Through COVID-19 and beyond: STB, PCMA and UFI launch white paper to reimagine the future of business events


Report highlights key pillars and case studies to support industry transformation, with signs of strong recovery in the Asia-Pacific and a greater appetite for digital and hybrid events.

Singapore, 28 June 2021 – Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) have partnered to launch a whitepaper titled “Reimagining Business Events – Through COVID-19 and Beyond”.

Launched at the first hybrid Singapore MICE Forum x IBTM Wired at Marina Bay Sands on 28 June 2021, the white paper is the first such collaboration between a destination and leading associations representing the exhibitions, conventions and meetings industry. It takes stock of how various sectors within the industry have transformed in response to COVID-19, and consolidates ideas from around the world to help business event organisers rethink their offerings and operations.

Impact of COVID-19

The business events sector supported nearly 26 million jobs and contributed US$1.5 trillion to global GDP in 2017, which would rank it as the 13th largest economy globally, surpassing those of Australia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In Singapore, the MICE sector supported more than 34,000 direct and indirect jobs, with a value-add of S$3.8 billion, or close to 1 per cent of Singapore’s GDP.

COVID-19 changed all that. In 2020, the global travel and hospitality suffered a staggering loss of US$935 billion, with the business events industry among the worst hit. The onset of the pandemic was a wake-up call for the industry, heavily dependent on physical interaction, to reinvent itself. According to PCMA’s COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard survey (January 2021), the overall willingness to travel remains mixed, with 44 per cent of planners and 23 per cent of suppliers unwilling to travel.

However, there is cause for optimism. The same survey showed that 25 per cent of planners and 31 per cent of suppliers were willing to travel any distance necessary if the program was worth it. And for those who attended a recent physical event, 63 per cent of planners and 77 per cent of suppliers said it was worth all the additional precautions and safety measures and would do so again. More planners and suppliers are feeling hopeful – 69 per cent of planners and 64 per cent of suppliers shared this sentiment in June 2021, compared to 48 per cent and 47 per cent respectively in January 2021.

Revenues have also started to pick up in the exhibitions sector, which is expected to grow globally by 106 per cent this year compared to 2020.

An evolving mindset across Asia-Pacific

As the industry plots a recovery from COVID-19, the white paper highlights strong indications of growth and innovation in the Asia-Pacific.

Data from the upcoming “Global Recovery Insights Report” by UFI, Explori and Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) show that exhibitions in Asia are likely to see stronger growth in participation from both visitors and exhibitors, compared to the rest of the world.

There is also a stronger appetite for digital or hybrid events from respondents in Asia – they are more than twice as likely to have participated in such events than respondents from other regions. Furthermore, the number of events they are planning to exhibit at has recovered to its pre-pandemic levels, when compared with pre-pandemic research data from 2019.

PCMA’s APAC Dashboard Survey reflects similar findings. A greater proportion of planners in Asia Pacific (38 per cent) were planning to simultaneously stream their in-person events to virtual audiences, compared to their North American counterparts (17 per cent). Of the APAC respondents planning a hybrid 2021 event, nearly 80 per cent planned for their in-person and virtual audiences to interact, compared with 27 per cent of North American planners.

Learning from global leaders

Beyond digitalisation, the white paper highlights three innovation pillars to successfully reimagine the industry: Business Models; Delegate Experience; and Talent & Capabilities.

STB, PCMA and UFI obtained perspectives from international industry practitioners who embraced and exemplified these considerations, adopted a growth mindset and piloted successful concepts. The case studies from Singapore, Australia, Italy and the United States include those from event planners and organisers, venue and tour operators, industry and trade associations and a multi-sector recovery taskforce.

For example, the Italian Society of Anaesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care worked with AIM Group International to redefine the format of their annual congress. They organised a roadshow across eight Italian cities using a truck that housed a studio, from which content was broadcast on big screens. This enabled the society to meet and deliver content safely to its members in person, including healthcare partners on the frontlines of the pandemic.

The case studies also underscore the need for business event professionals to cultivate skills in high-demand areas including broadcasting, content production and cyber security. To facilitate knowledge sharing in Singapore, the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) developed a Strategic Narratives & Digital Content Marketing Masterclass and also partnered the National Trades Union Congress to establish the MICE and Events Capability Building Network8, which aims to share best practices across industries.

Mr Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board, said: “The pandemic has emphasised the need to innovate and be nimble in the business events sector. This journey of transformation is not a sprint, but a marathon that extends beyond the pandemic. As Singapore gradually scales up our capacity for larger business events, we hope that resources such as this white paper will continue to guide our local MICE industry to build new capabilities and reimagine the future of business events.”

