A year of unexpected disruption

Turmoil in Hong Kong, confidence in Thailand and Ed Sheeran at Disney featured in an unpredictable 2019 for event planners. Steve Cray reports

AROUND this time back in 2018 we were focusing on a recovery from the previous year’s annus horribilis following agency turmoil and shock departures in the meetings and events industry. Our article continued with an upbeat assessment of disruption and change setting the stage for a brighter, better 2019 and MIX’s 12th anniversary.

In many ways that optimism was well placed, with events such as Get Global and AIME predicting and then delivering successes, and destinations like Singapore, Shanghai and Macau looking at increasing competition and market expansion.

But change was as unpredictable as ever, and it would not be long before the tear-gas clouds of social unrest cast a shadow over Hong Kong, severely hitting the tourism and the hospitality trades.

Things started well enough. In our February/March – 12th anniversary – issue, Bhutan, China’s Pearl River Delta (now becoming known as Greater Bay), Sumba in Indonesia, Gangneung in South Korea and Phu Quoc in Vietnam were all on a list of emerging global destinations drawn up by leading DMC Pacific World in its 2019 travel trend destinations.

The SITE global conference in Bangkok reported success despite fears concerning global tensions, and AIME event director Jay Martens was passionate about changes in Melbourne’s revamped show.

There was also hope, in a feature headlined “bridging the gap”, that the road link across the Pearl Delta would extend access for buyers in a new Greater Bay era.

The upbeat tone continued in April/May with Get Global’s Gary Bender and Donna Kesler preparing for the third edition of their Australian meetings and events show, having won a New South Wales MEA award.

More: season’s greetings from the Editor of MIX

Singapore was celebrating its innovative Fintech Festival and also offering both fun and business events opportunities with its island retreat Sentosa, and (with no hint of the troubles to come) we were “toasting classy Hong Kong” as it offered organisers new luxury events spaces and traditional old-town character.

In the same issue Helen Dalley investigated inequality in the events trade, with campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesUp highlighting issues like harassment and workplace diversity. PCMA’s Michelle Crowley told MIX: “Diversity is not just about gender but also different perspectives and experiences, and we need to create an environment where there’s true diversity of thought.”

It isn’t often yousee superstar singer/songwriter Ed Sheeren grace the cover of meetings and events magazines, but there he was on the front of the June/July issue, strumming his guitar under the headline “Disney on song”. The Eventist article featured Karen Kwan, MICE andevent business manager at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, as she moved to Disney from convention and expo centres. Other events on her watch, apart from the Sheeren concert, included a show by Taiwanese band Mayday and the resort’s 10k Weekend running event.

Two features in that issue highlighted waterfront developments, with Bangkok benefiting from projects such as IconSiam along the Chao Phraya, and Shanghai “reinventing the Bund” with revitalised spaces along its famous river.

There were also two articles on tech developments, with Cvent’s Will Kataria spelling out how digital technology can enhance person-to-person engagement, and Hikvision holding a summit for 3,000 partners and delegates in Hangzhou showcasing its surveillance and Internet of Things technology.

The tech trend continued in August/September with a Spotlight analysis on the benefits of and controversies surrounding the 5G cellular network, with mainland China the leading provider. WeMeet CEO Gu Xuebin suggested venues and organisers “jump onthis right now. It will be a game changer… the first movers will come out of it in a big way”.

Australia was the main featured destination in the issue, with a “knowledge walkabout” of the country’s convention centres and an Event Focus on Singapore buyers flying to the inaugural Meet Darwin International to sample what the Northern Territory had to offer.

By October/November civil unrest in Hong Kong saw the tourism, hospitality and events hit hard, with organisers switching to Bangkok, Singapore and Macau.

Interestingly, though, international buyers shrugged off the unrest, and the headline “jewellery, gem fairs shine for Hong Kong” told the story. A MIX editorial reminded readers that Hong Kong “is still open for business”.

In the same issue, Philip Pang, PCMA manager, marketing and events, said the organisation backed the Asia Pacific region to become a key player in economic and social transformation, urging people “to find common ground…during these challenging times” – a great take-home message
for all as we look forward to 2020.


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