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VO L U M E 8 | F E B R UA RY 2 0 2 0

PLACES Brand building in Australia, Thailand and UAE; Unconventional bureaus; Destinations to watch

PEOPLE Why event ambassadors work; Engaging local communities; Xerocon 2019

Managing Editor Lauren Arena lauren@untangledgroup.com CEO | Publisher El Kwang el@untangledgroup.com Director of Visual Production Chua Yi Kiat kiat@untangledgroup.com Senior Reporter Anis Ramli anis@untangledgroup.com Sales & Operations Michelle Lim michellelim@untangledgroup.com Lilian Kuan lilian@untangledgroup.com Contributors Sanjay Surana Kim Benjamin Gerardine Donough-Tan Design & Production PIXO fanix@pixosolutions.com International Media Representatives China: Mary Yao mary@mhichina.com +86 10 6551 5663 ext 8008 South Korea: Alexander Paik apcomm@naver.com +82 10 5042 1337

Biz Events Asia is published by Untangled Pte Ltd 308 Tanglin Road, GreenHub Offices, Phoenix Park, Singapore 247974 Email: hello@bizeventsasia.com | Website: www.bizeventsasia.com Tel: +65 9833 1583 Visit us online for regular updates throughout the month: www.bizeventsasia.com Privacy Policy: Untangled is committed to managing your personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act. For a copy of our Privacy Policy, please go to www.bizeventsasia.com/privacy Printed in Singapore by Sunrise Printing & Supplies Pte Ltd. Reg no. L002/11/2017 PPS 1785/04/2013 (022963) MCI (P) 036/08/2019



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hat is your favourite place in the world? This question is often thrown around the school yard with the happy-go-lucky attitude of youth. But as I get older, wiser, worldlier, etc., it continues to intrigue me. Despite my many travels, my favourite place is the home I share with my husband in Singapore, followed closely by my childhood home in suburban Sydney, where I grew up with my two younger brothers. I suspect most of you will have similar responses — highlighting places that evoke memories and which are closely linked to the people you hold most dear. These places may not be the most picturesque locations, but the experiences we’ve had, and the people we’ve met, provide meaning and importance. They shape our identity and personal narrative. We explore the many diverse attributes that create a sense of place in this new edition of Biz Events Asia. Primarily, we examine the role the business events industry plays in the process of ‘placemaking’ and developing future cities. Beyond bricks and mortar assets, this includes building narrative-based place brands (p.24), engaging with local ambassadors (p.52) and creating and enriching communities (p.60). The need to serve our community of business events professionals in the Asia-Pacific region provided the catalyst for our new editorial direction. Experts say that 65 per cent of people are visual learners, and with the complex network of language that exists across our region, this figure bears even more weight. So, as you flip through the pages of this book, you’ll find macro trends that have been distilled into bite-sized insights, helpful infographics, and actionable advice for event practitioners. In this sense, we hope our quarterly publication becomes more than just a magazine; encouraging more meaningful engagement throughout the year. To create an active dialogue with the industry, we’ve also launched a NEW PODCAST, known as The #Braindate Series, where we focus on the human element of events. We hope the new Biz Events Asia inspires conversation and action, and we welcome your feedback.

Lauren Arena Managing editor



is a collective voice.

Damion Breust CEO Directions Conference & Incentive Management

Max Boontawee Jantasuwan Founding CEO Events Travel Asia

Deanna Varga Director & Founder Mayvin Global

Ronald Lim Event Director & Founder Think Tank Productions

Janet Tan-Collis CEO East West Planners

Selina Sinclair Global Managing Director Pacific World

Sumate Sudasna President | Thailand Incentive & Convention Association (TICA)

Nichapa Yoswee Senior Vice President — Business TCEB

Neeta Lachmandas Executive Director The Institute of Service Excellence, Singapore Management University

Andrew Chan CEO ACI HR



Marine Debatte Head of Events APJ / China BI Worldwide

Liu Ping Founder China Star

Carina Bauer CEO IMEX Group

Rajeev Kohli Joint Managing Director Creative Travel India

Kerry Healy VP Sales — Asia Pacific Accor

Amelia Roziman COO Business Events Sarawak

Richard Soo Managing Director MEP Meeting & Exhibition Planners

Samantha Glass Director of Corporate Affairs & Communication ICC Sydney

Edward Koh Executive Director Singapore Tourism Board

Penny Lion Executive General Manager Events Tourism Australia

BEA Influencer Join us | hello@bizeventsasia.com






SEE HOW WE’VE EVOLVED inspiring conversations


What is Placemaking? PAGE

Case Study: World Expo 2020

10 PAG E




Game-changing convention bureaus

Destination storytelling PAG E



Place branding and soft power

Destinations to watch

32 PAG E




How to create event FOMO


The power of community PAG E




Why event ambassadors work


How to engage local communities PAG E


Case Study: Xerocon 2019

68 PAG E


‘Phygital’ storytelling


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WHAT IS PLACEMAKING? Business events can spur city development and strengthen connections between people and the places they share. By Lauren Arena


y 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. A 2018 report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, predicts 68 per cent (2.5 billion more people) could live in urban areas in the next 30 years. Nearly 90 per cent of this growth will take place in Asia and Africa. When we examine data about the business events industry specifically, the latest annual report from Cvent shows Asia is the fastest growing region for events, with an increasing number of second-tier cities investing in infrastructure, transport and the experience economy. The business of events can play an active role in the evolution of cities, driving both innovation and infrastructure development, but also contributing significantly to the ‘soft power’ of a city (see Place Branding: Soft Power that Packs a Punch on p.24). But first, what is a place? Is it a city skyline and geographical boundary? Or does it extend into the metaphysical realm? Places are environments in which people have invested meaning over time. A place has its own history — a unique cultural and social identity that is defined by the way it is used and the people who use it.

‘Placemaking’, then, constitutes much more than ‘hard’ assets and urban planning. According to the Institute of Place Management (IPM), placemaking “recognises that places are not only the products of planning, but also the outcomes of complex social relations. It is based on an understanding of place as a relational social construct, a contingent openend process and the locus of the intersection of divergent trajectories”. What does this mean in practical terms? And why should this matter to business events professionals? How does the business events industry play a role? Dr Julie Grail, a leading expert in partnership solutions and place management, posed the same question to industry and government leaders at the IMEX Policy Forum in Frankfurt last year. A senior fellow at IPM and special advisor on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Grail says it’s important to recognise the fragility of place and that people, rather than bricks and mortar, are at the heart of placemaking. “Places are fragile — we know this. One single user cannot operate in isolation in a location, so you have to understand the bigger picture,” she said.

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The BID Model

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are non-profit-controlled, carved-out areas within a city. Multiple stakeholders establish a collective vision and pool resources to improve local conditions, as well as the quality of visitor experiences. The concept of BIDs has long-established roots in the U.S. (several in NYC) and is growing rapidly across the U.K. (more than 300 according to IPM). There are a number of BIDs across Australia, but in Asia, the BID model is relatively new. In Singapore, the Urban Redevelopment Authority is currently supporting nine pilot BID programmes (Singapore River One was the first pilot BID formed in 2017). For Grail, who led the first BID pilot programme ‘The Circle Initiative’ in central London (2001 to 2005) and now runs The BIDs Business consultancy, BIDs are all about stakeholder management, equitable coinvestment and co-creation. “If you can define a wider strategy that creates sufficient motivation to all partners and pays dividends to all, BIDs will happen. It is coinvestment, not expenditure,” she says. The first step, acccording to Grail, is to identify the ‘actors’ (talent, assets and stakeholders) that make your place. These are usually spread across three sectors: Public, private, and community. Following this, a collaborative vision must be developed, followed by a joint investment plan to maximise shared value (see graph on p.16). “You need to find a way to orchestrate shared opportunity and shared vision,” Grail explains. “If you build the philosophical belief in collaboration through the BID model, anything you do will build momentum.” In Leeds, for example, a five-year BID plan provided key investment (businesses in the area with a value of UK£60,000 or above were required to pay a 1.25% levy) to make the city a cleaner, safer and more welcoming place. More than UK£12 million (approx. US$16 million) was invested back into the city over the

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initial five-year term (2015 to 2020), funding projects such as Welcome Ambassadors and street rangers, as well as the delivery of several business events and public events, such as the Leeds International Festival, which provided direct business benefits and helped raise the city’s profile, nationally and internationally. Members of LeedsBID recently voted to approve a second term of investment, which will run from April 2020 to March 2025. In this sense, the business of events and the business of cities (placemaking) are inextricably linked; creating opportunities for collaboration and investment. Mega-events like the Olympics and World Expo (see p.22) can also create new places, influence global perspectives of a place, and reshape place branding. Professor Greg Clark, a global cities expert and senior advisor on future cities and new industries to HSBC Bank, takes it one step further. He says placemaking creates a “licence to operate” for the business events industry in any location, especially if “you’re seen to be a responsible industry that creates good places”. “You have to demonstrate that the events industry creates amenities, infrastructure, services, place and opportunities that are for everyone,” he explains. In Sydney, for example, ICC Sydney operator ASM Global is a member of several area-based consortia and consulted with various actors on the purpose, design and building of the venue, which opened in December 2016. ICC Sydney CEO, Geoff Donaghy, says instead of building a “concreate curtain” that divided the city, the centre weaves the fabric of the community together. “We redeveloped the entire surrounding area, including the neighbouring parkland, developed a hotel, and activated retail and restaurants so that delegates can rub shoulders with the local community — that is an enriched destination experience. Engagement beyond the walls of the venue contributes to a sense of place.”

“Demonstrate that the events industry creates amenities, infrastructure, services, place and opportunities that are for everyone.� Greg Clark Global cities expert

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Business events and the innovation economy

Clark, who has studied 5,000 years of city evolution, says its important to recognise the connection between trade, connectivity, innovation and the sustainable development of cities — and the unique role that business events play in fostering that connection. “This is a globally interconnected world that puts premium on face-to-face interactions, particularly those that fuel innovation and improve trade. Therefore, these meetings are not just about ‘buyer meet seller’ transaction, but events will increasingly become the venues where innovation occurs ‘live’.” We are currently living in a century of rapid urbanisation, so the business of building and making cities will become increasingly important. According to Clarke, it will also

Smart digital/ citizens Smart government

Smart manufacturing

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Smart transportation

become a business that is very rich in meetings. “The importance of business events over the next 70 years as the world completes this journey of urbanisation cannot be overstated.” “The building of cities and the management of urbanisation is itself now an industry and business events play an important role in spawning innovation through green buildings, connected vehicles, recycling of waste, and a whole series of new circular economies, experience economies, innovation economies, which cities are promoting,” he says. But what happens when we reach peak population? Many places are already suffering from overtourism. How can face-to-face meetings foster innovation in a sustainable way and address issues like climate change?

