Love in the face of adversity

The Covid-19 pandemic has crippled meetings across China, but industry stakeholders have chosen to tackle the crisis with kindness

Wuhan Eurasia Convention International Hotel stepped in to house medical teams from Guangzhou and Zhejiang that had rushed to help Wuhan battle the outbreak

As public and private gatherings are suspended in China under strict government orders, along with a freeze on domestic and international transport, in a desperate fight to curb the spread of the highly infectious Covid-19 virus, China’s meetings industry players found themselves stripped of business and sources of revenue for the immediate future.

Wuhan Eurasia Convention International Hotel stepped in to house medical teams from Guangzhou and Zhejiang that had rushed to help Wuhan battle the outbreak

Amid their struggle for business survival, many of China’s meetings specialists have opted to respond with compassion and generosity by volunteering their time and resources to help their city, province and country in the battle against the pandemic.

ICCA China members are among those who have demonstrated love and resilience in the face of adversity, and here are some of their stories.

31Events
Recognising that the spread of misinformation surrounding Covid-19 was just as damaging to businesses as the virus itself, Shanghai-based 31Events event technology specialist committed itself to surveys that helped event organisers, including associations, identify areas in greatest need of help and matched them with relevant products and services.

The company discovered that associations wanted to establish virtual platforms so that assistance and training for their members could be continued, and Covid-19 advisory could be disseminated.

Its’ initiatives to chart the impact of the pandemic on business events, and to provide solutions and initiate relevant online discussions caught the attention of China’s Ministry of Commerce, which reported on the firm’s efforts.

Air China
The state-owned enterprise stepped forward to support China in her fight against the outbreak by activating flights and staff to deliver much needed medical and disaster relief supplies, as well as transport thousands medical staff to Wuhan.

Ona Li, representative of Air China, added that the company has also waived all costs for delivering 28.1 tons of supplies to Japan and South Korea on March 16 and 17, as the countries struggled with the outbreak themselves. It also helped to fly medical experts to countries in need.

Li shared that some of the supplies were donated by Air China, while the rest came from local companies, organisations, embassies and overseas Chinese.
As China’s fight against the outbreak drew to a close the Air China family came together to compose and perform a song, Take Off, to express their gratitude for all those who helped China through the difficult time.

The song can be enjoyed at https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/HpFATgI3SqQeCODGa_v5-A.

Transformation in progress at China Optics Valley Convention & Exhibition Centre

China Optics Valley Convention & Exhibition Centre
China Optics Valley Convention and Exhibition Centre (COVCEC) received an order to transform three of its exhibition halls into a temporary hospital on February 4. Bringing together the people and resources needed for the task amid Wuhan’s lockdown and the Spring Festival holiday was not easy.

Despite the challenges, the team delivered on the mission – a makeshift hospital that spanned 10,000m2 and held 1,000 beds. The facility opened its doors February 17 at 17.00.

For more than 18 days, the COVCEC team worked together to safeguard the health and interests of patients and medical workers. They provided much needed project management, facilities management, security, hospitality and communication services that helped ensure the running of the hospital.

Their efforts ensured that actual hospital beds were freed up for critical cases, which alleviated the strain on the city’s medical resources and reduced risk of transmission.

By March 3, when the makeshift hospital ended its operations, 875 patients had been treated within its grounds.

Dujiangyan Municipal People’s Government
As the Covid-19 outbreak reared its head in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan province, the local municipal government realised that there was an urgent need to allow life to carry on effectively and with reduced infection potential.

Dujiangyan Municipal People’s Government sought to establish a non-contact online shopping network so that residents could continue to get their necessary supplies safely. To achieve this, it convened a meeting with the Dujiangyan Internet Association, as well as key e-commerce enterprises, and these stakeholders responded positively.

The government also called upon all relevant departments and social institutions to promote this service.

The non-contact online shopping network took off after a week of preparation, and is still ongoing today. Between January 25 and March 21, the service recorded 257,141 deliveries of take-out food and supplies, using 214 vehicles daily. Five key participating e-commerce platforms generated RMB 2.1 million (US$302, 777) during that period.

In addition, Dujiangyan Municipal People’s Government also executed an online version of the 2020 Dujiangyan Spring Fair Online, which was traditionally an event held in the city during the Spring Festival.

Hangzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV and Tourism
As the highly-infectious Covid-19 laid siege to China in late-January, the Hangzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV and Tourism initiated an urgent fund-raiser with the Hangzhou MICE Association to secure donations, as well as masks and other essential medical supplies.

Tina Gan, representative of the MICE department of Business Events Hangzhou – part of the bureau – recalled the achievement. The hunt for mask supplies began on January 25 while the fund-raiser kicked off on January 27. By January 29, RMB 20,000 worth of masks were shipped out and donations of RMB 19,515 were secured the day after.

Donations were obtained through the Hangzhou MICE Charitable Fund, while sources for masks were identified through the Hangzhou MICE Association’s Wechat group for members.

As the masks were not suitable for professional medical use, they were channelled to Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport Customs and Jianggan District Commerce Bureau. In Jianggan, the supplies were used by frontline staff attending to markets and community facilities, as well as by supervision officers at the District Commerce Bureau.

Nanjing International Expo Center
When Nanjing International Expo Center (NIEC) in China chose to help alleviate the city’s pressure for isolation facilities, staff found themselves tasked with a fresh set of responsibilities along with protective suits as their new uniform.

Regarded as a landmark in the Chinese city of Nanjing, the Centre has 140,000m2 of exhibition space, a convention centre and a 252-key hotel.

