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[Case Study] Conventions may reduce in size but not in importance, The MICE industry after COVID-19

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2020-05-22

<Online PSA session held for K-Beauty and PPE producing companies at coex.>


Conventions may reduce in size but not in importance

The MICE industry after COVID-19


On the 50th floor of the COEX Trade Center on the 27th and 28th of last month, an online Pre-Scheduled Appointment (PSA) was held with Indonesian buyers hosted by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA). The Trade Association has held online export PSAs every week at the “Start-up Branch” located on the second floor of COEX since April. Companies in the beauty, food, and bio-industry, including one producing diagnostic kits took advantage of the service already.  Also, a company from information and communication (ICT) field had PSAs on the 7th, and a video-conference PSAs invited the buyers from Central Asia on the 13th.


Online PSAs became an essential alternative to pioneering overseas sales channels for companies, including small and medium-sized venture companies due to the COVID-19 outbreak. KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency), and other trade associations regularly hold online PSAs and provide interpretation and booth services for the video-conference and sample shipping fees to the participating companies. 


The companies receive more than the equipment for the video-conference. One needs a laptop, a headset, and an account set up in the video call program. One of the officials from KITA stated that since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the organization has equipped itself with contactless service systems such as VCS (video conference service) to help SMEs and will continue to host the online PSA sessions even after July, when the services was originally planned to be closed, if there is constant demand.


The companies are welcoming the service. An official from a food company in Seoul, who participated in the video-conference, met six Indonesian buyers from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm on the 28th. “It was much more than what I had expected. As I met up with the buyers who actually have intention to further the conversations only, the conversations were meaningful and the buyers were very active. It's cost efficient as well that we don’t have to pay for travelling,” said the official. He also expressed high satisfaction and said that he would participate in the online PSA session again if there be another chance.


The virtual business expected to grow after COVID-19

Higher attendance no longer guarantees greater success

Emergency response guidelines and event insurances are ‘a must’

 

Companies are turning away from physical conventions to virtual ones to meet their buyers. One of the main reasons for the transition is the pandemic, but online convention certainly has its own benefits. A virtual convention allows the companies to save time and money for being matched with buyers from overseas. There is no reason for companies to resist online conventions. 


This change is reflected in the increasing number of conventions taking place online. Last month, Segafairs hosted Seoul International Educare & KidsFair virtually. And from the 18th and 23rd of this month, BIO KOREA welcomes visitors from its programs including the virtual exhibition, e-Conference, Invest Fair and Job Fair, all of which are accessible only online. 


The growing popularity of online conventions is not a recent development. Experts say that the pandemic only accelerated the pace of the transition and that the change was already on the way. They point out that the advancement of technologies like VR, AR, and AI as well as the coronavirus-induced preference for “untact” gatherings only boosted the growth of the virtual business.


It’s not just the venue or platform of conventions that changes. Lee Chang-Hyun, President of the Exhibition & Convention Institute, said in his article “Responding to changes in the MICE industry in the post-COVID-19 era”, that more events will scale back and be held for a shorter period of time to help prevent the spread. And an increasing number of conventions will take place locally as to avoid long-distance travel of the visitors. The number of visitors will no longer guarantee the success of an event. However, the experts also emphasize that the scaling down of the events would in fact increase the importance of the exhibitions or conventions.  


Mr. Lee Byung-Yoon from the Korea Exhibition Organizers Association said the virtual business will make strides and so will the MICE industry. Face-to-face meetings are merely mandatory for some areas dealing with confidentiality-related issues such as technology, patent, and intellectual property rights. When the conventions for completed products or consumer goods go virtual, other B2B interaction might still be in-person events. Mr. Lee added that the MICE industry is seeking the ways to integrate AR, VR, and other technologies into event industry and the online technology will help the boost in exhibition business area.  

 

COVID-19 has given a major turning point for the MICE industry. Players in the sector are laying out safety measures to protect the traditional conventions, such as updating convention contracts to contain the emergency response guideline and prevention solutions. At the same time, the industry actively takes in the rapidly changing technological and cultural trends on the lookout for opportunities to turn the challenge of the pandemic into a widely open window into the brighter forthcoming.