Open data

Smart farming/ agriculture

Smart health

Smart grid/ energy/ utilities Smart buildings

Mobility/ WiFi

Business events and sustainable development

Many places are looking to develop ‘smart cities’ that harness technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution (e.g. artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things) to improve efficiency. Clarke warns that such an approach could erode social capital, and points to the need to co-create solutions with citizens. Geneviève Leclerc, co-founder & CEO of Meet4Impact, agrees that new models of knowledge transfer and collaboration will need to be developed, and the business events industry has the potential to “play a significant role in catalysing the creation and diffusion of these models”. Leclerc, who has more than 20 years’ experience in congress management, says business events can become a powerful vehicle for CVBs, venues, city governments, academia, community groups and citizens to “co-develop progressive solutions to large-scale issues linked to tourism and the visitor economy; solve issues in local urban ecosystems and clusters; and, ultimately co-create more positive urban living environments”. In order to achieve this, Leclerc says we need to improve stakeholder management and formalise pathways of intervention and collaboration that create positive outcomes for all — the BID model is one example. “As DMOs are progressively called to take on the responsibility of destination stewardship, their role in catalysing these multi-stakeholder collaborations and

brokering relationships and knowledge/ expertise transfer will increase in importance,” she explains. Meet4Impact helps destinations and conference organisers convert broad-level intentions into measurable objectives with a maximum of positive outcomes for the host destination. She is currently collaborating with Tourism New Zealand on a pilot project that aims to harness the benefits of three incoming conferences: the INTECOL International Wetlands Conference 2020 in Christchurch, World Leisure Congress 2022 in Dunedin and International Working Group on Women and Sport 2022 in Auckland. The harsh reality, however, is that the business of events is very carbon- and resource-intensive. “The established fact that we generate good jobs and yield high economic impacts will no longer cut it,” Leclerc warns. “How can the actors of this industry enable our events to deliver truly transformative experiences for visitors in a way that creates deep connections between them and the places they visit, the people they meet, and the knowledge they gain, so that they become champions and protectors of our destinations?” Following the 2020 World Economic Forum, where discussions focused on ‘stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world’, this question taps into the zeitgeist of the new decade — and is one we will seek to answer in the next issue of Biz Events Asia.


Public (government)

Placemaking happens here

Private (commercial)

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WO RDS to AC T I O N p


l too






We’re all in it together





Venues should not be “concrete curtains” but contribute to a sense of place Business events

Drive innovation

century of urbanisation ONGOING RE-EVALUATION

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By 2080, approx. 80% of 9.5 billion people will live in cities

DMO as a destination steward

Planning an offsite experience for your business event with an authentic taste of Singapore? Food Tribes offers immersive dining experiences in private homes and unique venues for six to 100 guests.

Say hello@foodtribesasia.com to activate home-cooked flavours paired with unforgettable food stories.

Welcome to our table — passionately Singapore

UNCONVENTIONAL B USIN ES S To keep pace with the rapid growth and transformation of cities, convention bureaus need to evolve. Three forwardthinking bureaus are changing the game. By Lauren Arena

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“I like to describe our role as ‘uber connectors’.”


Lyn Lewis-Smith CEO BESydney

n 2019, we celebrated 50 years of operation at BESydney and we’ve spent some significant time reflecting on our development over that time — both as an industry as a whole, but also our own contribution. As we gathered with our partners, stakeholders and clients over the year, we described our role as ‘anticipating tomorrow’. For 50 years, BESydney and its industry partners have had to innovate to build the industry to the level of success we’ve achieved now. So, as we enter a new decade, we have established our credentials as a professional services firm — moving completely away from the old ties of the traditional ‘convention bureau’. Our new name BESydney is the most visible evidence of that. We also changed the makeup of our Board, bringing in independent directors and an independent chair. The position of a convention bureau, in our case operating independently and not-for-profit, provides an incredibly unique perspective and eye to the future. We’re poised at the nexus between the tourism supply chain, the highest levels of academic and business world, and government. Beyond working with our partners to secure these events, I like to describe our role as ‘uber connectors’. We open the door to Sydney’s best, connecting clients to our network of industry experts, policy makers and influencers. We are an incredible soft power vehicle for our country, keeping it connected with the world in the areas that can make a difference to its future. The key facilitation role we play is by focusing on our city, region and country’s local strengths and strategically targeting global meetings that will create two-way value. The bringing together of different parts of the knowledge industry, the commercial world and the tourism supply chain is a specialist professional service of great value to each of those parties, as well as governments. The sooner bureaus and governments stop seeing meetings as a tourism cash cow, chasing only the biggest meetings for meetings sake, and focus carefully on securing meetings where your destination can add, or generate real value, we will all benefit as a sector. The role of the meetings industry into the future is to take these insights and use them to support the next generation of academic and practitioner delegates to gain more from their conference experiences. In doing so, we will drive innovation further and faster into the future.

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“Convention bureaus need to be good citizens.” Sharon Landes-Fischer Acting CEO Tel Aviv Convention Bureau Convention bureaus can be strategic partners in a city’s overall development strategy. As the winner of the ‘World Smart Cities Award’ in 2014, Tel Aviv is a hub for innovation, technology and creativity, and we seek to harness the creative minds of our residents to attract international events that will further drive economic growth. We recognise that the residents of Tel Aviv are one of the city’s major assets. The Eurovision Song Contest, hosted in Tel Aviv last May, allowed us to showcase the synergy between the bureau, our city stakeholders and our residents. As a smart city that encourages civic engagement, Tel Aviv Municipality developed a digital platform for real-time, location-based communication with residents. In order to balance the strain that a mega-event like the Eurovision Song Contest might have on the local community, we seized the opportunity to engage residents to participate in the festive ambience by inviting locals to volunteer at tourist information centres (right), or host visitors for a Shabbat dinner in their homes. Convention bureaus need to be good citizens. We need to be aware of our carbon footprint, and we need to support local communities. In Tel Aviv, we do this in a number of ways: We have created a ‘green and sustainable’ protocol for events; we have programmes for inclusive tourism, which

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includes training locals from less touristy neighbourhoods to host immersive dining experiences for visitors in their homes; we look for possibilities to connect international conferences to the local start-up scene. After all, a conference that takes place in a closed room can happen anywhere in the world. The purpose of bringing it to a particular city is to showcase the ‘added value’ of the destination. In Tel Aviv, this means showcasing our ‘Nonstop City’ with all of its opportunities for nightlife, culture and afterhours networking. We’ve realised that in order for the city to prepare to host more mega-events in the future, we don’t necessarily need to build new stadiums or monuments, instead we need to develop a sense of flexibility in the city — an ability to expand our products and services in the most efficient way, which is written as municipal protocol. As well as contributing to the key verticals of a city, convention bureaus should support inclusive initiatives that ‘spread the wealth’ generated by business events to all communities within the city.

“Our job is not to build a brand.” Tracy Halliwell Director of Tourism, Conventions & Major Events London & Partners

Looking ahead, convention bureaus can’t rely on government funding. We have to grow up and prove that we are a good return on investment for the city. At London & Partners, we’ve changed the way we measure our business. Many bureaus now still measure success through overall economic benefit to the city, but we now use a different metric: Gross Value Add (GVA). Working with Treasury to formulate a robust model, we remove the cost of doing business, over optimism factors, crowding out effects, and non-contestable business from the equation. This allows us to prove the value of who we are as an organisation so that we can continue to gain support from government and our industry stakeholders and has made us a lot more focused as a bureau. Since starting the GVA journey, we’ve also established an Event Industry Board in the U.K., which sits under the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This has amplified our ‘soft power’ when speaking to government as politicians now appreciate the importance of our sector.

Photo credit: London Tech Week

London & Partners is the official promotional company for London. We promote London and attract businesses, events, congresses, students and visitors to the city. As a marketing organisation, we’ve grown up quite a lot. When I first joined 14 years ago, we used to focus on product, then, following BESydney’s lead, we started looking at the wider economic benefits of meetings, telling stories about why events were good for a destination and the importance of intellectual capital. Technology is a big driver for London, contributing some 240,000 jobs and UK£22.5 billon (US$29 billion) to the economy. In 2014, London & Partners co-founded London Tech Week (below) to promote and build our extraordinary tech sector. The annual event brings together hundreds of crowd-sourced events across the city, attracting more than 58,000 attendees in 2019, and helps us tell the story of London’s tech cluster. It’s also given us a vehicle to attract more events to the city and boost foreign direct investment. We recently conducted research across multiple markets and demographics to understand exactly what attracts people to London and what resonates with them. We distilled this down to one statement: “London is a city of creative energy”. We don’t use this as a tagline, but it has shaped our strategy and tone of voice. London means so many different things to so many different people, so our job is not to build the brand, but to ask our audience and stakeholders to build that brand for us. Last year, we developed a platform called London’s Global Good News Room, where we share daily stories with a community of global ambassadors. We keep them informed so they can amplify the message.

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Ca s e St udy

WO R L D E X P O 2 0 2 0 The ‘World’s Greatest Show’ proves events are the ultimate place-branding platform — and stakeholders in Dubai are getting excited. By Kim Benjamin


t’s been nearly seven years in the making. In October, Dubai will throw open the doors to World Expo 2020, having won the bid back in 2013. It’s the first time the mega-event, which showcases culture and innovation, has been held in the region and marks the Middle East’s largest-ever event. Fittingly, ambitious targets have been set for the ‘World’s Greatest Show’. With its theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, organisers say it will be the most international and inclusive Expo in history. Around 25 million visitors are expected to descend, the majority from outside the UAE, while 192 countries are set to take part. As a destination marketing platform, previous World Expo editions have raised awareness of the host city/region, increased economic growth, particularly among the tourism sector, and boosted infrastructure levels. But such mega-events also have to live up to levels of expectation that are just as big. The previous Expo, held in Milan in 2015, was plagued by spiralling costs and construction issues ahead of its opening, while others criticised it for being underwhelming. Despite this, it drew 20 million visitors, and officials said Milan had been transformed into a ‘gateway for Italy’. Shanghai’s version, held in 2010, garnered positive praise and welcomed a record-breaking 70 million visitors. Steen Jakobsen, assistant vice president at Dubai Business Events, says World Expo will demonstrate Dubai’s ability to host large-scale events and highlight the city’s ‘impressive infrastructure’, such as the new Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC). “It will also provide an unrivalled opportunity for event planners, who will be able to incorporate site visits to allow delegates to explore the thematic and national pavilions, or even host their own events there,” he says. The theme, Jakobsen adds, fits well with reaching out to the business events community. It shows that Dubai has more than just the hygiene factors necessary to host events, with a vibrant knowledge and innovation hub ideal for associations.

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Rebecca Amey, managing director at Jack Morton, MENA, which is delivering a brand experience for energy provider ENOC at the event, says that the impact for Dubai and the UAE from a nation branding perspective cannot be underestimated. “It’s an exciting time to bring fresh new talent to the region to experience working in the live events industry in the UAE, and also an opportunity for Emirati youth to experience careers, job roles and projects that they previously wouldn’t have known existed,” she says. Agency Lightblue is also working with several brands at Expo 2020, with an emphasis on educational aspects integrated with experiential and storytelling elements.

C a se S tu dy

“It’s an exciting time to bring fresh new talent to the region to experience working in the live events industry in the UAE.” Rebecca Amey Managing director Jack Morton, MENA

“Guests will see some incredible feats of engineering, sustainability taken to the next level and technologies and engagements that we were only dreaming of a short time ago,” says Lightblue partner Craig Borthwick. “What’s important is that it makes sense and is purposeful to support in creating a legacy.” From a logistics point of view, there are additional transport systems in place, such as a new branch of the Dubai Metro system, connecting visitors to the rest of the city, three major highways, more than 30,000 car park spaces and a direct bus service. “We have focused on how Dubai and the UAE will enhance the visitor journey, covering areas such

as immigration, transport, events, healthcare and attractions across the rest of the country,” says Sanjive Khosla, chief commercial officer at Expo 2020 Dubai. Hospitality providers are also in full swing with preparations. Accor is sponsoring the French Pavilion, showcasing its services and hosting a range of events. Jumeirah Group, meanwhile, is expecting Burj Al Arab to be one of the most visited sites — it has increased the number of Michelin-starred chefs here, hoping to attract visitors and guests. Other preparations include the renovation of Jumeirah Beach Hotel, with a new spa. “We are also curating experiences at our hotels, including design-led talks at the Burj Al Arab,” says Jose Silva, CEO at Jumeirah Group. “Expo has been great for any city where it has taken place and I’ve witnessed the positive financial impact at other locations.” Others in the region are also hoping to benefit, not least Dubai’s closest neighbour, Abu Dhabi. “Dubai’s Expo district is actually closer to Abu Dhabi than it is to downtown Dubai, so we’re hoping to capture spill over in Abu Dhabi hotels,” says Mubarak Hamad Al Shamisi, director at Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau. “Our collaboration sees us sharing benefits — such as marketing opportunities, offsite corporate events and curated itineraries around sustainability, education and innovation.” Legacy planning Natalie Crampton, managing director of agency TEC, highlights the importance of legacy and how Dubai is already looking beyond, ensuring the sustainability not only of the live event but what will be District 2020, a mixed-used development. “The space has been carefully designed to support the UAE’s sustainable and economic development within its key growth areas,” she says. “With its connectivity and infrastructure, District 2020 is designed to be the new hub for innovation, boasting creative hubs, cultural attractions, residential communities and much more.” Khosla also points to how iconic structures, including Al Wasl Plaza and DEC will be retained, while the Sustainability Pavilion will become a children and science centre. Youth is another crucial element of the event’s legacy. “We are involving youth every step of the way, via Expo 2020’s own school and university programmes, as well as our Emiratisation strategy, which encourages young Emiratis to play pivotal roles in delivering Expo 2020 — a vital experience that benefits them, the Expo, and the UAE,” he says.

