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How Seoul's MICE Industry Recovers its Business: Slow but steady wins the race

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2020-08-18


Seoul cautiously resumed on-site MICE events starting with exhibition and congress in June. Though few conventions were on the event calendar of COEX, the most well-known venue of Seoul, it started to have large-scaled exhibitions and more on each month from June. From July to December, COEX has about 8 international exhibitions and conventions listed on the event calendar even though it is very vulnerable to abrupt changes. Other convention centers in Seoul such as SETEC, aT Center, Sejong University Conference Center also started holding events under thorough quarantine measures around the same time and on.  


The Korea Landscape and Garden Expo 2020 held from June 3 to 6 was the first exhibition in 3 months since the industry was put on a halt followed by Seoul International Dental Exhibition and Scientific Congress 2020 (SIDEX 2020). SIDEX 2020 was the first large-scaled event which had 4,860 attendees in two days, 6-7 June. Enforcing the event had stirred some worrisome between the stakeholders in regards to handling the safety measures for COVID-19 considering the probability of having too big of crowd from its known popularity. However, organizing body of the SIDEX 2020 had a spotless success in providing the quarantine measures- keeping the attendees safe and well and disinfecting the venues and equipment often. The success led to a notification on the official website two weeks later announcing that there were no infected cases occurred from the event or anyone in relation.  


The Central Disease Control Headquarters and the Central Disaster management Headquarters released Disinfection Guidelines to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 at Public and Multi-purpose Facilities on April 2, 2020 and convention centers also have their own procedures and measures in supporting the document. Taking this further, each organizer goes through the necessary measures themselves and announce specific measures considering the character of their events-for example, plastic gloves were given on top of checking on other personal protection equipment (PPE) at the Seoul International Wines & Spirits Expo 2020 considering much grabbing would take place on-site.  


The first step of quarantine for each attendee is to be registered with a QR code. With the precise tracking system of the country, it’s much faster to find anyone with potential exposure to the virus. Wearing a mask is mandatory to enter any public gatherings including MICE events. Body temperature measuring at entries, providing applicable PPE, disinfecting the venues and sometimes the attendees at entries, and frequent reminders and changing of the indoor air. To apply the current climate of the industry, the PLUS SEOUL support program added more options including Personal Hygiene Kit support, Rentals of Thermal Imaging Cameras, Venue Disinfecting Services on the revised version.  


Even though the gatherings seem risky, more people practice the safety measures at personal levels on regular bases that gatherings are slowly stepping back into the comfort zone for some people. The 10th Korea Smart Device Trade Show 2020 (KITAS), which was held from July 23 to 25, welcomed 19,862 in 3 days. KITAS was one of 7 international MICE events happened at COEX in July. There will be 25 including the events inviting locals only. It is almost unfair to compare the current situation to the time before the outbreak. The difficult situation has been prolonged for more than half a year now and there has not been many positive prospective for the near futures of global MICE industry or tourism. However, Seoul is keeping its place on the top for recovery and on the bottom for severity according to the Global COVID-19 Index released. The MICE industry of Seoul is showing an increase in catching up like a tortoise in the classic story-Slow but steady wins the race, the race with invisible but not invincible.