A system had to be established, revealed Leo Liu, deputy director of sales & marketing with the Centre, where a health docket was created for every guest, temperature screening was conducted twice a day, public spaces were sanitised twice daily, and garbage was carefully sorted before being transported for safe disposal.

NIEC had to work closely with the city’s health authority to establish critical procedures needed to safely isolate hundreds of people. Hotel staff also cooperated with government personnel, the police and healthcare specialists to ensure the safe storage of medical supplies such as masks, thermometers, alcohol, and disinfectants.

Liu opined that all the hard work was worth it. “We need to assume social responsibility during these unusual times. We will continue to provide assistance to the community should our help be needed.”

Shanghai Spring Travels
Changning District, where the office of Shanghai Spring Travels is located, is home to many foreigners living and working in bustling Shanghai. Many who had returned to Shanghai after the Spring Festival had to be under home quarantine.

To help these foreigners make sense of the information and regulation on epidemic prevention and containment effort, Shanghai Spring Travels staff who were proficient in foreign languages chipped in to help with community communications.

Some 40 employees volunteered for the programme, which required them to pay home visits to foreigners and man an online Q&A live chat service. They also performed community service, such as conducting temperature checks for residents, offering child counselling for families with difficulties, and more.

Wuhan Eurasia Convention International Hotel
No stranger to pro-bono and charity activities, Wuhan Eurasia hotel wasted no time in converting its premises into emergency accommodation for the Guangzhou and Zhejiang medical teams that had flocked to Wuhan to provide assistance.

Chris He, representative of the 448-key hotel, explained that the property was well suited to support the medical teams as it had 17 professional meeting rooms, as well as the capability to provide high-quality accommodation, catering and other services.

To serve its new purpose, some of the dining rooms and guestrooms were adjusted and extra amenities – such as working venues, haircut salon, table tennis tables and express delivery services – were added. Disinfection stations, dressing tents, and outdoor operating points were also established.

To feed medical staff on shift work, the hotel implemented a flexibility meal service. Breakfast service was conducted twice, one at 05.30 to 08.00 and another at 09.40 to 10.10, for instance. A small supermarket on each floor of the hotel provided convenience for medical staff needing snacks and daily necessities.

Hotel staff contributed their time to transport supplies for the medical teams, while the local community was called upon to donate items and food to resident medical staff.

Wuhan Eurasia hotel also shared donations with other hotels that were in need, and contributed more than 400 sets of bedding for temporary hospitals in Wuhan.

Wuhan International Convention and Exhibition Centre
When Wuhan International Convention and Exhibition Centre (WHICEC) received a government order to convert two floors of its exhibition space into a makeshift hospital on February 3, the centre’s team speedily set up a crisis response team.

Working round the clock for 48 hours, the team reworked the infrastructure of the exhibition space, which had very different settings to that of a hospital, to match authorities’ requirements. The team delivered the makeshift hospital – later named Jianghan Temporary Hospital – three hours ahead of deadline.

From then on, rest became a luxury for the crisis response team, which remained on standby round the clock from February 5 to March 9. They ensured lights, air-conditioning, lifts and the sound system were working, and took care of the distribution of items donated by businesses so that medical staff could focus on treating patients.

Of Wuhan’s 16 temporary hospitals that were converted from public facilities, Jianghan Temporary Hospital received the highest number of patients – 1,848 in all.

Wuhan Rayte Exhibition Culture Co.
Shocked and saddened by the rapidly deteriorating situation across Wuhan city, as medical staff fought the outbreak without adequate protective equipment, Wuhan Rayte Exhibition Culture Co. decided to reach for a change through actions.

It raised more than RMB 400,000 in cash donations, and directed medical and disinfection supplies to hospitals and community organisations in need. Among the things donated were adult-use diapers for medical staff who were unable to leave their stations to use the washroom for hours, and mattress, quilts, coffee/tea machines and other living comforts for temporary hospitals across the city.

Staff also volunteered to send medical personnel to work in their own vehicles when public transportation was halted.

Wuhan Rayte Exhibition Culture Co helped to feed medical staff, with more than RMB 40,000 worth of meat buns delivered to five hospitals, as well as a full month of hot meals to medical staff at Wuhan Seventh Hospital who had came from all over the country to help fight the outbreak.

To encourage staff to respond to the government’s call for volunteer medical workers, Wuhan Rayte Exhibition Culture Co. paid a full salary plus rewards to all those who participated.

By March, families in the city were starting to feel the strain of income losses. Thus, the company donated RMB 40,000 worth of food to needy families.

According to Jeffrey Tao, head of Wuhan Rayte Exhibition Culture Co., the company is now actively providing assistance to other countries. He had personally donated US$1,500 to the York University of Toronto Alumni Association to purchase masks and other materials for the hospitals in Canada.

Xiamen ITG MICE
Joining in the fight against Covid-19, Xiamen ITG MICE donated surgical masks, gloves, disinfectant and other cleaning and healthcare supplies to the local community. It also formed a volunteer team that helped deliver anti-virus brochures to Xiamen residents, as well as handwritten cards to cheer on frontline medical staff.

In addition, company staff initiated a fund-raising campaign to help finance prevention efforts and treatment in Wuhan.

Company spokespeople Rowena Cai and Eve Lin shared that help was sourced from “international friends and organisations”, including the ICCA family, which allowed Xiamen ITG MICE to purchase 25,000 surgical masks in a single day. These were sent to the frontline in Xiamen.

Cai told TTGassociations: “We always believe that there is opportunity in adversity. Only through global collaboration and coordination among industry professionals in different countries, can a global industry recovery be achieved.”

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