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PLACE BRANDING: SOFT POWER THAT PACKS A PUNCH If you think place branding is just about attracting tourism, think again. By Lauren Arena

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1. NYC 2. LDN 3. SIN 4. HKG 5. AMS 6. LAX 7. CHI 8. DXB 9. BOS 10. WDC


8.8 8.5 7.3 7.2 7 7 6.9 6.8 6.7 6.7

Source: Saffron Brand Consultant


uccessful 21st century brands are purpose-driven and narrative-based. And place branding is no different. Cities compete to attract commerce on a global stage. A combination of shrinking trade barriers, economic reforms and digitalisation means more and more businesses are borderless. In order to compete effectively, cities must now build, manage and measure their brand the same way as large corporations. And while managing a place brand is far more complex than product branding, a few basic principles still apply (see brand building graph on p.26). “In our minds, places are much like products: they have a physical appearance and they have a purpose for their audiences,” says Edo van Dijk, creative director and partner of creative agency, Edenspiekermann Singapore. “Brands are about defining who you are and why — defining your purpose. Different actors within your city will a have different purpose, so your brand must be open and broad enough to relate to all key stakeholders as well as your target audience.” As a vital component to placemaking, place branding is about making manifest who you are as a place, and aligning perception with reality.


who you are (set of memories, stories, associations, expectations)

“Places cannot lie,” van Dijk says. “Place branding is about capturing who you are, while place marketing is about how you communicate who you are. It starts with putting your ear to the ground to find the ‘pearls’ for creation and communication.” Conscious brand building in places like Amsterdam, New York, Glasgow, Melbourne and Singapore provide good examples (p.28). These places have carefully aligned all their storytellers (stakeholders) with common narrative and vision. The Saffron City Brand Barometer (above) explores which cities around the world have built the strongest brands to attract businesses and investors. The ‘usual suspects’ find themselves at the top of the 2019 ranking, largely due to high ratings on GDP per capita PPP, ease of doing business and quality of life. These assets, together with a positive perception of the city among business audiences worldwide, contribute to the overall ranking. However, the 2019 results were released in July, before the escalation of civil unrest in Hong Kong (which led to violent clashes between protestors and police, and the temporary closure of Hong Kong’s international airport).


how you communicate who you are (trigger to evoke that mindset)

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Your purpose




Your behaviour WHY



Your assets

For future cities expert, Greg Clark, ‘new’ cities like Oslo, Tel Aviv, San Diego, and Brisbane have also created lauded brands that focus on enhancing their citizens’ lives, accelerating collaborative urban development, and building more opportunity. According to Clark, these cities are investing in ‘soft power’ to accelerate their progress. “Cities need to play on their unique and distinctive strengths, and not compete simply on the basis of price, efficiency or ease,” he explains. “Business events can play a key role in building up the soft power of cities because events are a way of hosting, creating a sense of welcome, making cities accessible and known and understood. Places of curation where you build networks that have longterm value.” Cities that host business events are able to build up their ‘soft power’ (brand and identity), as well as their ‘network effect’, and ability to attract global talent. Business events bring an incredible mix of thinkers, leaders, experts and emerging talent to a destination,

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which drives progress and creates innovation hubs. This, in turn, attracts more meetings (Read Why Event Ambassadors Work on p.52). Leveraging a place brand in event marketing to attract more delegates is a no brainer, but those event professionals looking to leave a lasting impact should align the purpose of their event with the identity or ‘brand’ of the host destination. This will strengthen the conference theme and leave a legacy. For Clark, business events can influence a city’s ability to achieve its long-term branding goals. Hosting an event, like South by Southwest (Austin), CES Consumer Electronics Show (Las Vegas), or World Expo (see p.22) can brand a city in a very particular way. The annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, for example, animated an entire ecosystem of tech entrepreneurs, which has helped to shift perspectives of Barcelona from being purely a tourist destination, to one of innovation and business. But, to be truly powerful, events must also engage the local community.

“Brands are about defining who you are and why — defining your purpose.” Edo van Dijk Creative director and partner Edenspiekermann Singapore

Listen to Edo dissect successful place brands in The #Braindate Series podcast

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PLACE BRAND In a 2016 report compiled for The Committee of Sydney, Clarke outlines seven habits of highly successful place brands:


Prioritise identity, reputation, story and experience The ‘soft power’ of a brand can help ‘win friends and influence people’


Investigate your DNA Know your story deeply


Benchmark Know yourself and others very well


Brand and marketing alliances Build a ‘collective identity’ that all stakeholders can relate to


Make the city’s promise personal Institutions, companies and events are led by people


Align the experience with the identity Upgrade, renew and refresh the experience of the city


Build up the next generation with integrity and consistency Brand building is a long-term game

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BRANDING Place branding isn’t restricted to city councils or tourism boards. Convention bureaus can — and should — leverage their destination’s ‘mass market’ appeal to attract meetings and events with targeted messages. In the absence of strong national identities, some bureaus have also built their own brands.

Estonian Convention Bureau’s ‘Go Wild, Choose Estonia!’ campaign won the 2019 ICCA Best Marketing Award. A creative, storytelling destination marketing campaign from a small team (three people), the bureau aimed to create a national brand image and maximise return on investment with a limited marketing budget. In the absence of a strong national brand, the bureau created its own brand image by proactively communicating authentic and unique experiences that can be enjoyed in Estonia.

As a second-tier destination in Malaysia, Sarawak punches well above its weight in the branding stakes. After hosting the 55th International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Congress in 2016 in Kuching, Business Events Sarawak rolled out global branding campaign, Redefining Global Tribes, issuing a challenge to business event planners around the world to increase the impact of their events, and change the very definition of how and why a business event is designed. The brand, which alludes to the destination’s unique tribal communities, has continued to evolve in recent years to include the bureau’s educational arm, TriBE: INNOVATION, the BESTribe reward scheme for corporate meetings and incentives, and a Legacy Impact Programme.

Recognising that 2019 was an important year for medical associations meeting in the city, Glasgow Convention Bureau built on existing city branding to launch the People Make Glasgow Healthier campaign. The marketing effort aimed to ensure the important public health message of five key conferences spread beyond the walls of the convention centre, to leave a lasting legacy in the city. A total of seven public engagement events took place across the city, each bringing an important health message to over 1,500 citizens of Glasgow.

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AUCKLAND SAILS AHEAD ATEED general manager — destination, Steve Armitage, says the city’s new brand positioning presents a vision for a more sustainable future.


s Auckland’s visitor economy continues to grow, we are looking at how we remain a great place to live, work, visit and invest in. And with that comes the responsibility to ensure that we do it in a sustainable way. A desire to protect this legacy is helping shape the destination positioning for Auckland, ensuring that Tāmaki Makaurau remains a global destination. For many years, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) focused on visitation and delegate numbers. As such, the image of Auckland that we were projecting to the world, what visitors thought of Auckland, and what local residents themselves thought of Auckland, were misaligned. It was against this backdrop that we launched the Destination AKL 2025 Strategy in 2018 to lead Auckland’s visitor economy into a different direction. This was a seminal moment for us as it created a fundamental shift in thinking and approach. Instead of focusing solely on numbers and economic gains, we now strive for a balance between welcoming more visitors to the city and the guardianship of our people, environment and the future. We developed our new approach by working in collaboration with the wider industry. Local communities and business leaders had a say in shaping the strategy, and together we identified the areas in which we needed to invest more of our time and effort to complement what Auckland really represented. At the same time, we had strong support from local and central government as well as key influencers in the industry, and that was important. One of the goals outlined in the Destination AKL 2025 Strategy is to grow Auckland’s profile as a unique place. And as a result, we partnered with international destination marketing agency Destination THINK! to undertake research internationally and domestically to identify what

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Auckland’s unique attributes and assets are. Themes of identity, diversity, quality of life and sustainability are among the core concepts in how Auckland is positioned as a destination. Some of this work is still ongoing and we plan to unveil more details in the coming months. Sustainability is another key goal and as such, honouring the Tiaki Promise is important for us. This means attracting domestic and international visitors to our region and hosting world-class events that will ultimately enrich who we are and engage with our cultures and our people. Auckland is currently in the throes of gearing up for 2021; a year that promises to be like no other, and when the eyes of the world will be focused on our region. Some of the international events we will host next year include the 36th America’s Cup, APEC Leaders’ Week, Rugby World Cup 2021 and the Women’s Cricket World Cup. These events haven’t just been selected by chance. They speak to what our destination stands for, what we represent and the key drivers of economic growth in New Zealand’s biggest region. Guided by this vision, we are trying to drive a much stronger connection between our major events and our domestic and international business events. A great example is the iconic round-the-world sailing event, The Ocean Race. Auckland has been named one of nine host cities along the race route in 2022 and we are currently working with the event organiser to develop an Ocean Summit, focusing on marine environment, fishing sustainability and water quality — issues that matter to Aucklanders. We know that Aucklanders recognise the economic benefits that these events bring to our region — not only through the job opportunities it presents but also the lasting legacies it creates.

Steve Armitage is general manager — destination of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development.

the realities of living and working in the destination?

of your brand

Capture the






Move beyond ubiquitous ‘hardware’ to focus on cultural traditions that can only be found in your destination.



Does your place brand


make people the



WOR D S to AC T I ON s,





Embrace your host destination’s story as inspiration for your conference theme.



aligned with




Does your event reflect the brand of your host destination?

of a destination to help promote the message/theme of your event.

How can you contribute to this narrative?

Everyone loves a good story — it’s how we connect to each other and the world around us — what’s your story?


DMOs Successful place branding is all about stakeholder management. How can tourism boards and CVBs work better together to leverage branding efforts to attract events?


How can you leverage a place brand in your event marketing?

The ‘cute’ factor can be especially powerful in attracting visitors — and potential event delegates. This was harnessed by Kumamoto, a small prefecture in western Japan, when it launched its ‘Kumamon’ mascot in 2010. The friendly bear attracts and welcomes international visitors to the rural, earthquake-prone region.

