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March 20, 2012

INNOVATION AND VALUE:Technology and ROI most critical

According to UFI’s Global Exhibition Barometer, conducted among member companies in December 2011, most Asia-Pacific exhibition sector players expect a higher turnover in 2012, compared to the same period last year. Some 73 per cent expect an increase in the first half of 2012, while 18 per cent foresee a dip. For the second half of the year, 66 per cent are optimistic and 19 per cent expect poorer turnover.


Nine per cent of survey participants in Asia-Pacific are unsure of their business outcome in the first half of 2012, compared to 15 per cent in the second half of the year, perhaps a reflection of how uncertain participants are on how the world economy may swing. In the same survey, UFI asked companies for their view on whether the impact of the economic crisis on the business was over or not. The decline in confidence is particularly significant in Asia-Pacific, where the level of positive answers drops from 65 per cent to 27 per cent.


The Global Exhibition Barometer also found that half the pool of participants worldwide expect the impact of the economic woe on their exhibition business will end in 2013, whereas six months before the latest survey 63 per cent considered it would end in 2012. Some 14 per cent of respondents believe the crisis will end in 2014, while eight per cent think it will cross into 2015.


The health of national/regional and international economies are the top two concerns of participants. Local/national competition from within the exhibitions industry follows in third place, and internal management issues fourth.


Interviews TTGmice had with the region’s conventions and exhibitions players revealed similar sentiments.


“It is hard to predict (how business would be), as the exhibitions business highly correlates to the global economy. The European debt issue and the sluggish economy and high unemployment rate in the US have created a volatile environment. These directly affect the export and import industries which our exhibitions business focuses on,” said Daniel Cheung, general manager of Hong Kong Exhibition Services.


Sources also told TTGmice that companies organising or participating in trade events were paying greater attention to returns on investment (ROI).


“Against the backdrop of the global economic situation, a corporation’s every marketing campaign and exhibition are now to an even larger extent subject to financial scrutiny,” said UBM Asia senior vice president, Wolfram Diener.


“A few years ago, systematic ROI studies as part of marketing plans were mainly an affair for larger corporations, whereas this has become common practice even among small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME). More than 80 per cent of booth space at exhibitions worldwide is booked by SMEs, not by large multinationals. Companies may now pull out quickly if their participation in an exhibition has not proven worth the investment,” he added.


The emergence of the ‘convex’ type of events – a combination of convention and exhibition component in a single event – observed by Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre business development director, Sarnit Karunyavanij, appears to resonate with the growing need to achieve much more at one go.


“In the past, conferences were held in hotels for 300 to 800 delegates. Now, events are held in venues with plenary rooms, multiple breakout rooms and a small exhibition hall of 1,000m2 to 2,000m2. PCOs and associations realise that companies don’t want to just sponsor an event. Companies want to be seen and have a chance to engage event delegates, which means more exhibition space is needed alongside a conference,” said Sarnit, who added that the exhibition component would generate more revenue to support the cost of organising the event.


PCO/PEOs have to devise their own mechanisms to cope with the greater need to provide value for money.


“While we cannot reduce our prices, we can offer value-added services to exhibitors, such as extended promotions on peripherals, networking functions and buyer-meet-sellers sessions to generate more business opportunities for them,” said Hong Kong Exhibtion Services’ Cheung.


Diener said: “UBM Asia draws great attention to the continued development of trade buyer data bases and to the professional visitor promotion through all available channels. We believe that this is now even more instrumental in keeping the patronage of our exhibitions and many international business communities.”


The need for “effective cost management to generate maximum ROI for business events will continue to be a critical factor”, said Aloysius Arlando, CEO of Singex Exhibition Ventures and Singex Venues. “This will lead to event organisers looking at both objective-driven content and delivery that supports it. It’s no longer a case of technology adoption for example, but technology assimilation into the meetings delivery that will take on an increasingly important role for attendees to maximise their attendance at the show and stay fully connected to the office,” said Arlando.


The growing demand for communications technology at conventions and exhibitions has also been fuelled by the social media generation, noted Vitanart Vathanakul, executive director of Royal Cliff Hotels Group and Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH).


“We see an increase in demand for web-based conferencing, video conferencing, teleconferencing and virtual meeting. With the influence of social media, people want to stay connected and be able to interact with one another at any time and place,” said Vitanart.


Keeping up with times, Royal Cliff hotels and PEACH have upgraded its communication technology facilities, enabling free Internet connection in all guestrooms this year. PEACH has installed the latest equipment and technology including optical fibre throughout the venue.


Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre has also changed its product offerings to cater to the rise of social media adoption. Peter Brokenshire, general manager of the venue, said: “The centre provides complimentary Wi-Fi access at its Park View Deck and in designated areas, as well as complimentary Internet stations around the facility.”


So did Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which completed major enhancements to its Wi-Fi system in early October 2011. Wi-Fi user capacity has been upgraded from 1,000 to 3,000 at a time, and maximum usage time for individual users has been increased from 20 minutes to an hour. With a bandwidth of 100Mbps, download and upload speeds for individual users have also been doubled.


“Quality organisers look for innovative technologies, partnerships and flexibility from venues to strive for even higher standards to differentiate themselves from the rest to stay competitive. There is certainly investment in technology upgrade, as well as staff training on product knowledge, market trends and language competencies,” said Monica Lee-Muller, deputy managing director of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management).


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