BUSINESS meetings and conferences can be held safely, according to event organizers and venue operators, as long as participants are vaccinated.

Peggy E. Angeles, executive vice president of SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. (SMHCC) told the BusinessMirror, “We need to kickstart the MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibits] business, even at reduced capacity for social distancing, as long all staff and all participants/attendees are fully vaccinated.”

She added, “Just like in hotels, those given the Safety Seal [should] be allowed to increase capacity.” Government on Tuesday said it has issued safety seal certificates to some 43,000 establishments.

SMHCC has over 38,000 square meters of leasable space in its SMX Convention Centers and trade halls. Angeles said their convention centers “practically have no revenues,” adding, “reservation fees and other deposits [for canceled events] were reimbursed to the organizers.”

Marisa Nallana, board director of the Asian Federation of Convention and Exhibition Associations, echoed Angeles, saying MICE events can be held safely, “as long as organizers are strict and make sure the visiting public follow protocols set in and out of the venue.” She likewise underscored, “Most MICE organizers, venue operators and their staff are vaccinated.”

Revenue losses from canceled events

The former president of the Philippine Association of Convention and Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (Paceos) added, “Once MICE is declared open, vaccination as requirement and maybe easy tests which we can coordinate with DOH [Department of Health] may be implemented. The objectives are to bring back confidence to attend MICE events, and communicate that MICE is safe.”

Revenue loss of the MICE industry may have widened to “a minimum of 70 percent,” Nallana estimated, as Covid-19 wreaked havoc in the country since 2020. MICE events in the National Capital Region are still prohibited, while venues are not allowed to operate.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed in 2019, the average expenditure per local delegate for international events was P14,822.34, while foreign delegates spent $2,177.67 per capita. For national events, each delegate spent P10,042.13. The country hosted only 72 events in 2019, languishing behind Thailand (162 events), Singapore (149), and Indonesia (92), per the International Congress and Convention Association.

Preparing for a comeback

The DOT in 2018 had launched an ambitious MICE Roadmap, designed to make the Philippines a major events destination by 2030. It targeted an increase in the gross value added (GVA) of the MICE industry to P1.4 billion in 2030 from P415.3 million in 2013 and lift MICE revenues to some P25 billion by 2030 from P4.6 billion in 2016. The DOT also aims to increase the total number of usable space for exhibitions to over 170,895 sq m by 2030 from some 71,000 sq m in 2017. Paceos helped in the formulation of the road map.

“[We’re] looking at 2022 as preparation for the [MICE] comeback in 2023 or 2024,” said Nallana. A major concern for MICE is travel. “We still have very limited international travel into the country or none at all. With our Covid numbers on the high side, and protocols, coming over for a physical event is a big challenge.”

She noted, “Given the situation, most organizers pivoted to virtual [events], though not profitable. This is to maintain presence. Collaboration with other international organizers and associations are happening. Focus now is to keep close with exhibitors and clients, [with] visitors as well. Communities are formed to keep in touch and share ideas.”

Image courtesy of Cons & Baes





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