HOW TO BRING YOUR PLACE BRAND TO LIFE Not all ‘buyer meet seller’ events are made equal. These two programmes integrate live storytelling to bolster destination marketing efforts. By Lauren Arena



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he Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) launched the Thailand Incentive and Meeting Exchange (TIME) in 2016, inviting buyers from key markets to share ideas and knowledge with local operators, conduct business and experience the destination firsthand. “TIME has become a highly regarded event,” says Nooch Homrossukhon, TCEB’s director of meetings and incentives. “Over the past four years, we’ve seen seller-buyer engagement deepen because of our content and experience-focused design. This allows us to showcase our creativity in the way we manage international meetings and incentives, as well as our spirit of inclusivity, always considering international delegates’ culture and life experience differences.” Kicking off with a focus on the Chinese market, followed by the Indian market in 2017, long-haul buyers from Australia, Europe and the U.S. in 2018, and key markets across Asia in 2019, Homrossukhon says the evolution of TIME has been both organic and calculated. “The market selection is based on our data intelligence and business needs of the industry. We pay special attention to how buyers and sellers engage with one another during the programme and make strategic changes year on year,” she says. The event has three key components: Knowledge Exchange (conference), Business Exchange (trade) and Experience Exchange (familiarisation tour), but

“Aside from revenue impact, we have always focused on building sustainable relationships.” Nooch Homrossukhon Director of meetings and incentives Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB)

the masterstroke, according to Homrossukhon, is the programme’s flexible design. “We are determined to have the right mix of knowledge sharing, immersive experiences and high-level business exchanges, while managing the expectations of buyers, stakeholders and partners.” In 2018, this meant redesigning the Business Exchange from a standard table-top session into a ‘Social Club’ where buyers met sellers in four different settings that demonstrated Thailand’s beach, natural, cultural, and city offerings. “We understand the North American, European and Australian markets appreciate a less structured approach, so we created a more casual environment.” Last year, however, the session featured fixed seating for buyers, while sellers moved across the meeting room for their appointments. “This strategy, along with a conventional meeting room set up, optimised meeting times since several buyers were not fluent in English.” As a direct result of TIME 2019, Thailand confirmed 17 events valued at approximately THB 292 million (US$9.4 million). “Aside from revenue impact, we have always focused on building sustainable relationships with both our buyers and our industry partners,” Homrossukhon says. “It really takes a collaborative approach and we will continue to focus on quality over quantity, and understanding what ‘quality’ means to different markets.”

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DREAMTIME Tourism Australia’s signature business events showcase, Dreamtime, sets the standard for experiential destination marketing. Embracing a ‘show don’t tell’ mantra, the biennial event weaves storytelling throughout an extensive programme that includes business meetings, a host city showcase, and educational visits to additional destinations. Standing the test of time, Dreamtime 2019 marked the programme’s 26th edition and attracted its largestever contingent with 120 international business events buyers and media from 10 key markets and 87 local sellers. Tourism Australia executive general manager, events, Penny Lion, says Dreamtime works because it delivers a nuanced story that is both inspiring and informative. “Planning Dreamtime takes many months — every event planner knows that the devil is in the details. We have in-market teams who procure buyers and ensure that we’ve considered every nuance and cultural consideration in the delivery of the event,” she says. “We’re sticklers for detail, but still keep the big picture in sight to ensure the programme is relevant and actually helps event planners do their job. We want buyers to go away feeling like they’ve been treated the way they would treat their own corporate guests during an incentive. And we know that when they come and experience the destination first-hand they start to quote it.” Even the selection of the host city is highly strategic. Perth, which has experienced renaissance of sorts in recent years, showcased the creativity of its local residents coupled with the benefits of an infrastructure boom. In previous years, Dreamtime events in Brisbane (2017) and Adelaide (2015) focused on Australia’s unique food and wine offering. “On paper, the Dreamtime format may look repetitive, but if you look at the different themes we’ve presented and way we tell our story, that has continued to evolve,” Lion explains. “We work in a copycat industry, where everyone says the same thing over and over again. Storytelling is the only way you can really differentiate your offering because it creates an emotional connection. Empathy really comes into play here because if you understand the challenges and opportunities for a particular market, right down to individual needs, then you can connect and really help an event planner fulfil client needs instead of the usual ‘hard sell’.” Lion says Dreamtime delivers tangible results for the Australian industry. The 2017 event in Brisbane generated more than 201 business leads, 73 of which have converted into business worth AU$50 million (US$34 million).

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“Storytelling is the only way to differentiate your offering because it creates an emotional connection.” Penny Lion Executive general manager, events Tourism Australia

Listen to Penny’s advice on destination storytelling that cuts through the noise on The #Braindate Series podcast

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STORYTELLING IN TIMES OF CRISIS When the proverbial hits the fan, American Express GBT’s Milton Rivera says proactive communication is the best way to overcome negative perception.


he world is more accustomed to disruption than it was even a few decades ago. In a one-off crisis, it is crucial to have strategically planned and executed communication to react to uncertainty. The biggest question both attendees and organisers have in the wake of a crisis is the context around the situation and how it will be resolved. In the past, we’ve seen rushed communications plans result in either an overload of information or lack of communication which creates confusion for attendees. Having strategically designed communications with a clear goal is key in demonstrating to potential visitors that you’ve understood what’s happened in the past and what’s being implemented to prevent it happening in the future. In regard to an ongoing issue where no clear resolution exists, it’s more about risk mitigation, steering clients around potential risks and supporting with multiple contingency plans, along with education around what are often complex and multifaceted issues. Through effective education, transparency and comprehensive risk mitigation, we can help make people who are uncomfortable more comfortable. Cities that react at speed with practical and authentic solutions, and effectively communicate these solutions following an event, experience quicker recovery times. The pre-existing conditions and how established cities are prior to a crisis determine their viability as a destination following an incident. London, Paris and New York City are top-tier business destinations whereas emerging destinations that are not as established are more impacted by perceptions of risk.

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“Synchronisation of all stakeholders allows markets to develop a cross-agency approach — and brand.” Restoring confidence involves a thorough and coordinated response from all stakeholders across industry, government and services. Synchronisation of all stakeholders allows markets to develop a cross-agency approach — and brand — through which all bodies can align on a strategy and communications plan to bring people back. Instances where a cross-agency approach has worked well has seen the tourist authority work with hotels and national airlines, and with destination management companies to work together to prove the end-to-end service has been restored. This takes carefully planned and coordinated communication. As well as this, outreach from these agencies is key in regaining trust. Representatives from affected markets should meet with leading meeting and events (M&E) players from the largest inbound countries so as to demonstrate how they can provide value in hosting their M&E activity. Being proactive in rebuilding relationships with your strong inbound destinations will be hugely beneficial in staying top of mind for M&E.

Milton Rivera is vice president, global business development & strategy at American Express Global Business Travel.

BRAND BUILDING IN OMAN Omanexpo’s Ashley Roberts says it’s time to change perceptions about the Middle East.


he future of the meetings and events industry in the Middle East is bright. Huge investments are being undertaken by governments and businesses across the region, many of which have MICE initiatives as a core aim of their growth vision. The most recent UFI global exhibitions report calculated that the Middle East alone serves 125,000 exhibiting companies, 6.3 million visitors and supports more than 31,000 jobs. With the precarious political and economic situations in the West, many of the top event organisers based in Europe and the U.S. are looking East to secure and grow their future business. This confidence is cemented by the actions of UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, which recently announced a new partnership with the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) for the first Exhibition Management Degree (EMD) Programme in Muscat. The association will also bring its international conference to Oman for the first time in November 2020. Amid the struggle and competition of the packed marketplace of Europe, organisers often battle for airtime, marketing spend and venue tenancies. However, the Middle East has many unexplored sectors in which events have yet to be launched. The potential is huge and nowhere is this truer than in Oman. The impact of the Oman government’s Vision 2040 strategy has seen a new region-wide development of infrastructure including a new airport and a state-of-the-art exhibition and conference centre.

“The Oman government’s Vision 2040 strategy has seen a new regionwide development of infrastructure.”

The Middle East, and Oman in particular, is fast-becoming a business and tourism destination, offering greater opportunities for increased global trade and investment. Across our exhibitions, we see a remarkably strong growth in international participation. Asian companies, in fact, have powerful presence on the show floor. This is especially true for our food and construction events, where countries such as China, India, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, occupy pavilion space. While Asia is seen as a major growth region, Omanexpo is seeing a continuous rise in the number of participants from this region. Where exhibitions add US$1.4 billion to the Middle East economy and an enormous appetite to grow this further, there has never been more potential for companies to make the leap and build long-term businesses in the region.

With more than 19 years’ experience across the UK and Middle East, Ashley Roberts is portfolio director and acting general manager of B2B exhibition organiser, Omanexpo.

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AROUN D YOUR EVENT This clever marketing tactic can strengthen a sense of community and bolster attendee numbers. By Sanjay Surana

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Marketing tactic

A 2013 paper written by academics from the U.K. and the U.S. defined FOMO (fear of missing out) as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. Any marketing harnessing the wickedly seductive power of FOMO should exploit such ideas. “There is no real loyalty towards events anymore, especially since the choice of events has increased dramatically,” notes Marcel Ewals, director for community development and marketing, MCI Group Asia Pacific. “Organisers have to outsmart and out-market the competitor to have a real chance of success. FOMO can be applied with content in mind.” FOMO as a tool for marketers is especially effective among millennials. This group in particular is hooked by the concept — heavy users of social media that allows attendees to instantly broadcast their escapades online for others to admire (or envy). “In our incentive programme designs, we develop programmes based on behavioural economics to motivate people,” says Marine Debatte, head of events solutions, BI Worldwide Asia & Greater China. “Peer pressure or social exchange influence our decisions and can be a great motivator for action. For events, it’s working on that social influence principle to get people to show up.”

Ask the right questions

Marketing messages need to create a sense of scarcity and urgency. How many times have we seen this kind of anxiety-inducing message on websites: ‘Hurry, 150 others are eyeing this deal now’, prompting us to rush and wrap up the deal. Ewals believes FOMO campaigns should be anchored by the question of ‘What if?’. “It pays to raise the question of what you could gain rather than tell an audience of what they will miss.” ‘Can you afford staying away?’, he suggests. Wording, whether through direct messaging, social media, or targeted campaigns, shouldn’t focus on the bells and whistles of an event, but the experience that it offers, which is more likely to strike a chord with potential attendees.

Counter JOMO

As FOMO rises, so does the backlash. The counter movement JOMO, or joy of missing out, is growing, cajoling people to celebrate what they already have, not long for what they don’t. In practical terms, this means people skip events to stay at home — a disaster for any planner. “JOMO is mainly caused by repeating the same format over again, expecting the same results, but ignoring the need for fresh new experiences,” says Ewals. “If you reached the ‘been-there, done-that’ feeling you are in dire straits. Move out of your own industry for content and look at what your community can learn from others.” To resist JOMO, your message must show how your event will be a unique opportunity, one that will enrich the life of anyone attending. For Petrina Goh, commercial director, CWT Meetings & Events, Singapore, the key to overcoming JOMO is simple — understanding your audience. “Try not to cover every single type of audience at one event. Multiple smaller events targeted at a specific audience type will work better than a single big event trying to target everyone, and you’re more likely to get higher returns on investment overall.”


In an era where our attentions quickly vacillate from one topic to another, telling a story can engage potential guests and flesh out an event more compellingly than facts and figures. Stories evoke emotional response, empathy and attachment, can forge deep connections with their audience, and help to build trust between a storyteller and its listeners. Community engagement, which feeds into the trends of authentic experiences and connecting with locals, acts as a catalyst. Connecting with a story and feeling like you belong to a community is key to reaching people’s hearts, according to Debatte, and since we often make decisions based on emotions, storytelling and community engagement trump all. “Short, Instagrammable formats tend to work the best,” mentions Ewals. “Community engagement is successful by using key opinion leaders to lead discussions and drive anticipation of an event.”

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ICCA: No. 42 Liveability: No. 68 Risk: Medium Easing visa restrictions will allow more incentive groups to explore this truly ‘surprising’ destination. Host a welcome dinner in a Cold War bunker located 18 floors below Moscow city, or take a private tour of the Kremlin.

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap capture most meetings and incentives, while new destinations are on the rise. Corporate groups can support local communities by working with social enterprise groups like Phare, the Cambodian Circus. Photo credit: Stefan Vontobel

This fast-growing economy is finding its footing after a difficult past, while industry groups like SITE are educating local operators.


