RELEARNING, RESKILLING, AND UPSKILLING THE NEW NORM MARKET
ES. As General Manager at IMPACT, please share your key responsibilities for hosting a safe and successful event.
Loy. IMPACT is a venue provider that designs our entire business operations around our customers’ needs. Hence, ensuring a safe environment to host successful events at our venue is paramount. As early as in February last year (2020), we have already implemented a range of comprehensive precautionary and preventative COVID-19 measures that are in compliance with our TIS 22300 MICE Security Management System standard and ISO 22000 Food Safety Management Standard. This is together with other strict controls and guidelines on safety and health practices according to government health policies and advisories. At the same time, we are continuously reviewing and adapting our safety, hygiene and medical protocols to address all levels of concerns, and meet the requirements of the “new norms”. These include our hygiene and disinfection processes, temperature monitoring, social distancing measures, contact tracing, attendee density monitoring, F&B services, new event formats, to name a few.
ES. IMPACT is one of Asia’s largest and most modern exhibition and convention centers. Tell us other features that sets IMPACT apart from other venues?
Loy. We are an integrated venue offering a diversity of events with our versatile facilities (including our two hotels) and services. Our facilities comprise a variety of venue sizes that meet all types of event requirements – big or small. Our focus is on delivering to our customers personalized and total solutions that offer high values and services beyond their expectations. This is achieved through our total or one-stop solutions ranging from floor plan consultations, hotel accommodations, F&B services, event management services, marketing & sales services, logistic and operation services, etc.
ES. How has the virus outbreak affected IMPACT? And, how have you dealt with the jolt and bounced back from it?
Loy. The pandemic has indeed posed serious disruptions to our business and Thailand’s MICE industry has greatly been impacted by COVID-19. In fact, in 2020 the Asian region saw a sharp drop (over 75%) in venue space rental as compared to 2019. Unlike SARS in 2003, the impact and effects this time is far more reaching, damaging and long lasting. Based on previous lessons learned from the outbreaks of both SARS in 2003 and MERS CoV in 2016, IMPACT is able to respond promptly by deploying and putting into immediate effect, our business contingency and continuity plans. This involves organizational restructurings, cost cuttings and new revenue stream generations. Examples of new revenue stream generations are our digital event and marketing services, off-site F&B catering and food delivery services, etc.
My outlook is that in over the course of the next 12 to 24 months and beyond, it would be a difficult but gradual recovery that is driven by domestic events with some road bumps ahead. In such situation, we are positioning ourselves to be at the forefront of the market to proactively provide and offer new solutions as the market adjust, and accept the reality of the new norm. At the same time, we are embracing new technology capabilities in order to deliver digital solutions that can offer better values for our customers.
ES. How many physical events have you hosted since COVID? How do you overcome the challenges in conducting and initiating the events?
Loy. Prior to COVID, we were hosting over 800 events annually – big and small – comprising a variety events such as exhibitions, conferences, meetings, concerts, sporting events, national examinations, corporate functions, etc. Since COVID, the numbers have obviously reduced by over 70% (for the year 2020). To overcome this challenge, we have hasten our adoption of digitalization by rolling out new digital services such as digital event management solutions in the forms of webinars, business matching programs, hybrid events and other related meeting activities that can be conducted in the digital sphere. We foresee that these digital or hybrid events would eventually become key components in physical events when these physical events eventually resumes.
ES. With the objective of providing major impetus to safety, how have you equipped to ensure safe and secure events?
Loy. Taking lessons learned from SARS and MERS CoV, and in compliance with our TIS 22300 MICE Security Management System Standard and ISO 22000 Food Safety Management Standard, our venue is already equipped with temperature monitoring devices and other hygiene and health precautions. As such, we were able to roll out our safety measures as early as in Feb 2020. Since then, we have continued to bolster and equipped ourselves with additional measures to ensure the safety and peace of mind of attendees at our venue. These measures include deployment of UVC disinfection technology and other cleaning technology using radio frequency (RF) remote control. We are also monitoring, reviewing and adapting our hygiene and health safety protocols according to the situation and government guidelines.
All these are testimonial to the fact that our venue was selected to host the international HSBC World Tour Badminton Finals in January 2021. This international sporting event was organized in our venue under a strict and safe COVID 19 framework of “self-contained” and “bubble protocols”. These frameworks with strict controls on safety and health has established the blueprint and criteria for a “new norm” organising format for the staging of international sporting events in Thailand.
