment marketing conference, PROMAX, which was to be held in Madrid around mid-March, was canceled due to the virus, and Spain went into lock-down. PROMAX planners decided to be part of a digital transition held PROMAX Virtual Experience on July 7 to 9. Staying connected as a community is essential during times like these. PROMOX featured parts of its conferences, such as keynote speeches, webinars, and conversations from industry leaders, exhibitors accessible to attendees online.
Marina Bay Sands launched the industry's first hybrid event broadcast studio design, Hybrid Broadcast Studio, offering live streaming capabilities, broadcast-qualities, and hologram functionalities. The studio's centerpiece is a three-dimensional stage designed to provide presenters with a better idea of their surroundings, visualizing and delivering presentations in an immersive environment. Instead of the green screen backdrop, two six-meter by four right angles. LED walls are in place, showing 360-degree visuals. Currently, Marina Bay Sands offers three virtual conferencing options: virtual webcasting and live-streaming events; hybrid events with an in-person and maximum capacity of 50 person audience; hybrid events with holographic telepresence. Event technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Extended Reality (XR) are incorporated in the studio. On October 1st, Web In Travel (WIT) was the first travel hybrid event. Not only was it the first pilot hybrid event but the first global conference to stream live from MBS's Hybrid Broadcasting studio.
Virtual events and webinars will be a more significant part of the MICE industry as audiences can be reached online digital platforms when COVID-19 subsides. If physical conferences were to reopen, it would look differently. Following the country's health and safety protocol by wearing masks, social distancing, and monitoring the density of meetings, hand sensitization are placed around event halls—mitigation measures such as spacing out furniture, replacing paper handouts with digital ones. Instead of buffets, caters will provide people with individually boxed lunches. Providing extra space for networking.
Now is the best time for tech start-ups and companies to adopt new digital solutions and technology for planners and attendees' needs and recover and prepare for the new normal in the MICE industry.
While we see new technologies and digital solutions developed during this time, is it an innovative permanent change or a temporary fad in the meetings and events industry?
Things won't go back to normal for a while. Without the vaccine and following proper health and safety guidelines, psychological fear lingers within people. Attending a conference is not worth the risk.
In a post-pandemic world, Bill Gates predicted remote meetings would be the new normal. People would think twice if it's necessary to physically attend a meeting or visit a doctor when the same objective can be reached virtually. He also predicted that since people are using technology and various software, the online experience will get better and quickly innovate with the software. The dramatic acceleration caused by the global pandemic leaped five years forward in consumer, digital implementation, and innovative technology in the course of 8 weeks. Hybrid events will replace the need for attendees and delegates to travel. However, the downside of hybrid meetings than physical events is to network with new people at random, so businesses send employees to conferences. Digital technologies won't completely replace the overall meeting and conference experience but will be enhanced and improved. Online digital events are the new normal and innovative permanent change in the meetings and events industry.
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