ICCA: No. 88 Risk: Medium


ICCA: No. 70 Risk: Low

DESTINATIONS TO WATCH New infrastructure, investment and cultural experiences create opportunities for business events.

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ICCA 2018 Country Ranking EIU Global Liveability Index International SOS 2020 Risk Outlook


ICCA: No. 8 Risk: Low* *Before Wuhan coronavirus

Everyone wants a piece of China’s outbound incentive market, but the recent coronavirus outbreak will likely curb appetites. Travel bans will also hurt domestic meetings.


ICCA: No. 7 Liveability: No. 7 Risk: Low


ICCA: No. 50 Liveability: No. 107 Risk: Low


ICCA: No. 31 Liveability: No. 40 Risk: Low

As infrastructure continues to improve, STB’s INSPIRE programme offers more than 60 complimentary experiences to attract more international incentives.

Indonesia ICCA: No. 36 Risk: Medium

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he ‘Little Red Dot’ knows how to pack a punch. Last year, the World Economic Forum reported that Singapore was the world’s most competitive global economy. This speaks of the city-state’s stable government, open economy, ease of doing business, efficient service sector, and well-planned public facilities. However, GDP growth in 2019 was a meagre 0.7 per cent. Together with a looming election, this means cost-cutting and conservative spending — including for events — is likely to dominate budget discussions in 2020. Registering a 12 per cent growth in MICE visitor numbers in 2018, it continues to be a favourite meetings destination. Singapore has also unwittingly gained from tensions in Hong Kong, which have forced some conference organisers to divert their events to the island. Upcoming developments expected to solidify Singapore’s position include a new airport terminal (ready by 2030) as well as tourism and lifestyle projects in Jurong and Pulau Brani. Iconic attractions, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, will also be expanded with new hotels and event spaces.

Singapore’s strong MICE positioning can be attributed to leadership by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS). Both have formed strategic partnerships with key global leaders to open up new market opportunities and develop the Southeast Asian region. Collaborations with Alibaba and WeChat last year also underpin their efforts to empower business events growth through technology and capture the ever-expanding outbound travel market in China. Despite its clever planning, laws such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) can discourage differing ideas. Singapore’s future will depend on how it tackles an ageing local workforce, rising costs, and shortage of talent to drive technology innovation and implementation. The battle for talent is also rife among the hospitality and business event industries. Its open economy also puts it at the mercy of global market fluctuations and issues such as Brexit and the U.S.-China trade war.

IBTM Asia Pacific will debut from 6-8 April this year, a key partnership development between Reed Travel Exhibitions and SACEOS

TOWERING LUXURY Green airport Jewel Changi Airport features an entertainment and lifestyle complex with an inspiring garden theme

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The iconic Marina Bay Sands will be expanded with a fourth hotel tower featuring 1,000 luxury rooms, a 15,000-seat theatre and additional MICE space




ndonesia is at the cusp of new beginnings. In just the last few months, re-elected President Joko Widodo has injected new blood into his cabinet line-up with the appointment of Wishnutama Kusubandio, 49, as the new minister of tourism and creative economy. A recent US$22.8 billion investment from the UAE is set to assist the relocation of Indonesia’s capital city to Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, some 1,500 km away. While the shift is momentous, Wisnu Budi Sulaeman, head of industry development, board of MICE, at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, believes it will be at least 10 years before the new capital is fully equipped with MICE facilities and infrastructure. In the meantime, Jakarta is going ahead with plans to expand its airport and rail systems, while a massive MICE and events venue is in the works. Jakarta, Bali, Medan, Jog jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Makassar remain the focus for events, based on existing infrastructure, connectivity and availability of talent.

“Jakarta will still remain and play an important role as a business and commercial city in ASEAN.” Wisnu Budi Sulaeman Head of industry development Board of MICE, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

When it comes to the visitor economy, Kusubandio has emphasised the need for quality over quantity. He plans to reinstate the previously-defunct MICE Directorate to give more attention to business events. If all goes according to plan, industry stakeholders in Indonesia will have a strong champion on their side. Ten ‘new Balis’ in various parts of the archipelago have been identified for promotion. Among them, five have been marked as ‘super priority’ destinations, namely Lake Toba, Mandalika, Borobudur, Labuan Bajo and Likupang, for immediate investments and development. Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Komodo Island, will be developed as a luxury destination to attract visitors from the higher income bracket. Meanwhile, Lombok, has secured the MotoGP races from 2021 to 2023. Investments are being made to create a special street circuit for the race, while the Mandalika Resort Project, a US$3-billion resort project on the southern coast of the island, is also underway.

stronger associations ICCA Indonesia launched a national committee in 2019 in an effort to create collaborative opportunities for local members

Meet in Bandung New access road connects the MICE city with the new Kertajati International Airport

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aced with a slow economy, a greying population and consumption tax hikes, Japan will likely experience lukewarm times ahead. A possible general election later in the year may spell further changes. However, the success of the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Tokyo is lifting spirits and, its afterglow, Japan is priming itself for another milestone moment, the summer Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which holds hope to revitalise the nation. The Government is pumping in more than 1 trillion yen (US$9 billion) into preparation for the Olympics in July. This means better public transport and urban landscaping, as well as an influx of new hotels, event spaces, retail and restaurants. Some 10 million visitors are expected during the Games and there are lingering

Sayonara tax: Tourists leaving Japan have to pay

¥1,000 (approx US$9)

concerns about congestion as well as a hotel room shortage. Popular tourist spots like Kyoto, Sapporo, Tokyo and Osaka are also feeling the effects of overtourism. Counter-measures, such as a departure tax, are being implemented with funds going into improving tourism facilities. The country will soon welcome its first integrated resorts, following the move to legalise casino gambling in 2018. Gambling giants like Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International are hedging their bets as the government prepares to grant casino licences in three cities — Osaka, Wakayama, Nagasaki and Yokohama are all vying for the top prize. At least seven new exhibition venues and several luxury properties (some say as many as 50) are slated to open this year. They include The Okura Tokyo, The Four Seasons Tokyo and the country’s first JW Marriott hotel, set to add 158 rooms to the ancient city of Nara.

Olympics legacy: The 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Japan will leave behind a legacy of improved tourism infrastructure along with greater awareness for inclusivity and diversity

Across Japan’s nine major cities, some


new hotel rooms are expected to open within the next 24 months

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More space

Convention centres are opening in

Aichi Nara Yokohama Gunma Himeji Kumamoto Okinawa

60,000 sqm 35,000 sqm 14,200 sqm 10,000 sqm 66,000 sqm 31,000 sqm 72,000 sqm



he world’s second largest economy, China enters the new decade with a reported economic growth of 6.1 per cent. IMF and World Bank analysts anticipate a slower economy this year, even as the U.S. and China seem to be mitigating their trade war with the signing of a first-phase deal in January. Meanwhile, China has been pushing ahead to progress its Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious infrastructure project that will open up land, rail and sea connections — and potentially more trade — between Europe and Asia. Shanghai and Beijing continue to power China’s MICE industry, but Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Guilin are fast becoming favourites. While demand would usually be supported by the increase in infrastructure development across secondand third-tier cities, the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic may stymie plans. Technology usage is widespread in China, with local platforms such as Alipay, WeChat, TaoBao and Baidu seeing extensive consumer and business applications. With the government’s focus on enhancing the

RARE luxury The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Shanghai Pudong has opened, one of only three such properties in the world, featuring 515 rooms and 3,100 sqm of meeting space


technology sector, and more homegrown innovators being nurtured, it’s likely that China will lead the way in innovative design and solutions for business events. However, cyber security risks remain, with the global transition to 5G networks currently embroiled with geopolitics. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently exhorted EU allies not to “trust Chinese firms with critical networks”. Direct-selling companies are growing in China and incentive business can be lucrative with international trips made for many thousands of employees at a time. However, coronavirus outbreak may also affect this business. While China presents an exciting destination for meetings and events, business dealings can be complicated with a focus on relationships. To gain the confidence of meeting planners, the Chinese government and tourism and trade officials will also have to address criticisms regarding restrictions on freedom of expression and alleged claims of oppressing minority groups. The coronavirus outbreak will also impact inbound visitors.

Explore Qingdao This major seaport in the eastern region of China has German and Chinese architectural influences and a coastal mountain range where one can experience the spiritual teachings of Confucius

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wanda may have suffered a dark history of genocide in the 1990s, but today, it is hailed as a rising star of the African continent. Its 2019 economic growth projection was revised upwards to 8.5 per cent, while the World Bank ranked it second in the region for ease of doing business. The Rwanda Development Board has a number of business-friendly measures in place. The U.K., China and Qatar are among those investing heavily in Rwanda’s infrastructure development, urban planning, technology, education and aviation. The development board also established the Rwanda Convention Bureau in 2014 to promote MICE and position the country as a knowledge hub. Since then, Kigali, the capital city, has risen to become the second most popular conference destination in the African continent, according to 2018 ICCA rankings. Its national parks, game drives and wildlife adventures, particularly mountain gorilla trekking, along with the opening of a number of luxury boutique properties have also set the stage for unique and highly-inspiring experiences. Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) chief marketing officer, Pádraic Gilligan,

“Volcanoes National Park is where you go to get face to face with the mountain gorillas, definitely Rwanda’s ‘bucket list’ incentive product.” Pádraic Gilligan Chief marketing officer Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Management

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who conducted a special mission to assess Rwanda’s MICE capabilities, sees the country’s potential as an incentive travel destination. He says: “Rwanda is definitely geared to small, high-end groups...Tiny, super-luxury properties model a new relationship between high-end tourism and the local destination with impressive programmes around CSR and sustainability.” Experiences such as observing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat are made highly exclusive by imposing a daily limit on tourist numbers as well as steep permit fees, which also go towards the conservation of these gentle giants. While Gilligan describes the small African nation as clean and safe, with a good selection of internationally-branded hotels and air connectivity, others say it could do with additional rooms along with a more diverse range of attractions to cater to larger groups. Overall, Rwanda is a fast-growing economy that is trying to find its footing after a difficult past. Its focus on business events and luxury experiences will not only invite the corporate world to its doors as attendees but possibly as future investors and partners. It could also very well be the solution to improve relations with its neighbours and, in the long run, lift Africa as a region.

MEET IN KIGALI 18 meeting spaces 5,000 pax + 291 GUEST ROOMS

Lake adventures: Hike, bike or kayak the Congo Nile trail, passing by coffee and tea plantations along hillsides and local villages.



conomic growth was consistently high in 2019, and with the incumbent government ensconced, the future looks promising. The festering US-China trade dispute has even benefited Cambodia’s garment and shoe manufacturing industries. However, the real estate and construction boom and weakening interest in tourism mainstays like Siem Reap in the second half of 2019 may warrant caution. Cambodia is also heavily reliant on Chinese investment and tourists — last year, 38 per cent were from China. The Ministry of Tourism says more emphasis will be placed on strong tourism products such as culture, nature, ecotourism and recreation. Sihanoukville, which has lost international appeal due to the influx of casinos and Chinese tourists, will have an expressway to Phnom Penh, new airport terminal and seaport along with more high-rise buildings. (The government has clamped down on online gambling centres.) Ecotourism projects are being developed in the northeast; gastronomy, festivals and sports are next. However, MICE is mainly in the capital city, with Siem Reap for incentives and CSR activities. A long-term project is Dara Sakor in southwestern Koh Kong province. The 360-sq km mega-development is 260 km from Phnom Penh and 60 km from Sihanoukville. Completed facilities include a seaside golf course, yacht club, ferry terminal and two hotels. A hilly golf course will open later this year, and international airport tentatively in 2021.

Siem Reap continues strong lead as hub for incentives and CSR activities. Accor’s Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort and the newly renovated Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, together with Belmond’s La Résidence d’Angkor and Shinta Mani’s three adjacent properties are all frontrunners.

