As featured on TTG Asia
By Pamela Chow
The dampening of global travel has only festered a craving in Europe for business travel to Asia. DMC and PCO 8th Wave’s Managing Director, Kristina Forssell, shares more about this building demand
Considering the rise of hybrid events, how would you gauge the future demand for business events to Asia? Hybrid events are here to stay, even when the pandemic goes away. (The technological aspect) brings many benefits – flexibility, cost effectiveness, scalability, environment, etc – but it cannot beat live events because of its emotive aspect. There is still pent-up demand for F2F meetings, and Asian travellers have been shown to have more demand for travel and are itching (to fly).
There is also still a demand for European travellers to Asia. Many have the mentality that at some point in 2021, physical events will return, because of the perception that Asian countries have handled the crisis well.
How much will a country’s response to the pandemic define how quickly business will return? Within Asia, the countries that have proven their procedures are effective against the virus will see the fastest return of actual demand. Their ability to control the pandemic and the measures they have taken will play a huge role in the countries that travellers decide to fly to.
What other factors will influence this interest to be converted into actual business in the new world? Air travel is another large factor – the ability of airlines to disinfect planes and ensure social distancing. Chartered planes will be something groups will look into for safety, and many charter companies are trying to push lower rates. It also provides more control. Safety is the new luxury and gold standard.
Hotels also need to be sufficiently prepared to enable as many contactless points as possible, with procedures in place for hygiene and social distancing. Hotels can help isolate events by compartmentalising into different areas, floors or wings, to manage people flow and reduce intermingling.
Bilateral agreements will also play a large part. Green lanes between countries will act as a facilitator.
What are some examples of countries in Asia that are inspiring traveller confidence? Aside from Singapore, which I truly feel is a great example of inspiring confidence, two countries that I feel are doing well on keeping local transmissions low and hygiene standards high, while also being proactive in their approaches, are Thailand and Taiwan.
Some examples of proactive and out-of-the-box thinking include how Thailand is considering opening up to long-stay tourists by creating a closed-loop resort area on the island of Phuket. After a specified number of days and testing within this area, they would be allowed to explore the island outside the resort area.
Taiwan has also created cruises around its islands and “flights to nowhere” for domestic tourism, to generate income for these two hard-hit industries.
Which markets do you believe are most likely to see the fastest return of actual demand? Our Belgian agencies are very optimistic about organising events, and they were the last to cancel or postpone their planned events for 2020. We have also been surprised by new requests for incentives next year – as early as March 2021 – from our German and Swiss markets. Those are definitely the markets that we are keeping an eye on.
What developments are you keeping a keen eye on? A lot of hotels are building digital studios in their meeting rooms, to facilitate smaller meetings that can be broadcast or streamed for hybrid or virtual events. This studio-like environment is a game changer, and will likely become the new AV standard in hotel offerings.
There has also been a creation of small pods of domestic meetings in different destinations that are connected globally with equipment. In these cases, the moderator and panel can be totally virtual, but they are connected to smaller (physical) meetings across the world.
How is 8th Wave innovating to support your customers and to pre-empt new and emerging demands? We are focusing on capability growth and becoming digital event managers. A lot of effort has gone into researching and comparing platforms, technological developments and the surge of vendors globally, to keep abreast (of trends) and be able to select the best option for our clients.
We have also been finding creative and emotive ways to engage participants through various platforms and activities, for pre-, during and post-event. In pre-empting demand for hybrid events, we are exploring what physical events cannot achieve and how to use these technologies to safeguard against future unforeseen events, be they natural or political.