The Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (PACEOS) has called on the government to prioritise business events, as it is the faster way to get the economy back on track.
“Nurturing MICE is actually a faster way of jumpstarting the economy rather than leisure tourists, because not only do you get tourism, you also get economy starters, catalysts for businesses to proceed,” PACEOS’ president Joel Pascual said in the webinar MICE In The Time of Pandemic Coping and Moving Forward hosted by the association recently.
Fellow panellist, SMX Convention Center’s vice president sales and marketing, Agnes Pacis, shared that she anticipates a 50 per cent reduction in the capacity of the eight SMX convention centres, as the venues will have to provide enough space to follow physical distancing.
She listed the new normal of heightened focus on the level of hygiene, sanitation and safety, including limiting the number of attendees at tradeshows; restricting the number of people in a lift to four persons; more plated events over buffet reception; cosier social events as the normal round table for 10 will be reduced to six pax; temperature testing; and provision of hand sanitisers throughout the facility.
On the hotel side, Hotel Sales and Marketing Association’s president Christine Urbanozo-Ibarreta said they have “to revisit our business direction” to determine how to manage room occupancies and rates under the new normal.
There’s also the need to ask the Departments of Tourism and Health to come up with protocols and guidelines to protect workers and participants of business events, Ibarreta said.
She noted that events, mainly large accounts, in the convention months of October and November were already cancelled and that large hotels in Metro Manila have a “very big problem” of zero revenue.
On a more optimistic note, Team Asia’s managing director Bea Lim said: “What I’d love the industry to do is to strengthen and nurture our virtual community. It’s not about when MICE bounces back, but what we in the industry can do now to ensure MICE is alive. We cannot wait for post-Covid-19; we have to bounce back now.”
For instance, as virtual and augmented reality have been trending for a few years now, Lim believes now is a “great time to experiment and make it happen”.
The digital technology aiding hybrid or virtual events has really taken off during the lockdown, which was extended from April 30 to May 15. For instance, one of these is tech platform Kumu, which offers live streaming using cellphones.
Lim also suggested having a government-run online platform to connect industry players so they can support each other.
However, overall, panellists could not ascertain when the sector will normalise, saying it depends on when the vaccine is invented.
Meanwhile, Karem Miranda, Tourism Promotions Board’s (TPB) acting head, MICE Department, expects the recovery of Philippine business events to be staggered, with the domestic component recovering first, followed by regional, and finally international events.