The southern provinces of Kampot and Kep hold promise for coastal tourism, with unspoilt beaches and islands, along with the famed peppergrowing industry. Social enterprises such as La Plantation run free tours daily of their certified, organic pepper farm. Buffalo tours around the villages and Khmer cooking classes can also be customised for corporate groups. River Park Kampot reports growing interest among local companies and MNCs in corporate team-building (20-100 pax). Vinaya Law Firm’s team-building and corporate retreat in Kampot last December shows a trend among SMEs that may be adopted by regional planners. Bokor is market ready. Sokha Hotels has two options, with a third hotel opening later this year. Le Bokor Palace (1925) was restored to its former luxury (36 rooms and suites) and caters to small, high-end incentive groups. The 564-room Thansur Sokha has ballroom conference capacity for 700 pax, meeting rooms and casino. Outdoor activity options include camping, trekking, kayaking and visiting the waterfall and old religious buildings. Challenges for these new destinations include distance from Phnom Penh, current road conditions and attracting airlines to serve new airports. Limited hotel capacity, especially upscale properties, lack of skilled service staff and low English language fluency also constrain DMCs from proposing them to foreign clients. But if the economic boom continues and global hotel brands expand their reach, the ‘new kids’ may blossom.

NEW AIRPORT in phnom penh by

2025 P 47




ietnam received 18 million international tourists in 2019, a 16 per cent increase over 2018. The top four markets — all from Northeast Asia — had double-digit growth. Economic prospects are promising, with stable policies. Although the ongoing US-China trade war may benefit Vietnamese factories, the manufacturing sector is already progressing beyond the mainstay garments, textiles and footwear into higher-value mobile phones, electronics, automotive and medical devices. This in turn augurs well for the exhibition industry, including venues in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Hanoi, Halong City and Haiphong. Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi will have a third runway and passenger terminal by 2030. With a third terminal, saturated Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC could handle 45 million pax in 2025. An additional airport is earmarked at Long Thanh, 40 km east of the city. Some 2,000 km of highways will be constructed in 2021-2025, including the muchanticipated North-South highway linking Hanoi and HCMC. The new Hanoi-Halong highway cuts the drive from four hours to just over two. Van Don International Airport has opened, 50 km from Halong Bay. The new international cruise port also enhances Halong’s overall appeal. Vietnam National Administration of Tourism identifies four major tourism products: beach,

Visa exemption for

24 countries and electronic visas for

80 countries

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culture, nature and city breaks; MICE is secondary. Every year is ‘Visit Vietnam Year’, focusing on a particular province. This year, northern Ninh Binh’s theme is “Hoa Lu — ancient capital of a thousand years”. Southern Kien Giang province has more than 300 projects planned, underway or completed, mostly centred on Phu Quoc island. Already in operation are several Vinpearl properties and the world’s longest cable-car crossing, between An Thoi and Hon Thom island. Vung Tau, southeast of HCMC, has beaches, lakes and thermal springs but hasn’t quite caught up with the international market, although Ho Tram is popular with golfers. The Grand Ho Tram hotel will be rebranded and refurbished by end-2020 into an InterContinental (the casino stays) and a new Holiday Inn added. The new convention centre and amenities should give MICE events a boost. Nha Trang has fine resorts and attractions but the downtown area is inundated by Chinese and Russian tourists during peak season; perhaps consider Cam Ranh and beach or island resorts instead. Can Tho now has international flights and leading local and international hotel brands offering upscale accommodation and meeting facilities. Attractions include floating markets, rice fields and ecotourism. The latest enhancement is a four-star river cruise from Can Tho to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

did you know? Vietnam will host more than 300 meetings and seminars, including the ASEAN Summit (November), as ASEAN 2020 Chair. This is a golden opportunity to show the country’s business events capacity and capability.

60 foreign airlines 5 local airlines 200 air routes



hen the 2018 FIFA World Cup drew to a close, host country Russia may not have won the coveted trophy, but it gained something far more valuable — new fans and friends. A year on, Russia is intent on welcoming more tourists, allocating US$320 million for infrastructure development over a five-year period and easing visa requirements to its Far East, Saint Petersburg, Leningrad, and Kaliningrad regions. Most notably, it has been courting the world’s largest and highest-spending tourist market, China, fitting airports with signage in Mandarin, recruiting more Mandarin-speaking guides and accepting Chinese payment platforms at retail outlets. In 2018, more than 24 million tourists flocked to Russia, mostly from Central Asia, but increasingly from the rest of Asia and Europe, too. Today, the world is also waking up to Russia’s potential as an emerging MICE destination. Russia hosted more than 80 association meetings in 2018, mostly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Damion Breust, CEO of Sydney-based Directions Conference & Incentive Management, has run several incentive programmes in Russia and says every client has been “blown away” by the experience.

“Russia never ceases to amaze because the quality of the facilities, the friendliness of the people, and the overall ‘vibe’ of cities like Moscow is so different to what pop culture would have us believe. The food is exceptional, cities are vibrant and safe, DMCs are excellent, and infrastructure is seriously impressive,” he says. Unique luxury experiences include helitours over Moscow by night and enjoying a Russian winter sauna with a snow “bath” after to promote circulation. In general, though, language barriers, connectivity throughout the country, and visa restrictions remain Russia’s biggest challenges, but Russian DMCs are willing to work closely with meeting planners to overcome them. At the same time, Russia needs to seize the positive branding that the FIFA World Cup 2018 had laid out and satisfy the hunger of travellers and meeting planners who view the country as a delicious new item on the menu. There is still an information gap and misconceptions still about Russia. Perhaps it’s time for the nation to pull the iron curtains way back with a global publicity and branding campaign and roll out the welcome mat to the rest of the world.

“I would sum up Russia as ‘surprising’ as it is so not what you think it is!” Damion Breust CEO, Directions Conference & Incentive Management

Star experience: Take a VIP tour of Star City, Russia’s equivalent of NASA, and meet astronauts who have walked on the moon

twin destination

Explore Moscow and Saint Petersburg together and travel first-class between them via the four-hour, highspeed Sapsan train

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WHY EVENT AMBASSADORS WORK Think of ambassadors along the same lines as influencers — they can help win bids and attract potential attendees. By Kim Benjamin


oosting a destination’s profile, attracting high-level academics and professionals to events and contributing a positive economic effect are just some of the benefits ambassadors can bring to business events. As experts in a particular field — most commonly medicine, science and technology, ambassadors are providing the specific sector knowledge necessary to put together a compelling conference bid and increasingly playing a key role in helping destinations secure international conferences. The Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) for example, launched its ambassador programme, Kesatria, in 2012, with members drawn from both the business and not-for-profit sectors. It says that conference ambassadors have contributed 47 per cent to its ‘business goal’. Glasgow Convention Bureau, which launched the UK’s first such programme in 1990, says that in 2018/19, ambassador-led conferences contributed almost half (47 per cent) of all conference business held in the city, compared to 23 per cent four years ago. “As members of local societies, ambassadors can help gather support from other professors and academics,” says Suzanne Singleton, head of associations at London Convention Bureau. “They can also play a key role in providing us with potential speakers. They are not only ambassadors for their

own conference, but for the destination as a whole, helping to raise our profile internationally.” Think of ambassadors along the same lines as influencers, suggests Daryl Ho, managing director, digital at Edelman Singapore, which produces an annual trust barometer highlighting the power of influencers. He points to how a global cosmetics brand has attributed growth to its beauty ambassador programme, whereby make-up artists become nano-influencers/ambassadors of the brand, and are trained on the types of content to post and how to build their community. “Engage influencers who have a storytelling point-of-view when working with the brand, rather than a mere product feature with little value-add to both the brand and the consumer,” he says. As experts in their field, ambassadors are prominent, so identifying and reaching out to them is often the easy part. As they contribute their time and knowledge for a bid or host an event on a voluntary basis, it can be a case of relying on their goodwill when it comes to their participation, making engagement more challenging. But, as Anne Ridyard, appointed MICE marketing representative on behalf of Korea Tourism Organisation outlines, the payback for an ambassador can be rewarding, in terms of raising their profile within an industry or profession or helping them in an official capacity.

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“They can also use the opportunity to develop research and partnerships internationally for their own interests and other organisations,” she says. “An ambassador can also raise the profile of a destination in particular fields — for example as a lead in alternative energy or diabetes.” For Kathy Nicolay, manager of the Leaders Circle, a Toronto-based ambassador initiative, one of the main challenges with these programmes lies in creating widespread public awareness of the benefits, particularly among academics, doctors and professionals. Ambassadors may belong to an international association and are looking to bring their conference to Toronto but do not know where to start. “If they do not know our services exist, it is a missed opportunity for them and the programme/ city,” she says. “They may feel like they do not have enough resources to bid because they are unaware of our services.” Reaching out to the right audience is vital too. Club Liverpool launched in 2015 as a partnership between the Liverpool Convention Bureau and ACC Liverpool, a multipurpose events and convention venue. Much of its current membership are academics, but it is now looking to attract more participants from businesses in sectors that are particularly well-represented in the city. Its programme manager, Jane Fawley, says in most cases the bidding process is led by the ambassador. “They approach us, and this is where the programme is important. It could be a current

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member who wants to bid themselves or someone whose colleagues have worked with us in the past.” At other times, the process is led by Club Liverpool, contacting a potential ambassador about an event in their field. “If they are interested, we give them confidence in the city’s ability to support them,” adds Fawley. “It also means they have access to a network of people who have been through the experience already.” The Club Melbourne Ambassador Program, a division of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, aims to showcase the region’s expertise in fields such as science, medicine and technology. Thus far, the initiative has delivered more than 150 international conferences. Katie Tinetti, senior manager at Club Melbourne, set up 15 years ago, says that regardless of the significant time, effort and dedication given by an ambassador, it’s important to be aware that not every bid will be successful. On a positive note, this can become a promising opportunity for another time, meaning that patience and proactive planning are key. “To ensure future success, it is important that we continue to attract and induct the best of the best into the programme,” she says. “Given that many of these individuals are dedicating so much time and passion to saving and improving lives, whether it be across science, medicine or the environment, an important opportunity exists to share their stories and raise awareness for the important work that’s being done.”

“Engage influencers who have a storytelling pointof-view, rather than a mere product feature with little value-add.” Daryl Ho Managing director, digital Edelman Singapore

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“I worked closely with the London Convention Bureau to bring together a team of leading experts in the field and garner support from national, clinical and community organisations to produce a bid to host the 18th European HIV Conference, taking place in 2021 in London. The London Convention Bureau provided access to the London Mayor’s office who lent their support for the bid.”

“I helped bring the 34th International Papillomavirus Conference — IPVC 2021 — to Toronto. Canada has quite a presence on the world stage. We have to think about the researchers of tomorrow and it’s at meetings like this that we can have that legacy.”

Sanjay Bhagani is president-elect of the European AIDS Clinical Society and a consultant physician at London’s Royal Free Hospital

Dr Ann Burchell, associate professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and a scientist at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute

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“I became a Club Melbourne ambassador as I was impressed by the attitude of its leadership team, bringing world-class conferences and events to Melbourne and supporting them from start to finish. I expressed interest in hosting the International Hepatitis B Virus meeting to the conference organisers in 2015 and the meeting was convened in Australia in 2019.”

“The event presents an opportunity to showcase Korea’s advanced developments in the ultrasound sector to a worldwide audience. Moreover, it is a step forward for KSUOG as it will promote active academic exchanges with overseas medical practitioners and academics and strengthen the knowledge expertise in the domestic region.”

