Local MICE sector well-positioned for recovery – Event agency

The local MICE sector is well-positioned to adapt to the new normal, but it will need to change its mindset and prove more attractive integrated solutions for its events, the regional representative for event and marketing agency MCI told Macau News Agency.

A total of 215 meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions were held in the first three quarters of 2020, 860 less than in the same period last year as the pandemic limited travel and moved events to the virtual world.

“What I see as a great potential for the destination is using it as a hub for regional hybrid business events; groups of a medium size with attendees from the mainland can come down and enjoy a safe event which can then be broadcast and streamed for a greater outreach,” Olinto Oliveira, General Manager at MCI Hong Kong & Macau told Macau News Agency.

“Macau also has the advantage of having multiple large-scale event venues; this allows for substantial events to be held even with social distancing protocols maintained, which is something that can be leveraged when border restrictions begin to relax.”

MCI is a global event, association management and congress management company with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

For Oliveira, even before the pandemic, the shift from live to virtual was already trending but it accelerated afterwards, with a considerable shift from virtual to hybrid now expected during the recovery phase.

“Prior to 2020, hybrid or digital events probably represented about 10 percent of our business mix and obviously, like for everyone else, this has changed drastically over the past 12 months,” Oliveira noted.

However, as they get used to events being broadcast online, event audiences and attendees will start to become more demanding concerning the virtual elements provided by the organizers.

“We need to have a mindset of evolution, and not just recovery […] What this means is we need to stop looking back at what we’ve done before and thinking of how to return to that. We need to look ahead – new ways of working, new platforms, formats, etc.” Oliveira noted.

The fact that local authorities have managed to keep the pandemic situation basically under control will also be an advantage when it comes to attracting future MICE events.

“Macau is positioned to manage a great bounce back. […] The fact that borders are already relatively open to Mainland China […] allows a great opportunity for us to bring in groups and for brands to use activations,” the MCI General Manager noted.

Olinto Oliveira

The considerable number and size of spaces and facilities available in local integrated resorts also allow event organisers to follow the necessary social distancing requirements, while still allowing a large attendance.

The city still boasts over 190,000 square meters of meeting space and 37,000 hotel rooms within about 30 square kilometres, with further space to be added in the future.

Opening in the second half of 2021 the Phase 3 expansion will include the Galaxy International Convention Center (GICC), an event venue with a total MICE space of 40,000 square meters for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

For Olinto, while many sector players have focused on returning to the pre-pandemic situation, the focus should be on developing what is offered by event organisers.

“The event industry has been a bit slow in getting to that boat [of hybrid experiences] […]. Audiences and sponsors have evolved as well. It’s not enough for you to just broadcast something online and expect people to sit there and watch,” Oliveira added.

“It all comes down to content design, creation and release. A live and virtual experience cannot be exactly the same. You need to be able to provide something unique.”

As an example, Olinto mentioned the NBA, which has allowed subscribers to its streaming service to watch game highlights in Virtual Reality (VR) in a partnership with Oculus and Microsoft.

MCI has also worked with local brands and integrated resorts on how to better position themselves online or revamp communication plans.

“When we talk about local businesses and what they need to do, I think their mindset has to change. It’s all about doing something that’s ‘people first’ and ‘human-centric’, delivering contact that’s going to be relatable and engaging to whatever their core audience is,” Oliveira noted.

“I think a lot of people panicked last year and were just posting content online for the sake of it. But if you are just putting trash out there, it will not connect with the people you want to.”