The industry of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, commonly known under the name of MICE, has traditionally contributed to the economy of the Porto & North Region, actively stimulating the rational use of cultural-historical and natural recreational resources and the creation of jobs. COVID19 has disrupted the industry and after months of lockdown, the region is gradually re-opening, getting ready for the MICE sector to come back.
Technology has been the only viable solution to overcoming the constraints caused by the pandemic, with online and hybrid events enjoying mixed success. As the situation rolls on, albeit with recovery in sight in some regions, safety remains the top concern for event organisers. In such a turmoiled context, what does the future hold for the Meetings & Events industry? We have asked MICE leader Selina Sinclair to share some thoughts.
Selina is an Australian and British national whose professional career has seen her spend more of her life in London and Singapore. As Global Managing Director of Pacific World, she took the company to new heights leading the brand to regain its position as leading DMC in Asia and spearheaded global expansion activities.
Now the leader at REALM, she leads the hottest new DMC and Event Company in Asia as well as being an active member of the global Business Events community sitting on the Executive Board for the SITE foundation as VP For Research and Content as well as sitting on the PCMA Asia Pacific Advisory board.
We have been talking to representatives of the Porto & North start-up ecosystem; founders and leaders of local technology companies that are driving innovation in the region. Infraspeak is one example of a tech company deeply involved in solutions for the hospitality & tourism industry and they collaborated in the development of the Portuguese Clean & Safe stamp. How important are solutions such as this one - that eventually help planners to mitigate risks - for the global MICE activities to return?
[Selina Sinclair]: Our new operating environment requires a strong partnership with local government and industry authorities critical for the MICE sector's recovery. The acute processes of managing foreign arrivals and the seamless procedure of health and safety of attendees on the ground will be an integral part of getting the government's support to allow our industry to resume activities again. The recently published "SITE Global Corporate InSITES Whitepaper" suggests that the North American corporate sector rated safety, risk management and more robust data analytics as top priorities when designing incentive travel programs also supported the sentiments for recovery.
This is where technology can enable these priorities efficiently and acutely. Such tools can be highly adaptable and instantaneously update organisers and participants on changes and help reduce unforeseen disruptions. Whilst technology informs us, experienced event professionals are still required to manage disruptions.
Virtual events have become a big part of our lives throughout the last year, how do you think this digital twin of live events will evolve in the future? Do you see yourself in a "parallel world" with an avatar, purchasing and virtually wearing 3D-made clothing? Do you think we will be able to achieve mass customisation through more sophisticated solutions in event design, similar to what PlatformE manages to do in fashion?
[Selina Sinclair]: We continue to see accelerating technology adoption during COVID-19 and see how virtual events fulfil some organiser's omnipresence event objectives. Whatever platform and types of technology we use to create more engaging experiences for participants, the design process must remain "participant experience-centric". We do see a move towards having a more holistic ecosystem where companies will have multiple touchpoints with their audiences, enabling them to create a more bespoke and customised experience over time.
You have been involved in the global MICE industry for many years and are a board member at SITE Foundation, collaborate with PCMA Convening Leaders etc. Last year you also founded Realm, a start-up in event management. What have you learned from this new adventure so far and what do you think we can learn from start-ups in the tech industry?
[Selina Sinclair]: It has been such an incredible journey creating REALM. We believe in being community-focused above providing unforgettable experiences. COVID-19 gave us new perspectives. And it is through the vulnerabilities shared by our community during the hard times that we found alignment in our purpose, values and vision. REALM wants to build an ecosystem where future generations can thrive in our industry because they make a difference in human connection through events and experiences. We can learn from the tech industry's start-ups by having the interest and courage to celebrate failures. When we know better, we do better.