Professor Peter Revill, senior medical scientist at Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, Royal Melbourne Hospital at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Dr Jay Kwon, chair of international affairs at the Korean Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, worked on Seoul’s winning bid for the World Congress on Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, taking place in 2021

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AMBASSADOR PROGRAMME Develop close working relationships with aligned partners. It helps to have awareness and buy-in at the highest level in universities and medical institutions. Provide regular opportunities to connect with both ambassadors and partners. Know your audience. As Kathy Nicolay from Toronto’s Leaders Circle outlines, this involves doing your research into local institutes, universities and hospitals to ensure you can identify the sector experts in your own backyard. Use this to build a database of future potential ambassadors to reach out to for guidance, advice and ultimately to partner with for international conference bids. Build objectives which tie in with city investment goals — and work with those who are in charge of these. Ensure you have a recognition component. Ambassadors who host an international meeting are doing so on a voluntary basis, sometimes alongside their own commitments, such as seeing patients, teaching and doing research. Their commitment, time and energy needs to be recognised and celebrated. Offer a reward scheme. This could be awards ceremonies, encouraging members to see how their role makes a difference and to consider short/flexible ‘ambassador terms’, such as a three-year service period. This means they will not always feel they are being called on to run events as well as doing their day jobs.

Devise senior and junior ambassador programmes. These can encourage a more youthful, energetic engagement from a group looking to get that first rung on the recognition ladder, as well as helping those more senior figures who want recognition as leaders, but perhaps who do not wish to be running events.

Appoint an ambassador liaison officer within your organisation. They can coordinate your leads and put the right people in touch, as well as being a point of contact.

Create a marketing and activity plan for the programme. This could include videos, bid materials, presentations, educational workshops for potential bid leaders and a dedicated website. This plan should be integrated with the wider international meetings marketing plan for the destination.

Be visible to new audiences. Get out and about, speak at events, present at meetings and create pop-up stands at universities. Sometimes you will need to repeat your message several times before it gets through. Communication is vital. Hold regular events and update people via digital channels. Club Liverpool’s Jane Fawley says ambassadors have decided to bring a conference to the destination as they want to give something back after experiencing the city’s hospitality first-hand.

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ls ,



Singapore will host the 103rd Lion’s Club International Convention in June 2020 thanks to conference ambassador Charlie Chan (pictured)





GET REAL OR GET LOST If an influencer is not authentic, it can seriously damage your brand

Marine Debatte Head of events APJ / China, BI Worldwide

“I really like the short videos that SITE produces in the lead-up to its annual conference where our peers tell us in 30 seconds why they are attending. Seeing fellow event planners and leaders join that movement makes me want to go.”

Convention bureaus in

SYDNEY and SINGAPORE are among those with long-standing ambassador programmes

Influencer Marketing is expected to grow from

US$8 billion in 2019 US$15 billion in 2020 according to Business Insider Intelligence

Influencer = trusted voice Influencers Build Brands Does your event branding feature an influencer or ambassador?

Potential attendees are more likely to trust the recommendation of an ‘influencer’ when key messages are reinforced over time

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Why is this word so powerful all of a sudden? By Anis Ramli


all it what you want: a fraternity, a club, a tribe. As social beings, we all want to belong. And being part of a collective is good for the soul — driving out loneliness, providing fulfilment, and fostering professional (business leads) and personal (friends) relationships. In Denmark, the concept of hygge (a form of everyday togetherness and cosiness) is widely embraced. According to a recent survey by Aalborg University, more than 90 per cent of Danes are members of a club, society, volunteer association or union — and the average Dane belongs to three clubs. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that they are some of the happiest people in the world. Community builder and social entrepreneur, Fabian Pfortmuller, has dedicated himself to answering the question: ‘What is a community?’ “Communities are both incredibly powerful and magical, but often very poorly understood,” he says. After studying more than 120 communities across the globe, he created the Community Canvas in 2017, an open-source framework that helps organisations understand and build communities (see p.64). Pfortmuller, who is currently developing Community Canvas 2.0 along with a training methodology for community builders, says purpose is the core of any community. “There are usually two kinds of purpose: an internal and an external purpose. Internal purpose means a group exists for itself to take care of each other. An external purpose means the group exists to solve a problem.

But groups that only have an external purpose can sometimes be very transactional and short-lived.” While a plethora of digital tools exist to help people connect, Pfortmuller believes event professionals should focus on people rather than logistics, and invest in developing skills around service, hospitality and relationship-building. “The best community-building tool is a kitchen table, because all you need for people to share an experience is a place to sit and eat some food together. Everything else is too much,” he says. “People are not looking for another event, but a place where they feel that they belong, and with people they want to be around.” Empowering people to show up as active co-creators in your community — rather than consumers — is also critical. “Great communities have a system for give and gain,” says Daylon Soh, founder of Curious Core and the Global Brand Summit in Singapore. “A participant in the community needs to feel like they are giving to the whole and gaining something from the whole. The idea is for someone to say: ‘I’ve served and made this community better and I’m a better person as a result of being part of this community’, but you have to learn to give first.” In 2012, Soh also founded CreativeMornings Singapore, a volunteer-led community that holds free breakfast events to bring local creatives together. He insists that even informal communities require a degree of curation — whether it’s the activities the community engages in, or the participants who join.

“The best community-building tool is a kitchen table.” Fabian Pfortmuller Community builder & entrepreneur

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“Learn to give first.” Dylon Soh Founder Curious Core & Global Brand Summit

“In essence, people come for the content but stay for the people. So the number of personal relationships any community member has with other community members will determine the strength of the community,” he says. Curation is something Felix Rundel, the executive director of Falling Walls Foundation, has mastered. As the foundation’s head of programmes and international development, Rundel organises the annual Falling Walls Conference, which is held in Berlin on 8-9 November — the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Based on this powerful metaphor, the event acts as a bridge to connect the scientific community with society in order to identify the “next walls to fall”. Because of this shared purpose, Rundel believes his high-profile speakers (often leading scientists and Nobel Prize winners) willingly volunteer their time to attend the event. “Everyone who attends our conference is motivated by the opportunity to contribute their expertise, skills and insights to others,” he explains. Rundel and his team invest a lot time in the lead-up to the event to prep speakers and develop a personal relationship with them. “They also need to leave our event with the feeling that this will have an impact on their work, their network, and their career in the longer term. So, you have to be really good at creating this experience for them.” But the staying power, he says, is in the connections the foundation can facilitate. Speakers at Falling Walls receive lifetime invitations to the main event and are also invited to connect with other communities at workshops or dinner events throughout the year. The foundation also runs Falling Walls Lab, a regional pitching competition for early-career innovators in more than 60 countries. Winners are given the opportunity to present their ideas at the annual conference and Rundel says he is currently working on an online hub that connects these young researchers. It all boils down to a collaborative relationship that is greater than the sum of its parts. Pfortmuller says: “We live in a world with incredibly complex challenges. These cannot be solved by one organisation or person alone. “Event planners of the future will be ecosystembuilders that bring different groups of people together to learn from one another. That’s what the world needs, and that’s the opportunity for this industry.”

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Shared Experiences




d an Br


Va lue s









Identity Organisation Source: Community Canvas



Su on cce ss Definiti


LinkedIn is a great platform for building business connections. Engage and comment on posts by colleagues and industry thought leaders

Channels & Platforms

Data Management


Create value for your event stakeholders by introducing them to new networks of people/research/ business

EVENTPROFS When designing events, think of environments that will build relationships, rather than a onetime business transaction Immersive dining experiences feed the soul. Be sure to build these into your event progamme

Falling Walls Conference Invests time to engage highprofile speakers who remain active members of the community well after the event


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Building a community of business events professionals in Asia Collaboration

Be an active member

“Instead of a ‘give and take’ approach, it may be better for us to co-create an event in the region together. But, of course, it is challenging because bureaucracy plays a big role in the decisionmaking process in Asian countries.”

“The recent growth of ICCA in the Asia-Pacific region is not just about membership numbers or revenue. It’s also about building capacities — and that must come from us, the members. As members, we have the opportunity to create our own future.”

Jason Yeh Founder and CEO GIS Group Taiwan

Jane Vong Holmes Senior manager (Asia) GainingEdge

Create value

Clear message

“We cannot organise [events] the way we always have. We will not be successful. We have structures that trap us because we want to protect ourselves. Instead of creating value, what we’re doing is protecting what we have. If we are going to be successful, we need to create new value.”

“We need to change our messaging to our friends in government — and focus on the power of business events to generate both economic and societal change. How can we, as a community, get away from talking purely about money? That is an old message and a message that doesn’t resonate with association executives going forward.”

Sherrif Karamat President & CEO PCMA

James Rees President ICCA

Understand expectations

Share knowledge

“Millennials have very clear expectations when joining an association. The challenge of attracting new members is the inability or even disregard of associations to understand the traits and expectations of this growing demographic.”

“Convention bureaus should be able to share resources and products that we already have, like sustainable event guidelines and incentives for operators. We should come together with the private sector to try to facilitate the ease of doing business.”

Octavio B. Peralta Secretary general, Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia Pacific

Nichapa Yoswee Senior vice president — business TCEB

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Ca s e St udy

X E RO C ON 2 0 1 9 How INVNT used immersive storytelling to bring conference theme to life and connect delegates with local community. By Lauren Arena


nown as the ‘Coachella for accountants’, Xerocon 2019 welcomed more than 3,000 guests to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, where creative networking and educational sessions focused on the theme: Communities of Purpose. Global live brand storytelling agency, INVNT, once again joined forces with Xero to design and produce the company’s annual two-day conference, Xerocon, in Brisbane last September. “With this [theme] in mind, our big question was: How do you show something that can’t be seen?” says Adam Harriden, executive creative director, INVNT APAC. “We set about strategising ways we could help Xero to tell its ‘Communities of Purpose’ story in a tangible and relatable way. “We called on our local and global teams and after some intense brainstorming, worked with Xero to devise the underlying creative idea of ‘bringing the community in,’ which focused on inclusiveness and accountants’ purpose within the local community,” Harriden explains. As a result, INVNT created five festival-inspired Community Zones across the venue. These unique activations allowed attendees to bond and network across a range of educational and creatively-led experiences: The Board Room — This orange-hued space included a custom-built skate ramp with pro skaters. Attendees could customise their own skateboard with the guidance of Xerocon’s artist in residence, Mulga, and add their artistic flair to his wall-length mural.

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The Parlour — This pink-themed space invited guests to go for a trim at the barbers or get glammed up at the nail salon. The Park — This green zone invited visitors to rediscover their inner child with a game of totem tennis, create their own beverages on blender bikes, and re-fuel at a gelato van. The Sweet Shop — This insta-worthy, yellow space encouraged visitors to reward themselves with an assortment of sweet treats and a game of table tennis. The Wellness Sphere — A dedicated spot for attendees to find their inner zen, this blue area hosted yoga classes every 10 minutes during breaks, along with stress checks. The community feel continued in the breakouts, thanks to a colour-blocking technique, which enabled those who connected with a particular Community Zone to locate like-minded individuals at their corresponding breakout sessions with ease. The design of the main plenary embraced the community theme, with a focus on bringing the outside in.

