Over 500 exhibitions and conventions have been either cancelled or postponed in Macau through March 2020 due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but a leading industry representative believes it will recover in the second half of the year.
Managing Director of the Macau Convention and Exhibition Association, Alan Ho, told Inside Asian Gaming that 2020 was expected to be a busy year for the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) industry, with over 1,500 exhibitions and conventions planned, but up to 50% of those are expected to be impacted by coronavirus with all events having so far come to a standstill.
Several large-scale MICE events have been cancelled since the outbreak of COVID-19, including the Macao International Environmental Co-operation Forum & Exhibition held annually by the SAR government. Others, such as G2E Asia – currently re-scheduled from mid-May to late July – have been postponed to later dates.
Ho noted that the MICE industry in Macau relies heavily on international business and is therefore heavily impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe and America.
“It has had a significant negative impact on the MICE industry in Macau in the short and medium term,” Ho said.
“The pausing of the MICE industry has also created a knock-on effect not only on the tourism, hotels, dining and retail sectors, but also on advertising, financial, logistics as well as architectural industries. MICE events play an important role in driving forward-looking corporations, planning and developments in various industries, but all of those have stopped now.”
Last year, the spending of visitors heading to Macau for MICE events rose by 7.8% to MOP$3,781, compared with an average spend from other visitors of just MOP$1,626.
Despite the impact of such loss of business, Ho said he remains confident the sector will enjoy a strong rebound in the latter half of the year.
“Most of our MICE events are special and unique functions compared with others, and we have complementary development to avoid overlapping with Hong Kong and other nearby regions,” Ho added. “The position of Macau’s MICE is competitive enough and irreplaceable. For example, G2E Asia is the one and only gaming related exhibition in the greater China area. It will attract many people to come to Macau after this epidemic.
“Most of the MICE operators also have a consensus between each other, so even though most events will delay for two or three months, a mass clash is unlikely to happen.
“We’ve already asked hotels and venue operators to reschedule our bookings as well. If the epidemic can end in the second half of this year, we can have a better recovery in the fourth quarter.”
Ho emphasized the importance of finding more cooperative opportunities with Zhuhai city and the Greater Bay Area (GBA) to share resources and extend Macau’s influence.
“The epidemic situation in mainland China is much better than other places in the world, so we need the support from the mainland,” he said.
“We plan to start the annual ‘Dynamic Macao Business and Trade Fair’ in Qingdao city in July, and then we are going to launch more characteristic events with the GBA. We can share venues, introduce guests and customers to each other and drive our hotels and expenditures together.”
Ho revealed the SAR government is planning measures aimed at supporting the MICE industry, with an announcement expected in the near future.