Mr Sherrif Karamat, Certified Association Executive, President and CEO, PCMA, said: “Our success in emerging from the pandemic is dependent on our ability to solve the transformational challenges of our audiences. The pandemic forced us to look at how we deliver on what our audiences need and what they want to be successful for the future. While the pandemic has changed the way our audiences engage with business events, it has not altered their desired outcomes from these events.”

Mr Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, UFI, said: “Business event companies and their customers across Asia-Pacific have shown themselves to be more open to digital business developments than their global peer group. And looking forward, exhibitors in Asia are now much more optimistic about their budgets than they were in summer 2020. We hope that this white paper is useful in showing some of the approaches and opportunities that lie ahead for business events as the fastest of all fast tracks for economic recovery.”

Launch of the white paper

The paper was launched at Singapore MICE Forum x IBTM Wired, where speakers from STB, PCMA, UFI and GEVME led a panel discussion on its key findings and exchanged views on its three innovation pillars.

Singapore MICE Forum x IBTM Wired (28 June) brings together up to 250 event professionals in Singapore as well as up to 1,000 joining online from around the world including China, Korea, and the United States, for focused discussions on how event design as well as digital and community engagement are cornerstones of business success.

The event is a partnership between IBTM – part of Reed Travel Exhibitions – and SACEOS. IBTM Wired is the newest addition to IBTM’s global portfolio of events and intelligence for the meetings, incentives, conferences and events industry and kicks off with SACEOS’ flagship industry business event – the Singapore MICE Forum, on its first day.

List of bodies and organisations featured in the white paper
1. AIM Group International and the Italian Society of Anaesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation, and Intensive Care (SIAARTI)
2. Emerging Stronger Taskforce
3. GEVME
4. Harry the hirer
5. Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC)
6. Montgomery Asia
7. Singapore Association for Conventions & Exhibitions Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS)
8. Unexpected Atlanta

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For media queries, please contact:
Cherie Loh
Manager, Communications
Singapore Tourism Board
Tel: +65 [6831 3642]
Email: cherie_loh@stb.gov.sg
Or call the STB Media Hotline at +65 9011 2071

Mina El Fazazi
Head of Communications and Marketing
UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry
Tel: +33 1 46 39 75 00
Email: media@ufi.org
www.ufi.org

About the Singapore Tourism Board

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is the lead development agency for tourism, one of Singapore’s key economic sectors. Together with industry partners and the community, we shape a dynamic Singapore tourism landscape. We bring the Passion Made Possible brand to life by differentiating Singapore as a vibrant destination that inspires people to share and deepen their passions.
More: www.stb.gov.sg or www.visitsingapore.com | Follow us:
facebook.com/STBsingapore or https://www.linkedin.com/company/singapore-tourism-board/mycompany/

About UFI – The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry

UFI is the global trade association of the world’s tradeshow organisers and exhibition centre operators, as well as the major national and international exhibition associations, and selected partners of the exhibition industry. UFI’s main goal is to represent, promote and support the business interests of its members and the exhibition industry. UFI directly represents more than 50,000 exhibition industry employees globally, and also works closely with its 60 national and regional association members. More than 800 member organisations in 83 countries around the world are presently signed up as members. Around 1,000 international trade fairs proudly bear the UFI approved label, a quality guarantee for visitors and exhibitors alike. UFI members continue to provide the international business community with a unique marketing media aimed at developing outstanding face-to-face business opportunities. For more information, please contact: UFI Headquarters: Email: media@ufi.org | Tel: +33 1 46 39 75 00 or www.ufi.org


For media queries from the Americas and EMEA and requests for interviews with Sherrif Karamat, please contact:
Meghan Risch
mrisch@pcma.org

For Asia Pacific media inquiries, please contact:
Jessica Kauffman, Senior Account Manager, ZADRO
jessica@zadroagency.com.au

About PCMA

PCMA believes that business events can economically and socially transform communities, enterprises and individuals. As the world’s largest platform for business events strategists and their business partners, PCMA’s success is driven by a commitment to providing provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence to its membership of 8,400 professionals and students and global audience of over 100,000 business event stakeholders.

Through its Ascent leadership initiative to promote inclusion and diversity across the business events industry and beyond, PCMA seeks to empower those challenged by gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or disabilities to find success.

Headquartered in Chicago, PCMA has 17 chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with members in more than 40 countries and regional offices in Northern Ireland, Australia and Singapore. Visit us at pcma.org or on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.