There is no doubt - COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we live, work and travel and will continue to impact us. It is reshaping the global business landscape, changing strategies and forcing many to adapt or face the possibility of going out of business.
The travel and hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit, with the closure of borders and safe distancing, hotels and tour operators became reliant on domestic travel and international events were cancelled, postponed or transformed to virtual events.
As a DMC (Destination Management Company) specialising in corporate events and travel across Asia, we were hit...HARD. Initially, the situation was difficult to fathom with all the uncertainties and loss of status quo. But - with the standstill and pause, also came the chance to reset and think. How do we go from here? What can we do? Could we turn this into an opportunity?
The pandemic forced us to take a step back, to rethink our strategies, how should we move forward and most importantly, to study and understand how the immediate implications will affect the future landscape of events.
Often busy with the day to day running of events, (and 2020 was set to be very busy for us), our plans to enhance and showcase our digital competence mostly took a backseat. However, as the pandemic hit and lockdowns began, the importance of having a strong digital presence was no longer just an option, but a necessity. We pushed forward with these plans, revamping our website and came up with a content strategy to showcase both our destination and digital event expertise. After all, being stuck at home means more content being consumed!
Like many, we had to reevaluate our core business, and as a team, we started asking ourselves questions. How do we retain our core competencies, while staying relevant in these times? Is our core competency still relevant, or does it need to change? Is it realistic to remain focused on international live events for the corporate market or should we diversify? How can we reinvent ourselves in a way that will be an asset moving forward?
As COVID-19 reframed how events were being conducted, terms such as hybrid and digital, zoom and zoom fatigue became new buzzwords of the events industry. The explosive growth of new technologies and platforms also meant that we needed to continually educate ourselves and understand the advantages of virtual and hybrid, compared to in-person events. Most importantly, we needed to support and encourage our clients in their journey to hosting virtual events both now and incorporating them in the future.
Just like in the rest of the world, telecommuting became the norm as governments clamped down on the virus. The need to be adept in collaborative online tools quickly formed an essential part of the work routine and fluency in using basic virtual platforms became the new normal. This helped to smoothen the way to introduce the jump from simple zoom meetings to full-fledged virtual conferences, something that would have seemed too far fetched less than a year ago.
The lasting effects of the pandemic created a permanent paradigm shift in the way we plan, manage and execute events. It is crucial to adapt and stay relevant in the COVID and post-COVID era. We are starting to see hotels creating Virtual-meeting packages and in-house studios with Green rooms, new Work-From-Hotel stays for those who are unable to concentrate at home, and even Hybrid events across different hotels that combine smaller groups beamed together virtually. Fun fact: Marina Bay Sands became the first in the industry to set up an event production studio!
As event planners and destination marketers, the nature of our jobs requires us to travel often for work and work on weekends whenever necessary. While being able to do what we do is a passion and privilege, the industry is usually fast-paced and time-sensitive, and the word “relax” is typically not in our vocabulary. However, the flip side of COVID-19 is that it has provided us with an opportunity to take some “me-time”, to do some self-reflection and hopefully emerge stronger and more appreciative of our family and friends. As the Chinese saying goes “Taking a break is essential to accomplishing a longer journey.”