The Good Impacts of COVID-19

How business events stayed resilient in the most challenging of times.

At the time of writing, according to Worldometers, Malaysia had recorded close to 425,000 COVID-19 cases, out of which 91.8% had recovered, and at a considerably low 0.4% death rate. Although the rest of the world’s actual number of cases and deaths cannot be determined due to many untested, unconfirmed, or unaccounted-for mild and asymptomatic cases, the numbers seem to increase.

Within a year into the coronavirus global pandemic, the World Economic Forum reported USD$1.5 trillion worth of global business events that were postponed, made virtual, or entirely cancelled, mostly trade shows, cultural and sporting events. International tourism, worth US$1.6 trillion annually, lost US$ 935 billion worldwide. On the home front, the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers has indicated that the industry suffered a loss totalling RM2.25 billion from business events cancellations and postponements.

Nevertheless, we picked up fast with the new normal of conducting business events that will never be the same ever again. If there is one topic that most meeting and event planners and organisers are talking about today, it would be about virtual experience. COVID-19 has hastened our capability to re-learn and adapt to the new, radical and sustainable way of work. The industry is now all geared up to being Business-Events  ready!

Digital Content Industry

The 2.5 billion people who have been staying at home since the pandemic, have triggered a global cultural revolution of working from home. One has been forced to use the downtime to upskill and upgrade oneself and to adapt to new possibilities. Whether it be serving clients through digital channels or leveraging artificial intelligence, algorithms, and automation to ensure business continuity—we have truly embraced a new normal!

Live Events

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has outlined the health and safety measures for mass gatherings, taking into consideration the associated risk factors and proposing control measures to reduce the risk of further virus spread. New practices for live events include liaising with hotels, venues, and event vendors to ensure verifiable sanitation procedures, reducing attendee counts, regulating the entry and exit flow of crowds, maintaining physical distancing between participants, requiring the use of face masks for attendees, performing body-temperature checks, having medical personnel on duty, holding events at outdoor venues rather than indoors, and eliminating buffets to serve plated or boxed meals instead.

Incentives Travel

Most incentive travels are still being planned past 2021. For cancelled ones however, attendees are being compensated with incentive offerings such as gifts, cash rewards, or future trips.

Barely six months since the global shutdown of the hospitality industry, it is heartening to see optimism amongst industry professionals in Malaysia as they begin to plan for live events with support from the government thorough its Economic Stimulus Package. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that the coronavirus has dramatically changed and shifted the landscape for the business events industry. As lockdown restrictions may be enforced on-and-off in Malaysians till our cases decrease, some countries across the globe have already begun opening their borders. But that does not change the fact that COVID-19 has taught us two things, to adapt and to move forward.

 

Suhaini Ibrahim
School of Hospitality and Service Management
suibrahim@sunway.edu.my