“Regardless of whether it looks ‘cool’, an experience that doesn’t fulfil the client’s wants and needs won’t make the cut.” Laura Roberts Managing director INVNT APAC

C a se S tu dy

“Inspired by a parkland space, an important feature of any local community, the keynote theatre featured a 15-metre-long truss which meandered down to the audience at different levels — much like the sloping hills of a park — and took the speaker into the centre of the room, creating an intimate vibe,” explains Laura Roberts, INVNT APAC managing director. “Speakers made their way onto the stage via a ‘red carpet’ made of astroturf, while a wooden curved backdrop complemented the stage’s three LED screens, which ensured content was displayed in a clear and engaging way,” she says. Going out with a bang, the two-day event ended with the Xerocon Festival wrap party at Howard Smith Wharves, a new entertainment and lifestyle precinct along the Brisbane River. To ensure the right balance of networking, inspiration and education, Roberts employs a deeply strategic, research-led approach each year. “We take the time to get to know and understand both Xero’s objectives and their customers — not just

simple demographics but the small details, like their bugbears, career aspirations, and event attendance goals,” she says. “Importantly, while we’re always looking to push the boundaries of creativity, regardless of whether it looks ‘cool’, an experience that doesn’t fulfil the client’s wants and needs or strategically speak to Xero’s messaging won’t make the cut.” Reflecting on Xerocon 2019, Cara Weers, head of events at Xero says: “We’re absolutely over the moon with the success [of the event] which garnered significant social and media traction, and attendee feedback has been incredibly positive across the board.” She adds: “The INVNT team approached our brief in a highly strategic and creative way, resulting in an unforgettable experience that lived up to our ‘Coachella for accountants’ reputation and provided delegates with a platform to connect, participate, and learn in ways that are wholly unique to the typical accounting conference.”

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As the business of events gains traction in APAC, it’s important that residents in host destinations see and feel the value of your meeting. By Sanjay Surana

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t takes a village to raise a child — and the same can be said for an event. Given that, shouldn’t every event seek to engage its host community, to involve it in as many aspects as possible, not just to ensure its smooth running but also as an act of civil rectitude? And if so, how should that be done, what are the tangible benefits, and can it foster lasting good? Lesley Williams, managing director of BestCities Global Alliance, an international network of convention destinations around the globe that frequently engages with local communities, concurs. “Community engagement is extremely important, especially when it comes to delivering the impact of an event. From a destination’s perspective, it can be a means to showcase the importance of meetings to policy-makers, academia, private sector or the general public. In terms of the association, it can be a vehicle in delivering its mission to a greater audience beyond the confines of the meeting venue.” At Singapore’s SingEx, Alvin Lim, executive director, brand and customer experience, expands on the sentiment. “The community you serve comprises your current key and potential customers, channels, co-creators and collaborators. Failure to effectively engage with the community will render your product or organisation obsolete.” Beyond the morally sound principle of inclusivity, engaging host communities can help to amplify the long-term impact of an event, even create a legacy. “We see many conference organisers aiming to include the participation of local students and aspiring professionals through scholarships and grants,” says Stewart Ho, international marketing manager at Coex Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul. “For these local students and young professionals, it’s a lifetime opportunity and we often hear current doctors, professors, educators, researchers describe in vivid detail a conference or major event they attended in the past and how that experience inspired them.” Concerted efforts by organisers to include the local community is a savvy way to sow the seeds for a future legacy and nurture a new generation of active leaders in their respective fields. For Williams, such engagement works on many fronts: By facilitating attendance, active participation, knowledge and skills transfer to delegates in developing countries and disadvantaged groups, for example. It can also raise awareness of an environmental or societal challenge or potential solutions, include educational outreach with schools or universities, and create legacy programmes in the destination like charity support, investment, research and development, and scholarships. The macro role it plays is also important. For Coex, without legacy planning and community engagement, “we would have simply been a largescale venue rental building occupying a large swath of land in the middle of Seoul,” said Ho.

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Go local... Brisbane locals welcome visitors to the city with bespoke tours as part of Brisbane Marketing’s ‘Brisbane Greeters’ programme.

When conducted properly, events that successfully engage the local community undoubtedly leave a lasting impact. For the past seven years, Coex has organised and hosted the C-Festival, Korea’s largest urban culture festival, each May. Pitched squarely at the public, it brings in performers and speakers from all over the world, and showcases the latest trends in technology, food, music, and culture with special exhibitions. The event shows the general public that a convention centre is not limited to certain industries but serves as a knowledge and culture hub that bridges people, organisations and sectors on various levels. It has helped introduce to the population, some of whom may have never stepped foot inside a convention centre or attended a conference, how venues can bring together diverse people who otherwise would not have interacted together. For destinations, Williams notes, legacy planning demonstrates the value of meetings beyond economic impact, and can be a tool in developing the local knowledge economy. “Legacy planning encourages innovative, diverse thinking and benefits both the association and destination by creating impact that leaves a global footprint.” BestCities has an Incredible Impacts grant programme where it awards monetary grants to associations showing exemplary impacts in their field and beyond. SingEx’s Lim adds: “Events which are the ‘voice’ and ‘heartbeat’ of the community also make great vehicles for social or environmental

good through the ethos, culture and identity norms that we as organisers can orchestrate, and for the build-up of social capital. SingEx sees itself as a community enabler, operating at the intersection of industries to bring communities together.” ICC Sydney launched a Legacy Programme in 2017. At the Australian Clean Energy Summit, July 2019, local university students were invited to participate in a sustainabilityfocused challenge, which asked them to address a topic featured in the summit’s programme. “A selection of the submissions was chosen for display in the event’s key networking areas, giving students an opportunity to present their ideas to delegates and immerse themselves among industry professionals,” said Geoff Donaghy, CEO of ICC Sydney. “By engaging clients with our Legacy Programme, we are further opening up the opportunity to deepen our impact on the local community and providing a lasting legacy that can be felt long after clients and delegates have returned home.” To drive deeper engagement with customers and communities, SingEx launched SFF x Switch Go, a video-on-demand platform that allows the community to access conference and presentation content streamed over the internet. “Connecting the community from all around the world with content enables them to stay relevant and discover a whole new universe of innovation and unlimited growth,” says Lim.

“Failure to effectively engage with the community will render your product or organisation obsolete.” Alvin Lim Executive director, brand and customer experience SingEx

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CVBs are the local experts and should have connections to relevant stakeholder groups



WO R D S to AC T I ON s,



Engage diverse communities, like students, academics or grassroots leaders in the



Work with local stakeholders in determining what success looks like, which communities to engage, how your event can serve them, and how to track your progress BestCities’ Incredible Impacts Grant Programme is a source of reference and inspiration for event planners and showcases best practice when it comes to impactful community engagement

Seoul Convention Bureau provides real-life event experience to students — and event organisers benefit from additional onsite personnel Brisbane Marketing runs the Brisbane Greeters programme, where 150 local volunteers welcome visitors to the city and lead immersive tours

Communities can be ‘weaved’ together but grow organically

VENUES Does your venue have a legacy programme?

DMOs / EVENTPROFS Develop skills in hospitality rather than logistics

Venues of the future must be multi-purpose


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RISE OF THE NEW CEO: CHIEF EXPERIENCE OFFICER INVNT’s Scott Cullather says ‘phygital’ storytelling is the most potent form of audience engagement.


o matter how recognisable a brand’s logo, tagline or motto is, an authentic story, and the ability to tell that story in compelling ways, has always been the key to powerful audience engagement. What’s different today is that we have many more platforms in which to tell these stories. Now the key to effective storytelling lies in a combined live and digital approach — one where the mediums rely on and complement one another. But first, let’s set the scene We’ve seen demand for events increase exponentially in recent years. Much of this is being driven by millennials and Gen Zs, the experienceloving generations who, in 2019, made up 2.43 billion and 2.46 billion people respectively — or over half of the world’s population. Not only this, they are gaining more spending power as millennials work their way up the corporate ladder, and more Gen Zs enter the workforce. They are soon to be — and many already are — our key decision-makers. Various studies also highlight that audiences generally are seeking out live experiences. A 2018 report from NAB Group Economics revealed: “Consumer spending habits in Australia are becoming more about experiences than tangibles”. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Fast Company predicts experience economy spending will reach $8 trillion by 2030. While it’s innate to the human condition to crave real, face-to-face interactions, we also now heavily rely on devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops and the social media platforms that they accommodate day in, day out. This has prompted the emergence of the ‘phygital’ state, one where we simultaneously exist in both our offline and online worlds. Live experiences that purposefully weave opportunities for digital throughout are therefore the ultimate sweet spot. This could take the form of an immersive installation that audiences can explore, activations where they get hands-on, capture their

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creations and take the end-product home as a memento, props that encourage selfie snapping, or unique AV applications to introduce a keynote speaker. These strategically designed, sharable live experiences are arguably the most potent form of audience engagement the world has ever known… But producing them is no easy feat. This is where the role of the new CEO — as in Chief Experience Officer — becomes incredibly important. Dedicated to developing and implementing event engagement strategies, they are live experience focused, yet their expertise spans the entire marketing mix. With a chief experience officer on board, this carefully considered fusion of live and digital prompts attendees to capture what they are witnessing firsthand and share with their networks. They effectively become citizen journalists reporting back via curated images and video, a move that enhances their social currency as they incite FOMO in those not in the room, and one that extends the reach of a live experience far beyond its four walls. An event’s audience size, for example, could increase from 1,000 to one million almost instantly as it enters the digital realm. This is powerful stuff, but it’s also important to note that digital can’t exist without the content that live creates. If you take a look at what’s trending on Twitter right now, chances are there’s a live event driving that content. In 2020 and beyond, the key to long-lasting emotional connections between a brand and consumers, or an organisation and its employees, lies in a combined live and digital approach, one that will prove most effective when designed and implemented by a highly strategic, specialist C-suite role — that of the Chief Experience Officer.

Scott Cullather is co-Founder and CEO of INVNT.

HOW TO CREATE A SENSE OF BELONGING ICS director of associations, Christoph Raudonat, outlines management trends to help you master the year ahead.


new decade has dawned. Many of us look forward to new projects, new opportunities, new challenges. We certainly can expect further changes and development in the world of work, be it via technological developments or new approaches to managing people and organisational models. In recent years, we’ve also seen an increase in mindfulness, reflection practices and ‘moments to find the true me’. So, rather than going for predictions as to how big our businesses will grow, where the new markets are located, and in which funds to invest, let’s look inwards: 1.


Manage things you can control: Yes, we know our organisations take time to react to new opportunities. Frustration and exhaustion may kick in every now and then. And the workload does not disappear either. At moments like these, we may risk falling into a burnout trap. Listen to yourself and recognise early signs in your co-workers. Rather engage in sprints than a marathon. After each sprint, put in a circuit breaker. Reward yourself and your team and then tackle the next step. This will help you remain in control, maintain ownership and keep spirits and motivation at higher levels. Authentic leadership: It is perfectly ok to show vulnerability. If you do not know what lies ahead, chances are others don’t know any better. Find like-minded people and communicate authentically, even within your own team. Past results have shown that when crises hit, those organisations that invited everyone to participate in shaping the strategy of the future recovered faster as they allowed for an open communication culture. Leaders were not ashamed to admit that they did not have the solutions and were not ignorant of the good ideas that came from sometimes the most unexpected staff members.

“Kindness is the singlemost reason that people thrive at work.” 3.

Support your staff: Being a compassionate leader also means that you have the empathetic ability to listen and capacity to understand what is going on in others’ minds. People who feel authentically supported and listened to will walk the extra mile because they can grant themselves ownership over their actions.


Kindness matters: It was not a long time ago when mentioning the word ‘kindness’ in a job interview got you a few pitiful smiles from the HR sharks that were out to eat you alive and test your suitability to work for their organisation. This trend is definitely changing and 2020 will (finally!) see more kindness at work. Kindness is the single-most reason that people thrive at work and it is measured in the mental and emotional wellbeing of the people who spread and receive kindness.

Last but not least, it is in the sense of belonging that we find satisfaction at work. It is the identity we (allow ourselves to) put forward, which provides us with the drive and motivation to be better and reach our goals.

Christoph Raudonat is the Director of Associations at ICS Ltd and has been a notfor-profit and leadership consultant for the past 15 years. This article was provided by the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO), which represents organisations from 40 countries. www.iapco.org

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Biz Events Asia Volume 8 February 2020  

Placemaking and Storytelling

Biz Events Asia Volume 8 February 2020  

Placemaking and Storytelling