ES. What are the areas which will see drastic changes? What would be the tech trends for event venues in 2021?
Loy. Events will become smaller but space requirements will be bigger due to social distancing, health and safety enforcements.
2. Event formats, seating formats, crowd management, F&B services, cleaning and hygiene protocols will need to conform with local health and safety regulations. 2. Event formats, seating formats, crowd management, F&B services, cleaning and hygiene protocols will need to conform with local health and safety regulations.
3. Event formats will be in the forms of hybrid or virtual
4. Event attendee pre-registration technology and applications will feature prominently as on-site registrations are being discouraged.
5. Wearing of masks, temperature checking, social distancing enhanced sanitary and hygiene measures and practices shall be the new norm at venuesthe new norm at venues
6. Venues will be equipped with relevant technology and connectivity to support the seamlessly conduct of hybrid and virtual events
7. Digital, virtual reality and artificial intelligence technology will play increasing roles in the future of the event industry
8. Venues will be equipped with relevant technology and systems to enforce crowd management such as social distancing, visitor density tracking, and contact tracing
ES. Do you have some hybrid element involved in the physical shows at IMPACT?
Loy. Yes, physical events at our venue has already incorporated these digital elements in the forms of virtual booths, webinars, live demo streaming, and virtual business matchings ,especially for international players who are not able to attend these events physically. In 2021, there will be quite a numbers of events taking place at our venue that will be conducted in hybrid formats.
IMPACT, is also an exhibition/event organiser ourselves. All shows organized by us in 2021 are in hybrid formats (physical + on-line).
ES. Is your venue prepared for the Hybrid events? How do you ensure contactless and safe events?
Loy. Yes as mentioned above, our venue is equipped with the necessary IT, broadcasting and information communication infrastructures to facilitate the conduct of hybrid, contactless and safe events.
ES. What according to you will be the role of venues and the preparations they will need to thrive in the new normal?
Loy. As mentioned above, I think the role of venues would to take up a pro-active leadership approach to be at the market forefront to share, suggest, offer and provide new solutions as the market adjust and accept the realities of the new normal. These will include addressing and tackling issues brought about by the new normal, such as digitalization, safety and hygiene restrictions, social distancing regulations, travel restrictions, new hybrid/digital twin event formats, emergence of new players especially technology and digital provers, etc. In a nutshell, venues will need to take the leadership role in adapting to these new norms, and develop new service offerings to meet these demands and concerns.
ES. What are your upcoming plans?
Loy. We are gearing up our capability so that we can be in a good position to capitalize on an eventual market recovery. We are relearning, reskilling and upskilling ourselves in anticipation of new challenges and demands in the new norm market.
b. Our ongoing organizational restructuring will enable us to respond better to the demands and requirements of a new norm market, while maintaining our cost effectiveness and productivity. b. Our ongoing organizational restructuring will enable us to respond better to the demands and requirements of a new norm market, while maintaining our cost effectiveness and productivity.
c. On the digital fronts, we are developing new tech offerings for our customers to facilitate the conduct of hybrid and virtual events.
d. Given the assumption that recovery will be driven by domestic events, we as an organizer are launching several new domestic shows for the year 2021 and beyond – both in physical and on-line format.
ES. How are you preparing to bounce back in the year 2021? What major events are in the pipeline?
Loy. Preparations are as mentioned above. Having said that, the outlook for 2021 will largely depend on 1. Whether the pandemic can be effectively managed and controlled, 2. The availability of vaccine and its effective inoculation rollout and 3. Lifting of international travel restrictions
Major events at our venue in the pipeline for 2021 include two of Thailand’s biggest motor exhibitions (Motor Show and Motor Expo in March and Dec respectively), Thaifex Anuga Asia 2021 – a major international food exhibition in Sep/Oct and from March onwards, there will also be numerous domestic exhibitions ranging from education, home & furnishing, interiors, lifestyle, SMEs, building and construction, Pets, etc.
ES. What would be your message to the industry?
Loy. The COVID-19 has inadvertently hasten adoption of digital platforms or digital transformation in our industry. Despite the current positive developments and progress in managing the pandemic, recovery will not be quick and easy. We will need look at a business model that can effectively help us deploy new digital capability and technology not only to help reduce costs, but also offer personalized customer experience that complement traditional formats, and staying highly engaged with our customers through better delivery of contents, exchanging knowledge and receiving customer feedbacks in an acutely changed world and business norm.