Technology is changing the way we do business, so are trade shows still relevant? We speak to delegates at IT&CMA to find out.
It’s coming. And in some cases, the era of the ‘thinking machine’ is already here. Artificial intelligence, together with augmented and virtual reality technologies are rapidly changing the way we connect and communicate. And by proxy, the way we do business.
Conferences are becoming virtual gatherings, and meeting room simulations are being set-up to cultivate next-gen presentations. So, what does this mean for the MICE industry? And in particular, trade shows like Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings Asia (IT&CMA)?
Taking place in Bangkok last month (September), the three-day event featured new national pavilions from convention bureaus such as Kobe, Lanna and Seoul, and attracted 41 per cent of new buyers. But figures aside, what do delegates think?
The human experience is still key
Director of D & Y Travel Concepts in South Africa, Paul Ramjugernath, values the face-to-face meetings at industry trade shows. “Yes, these trade shows are still relevant because they give you a personal and central place to interact. Business is about relationships,” he says.
“These trade shows are very important, especially coming from South Africa where you can find everything at one place.” Though he admitted that this year’s IT&CMA was “much smaller”.
Location still plays a key role in a successful show. “It’s my third time here,” Jacky Lee, CEO of Korea eTour, South Korea shares. “Thailand is a good place because I can meet many international clients here, and it’s a central and good country to do business in.”
He adds: “[The show is] still good and I’ve got some meetings out of it, but there are fewer buyers this year… and I’m not sure if my appointments will bear fruit.”
Cut out the middle-man
Some buyers attend trade shows simply to gain direct access to vendors.
“I like it because it’s well-organised and attractive. As a buyer, I can go directly to the hotels and get rates without the middle-man,” Harpreet Singh Grover, buyer from Destinations Unlimited Travel Services, India, says. “I think these transactions are best done face-to-face and so these shows are still valuable.” Acknowledging the value, he even agreed to pay for his own expenses to attend such events.
Choosing the right destination
As a local exhibitor, account director of MICE at Royal Orchid Sheraton, Pollawat Prasatarporn believes that the show is still important even with “a lesser crowd than last year”.
“The buyers all know about this event so it’s still effective,” he says. And when asked why he thinks Thailand succeeds with such trade shows, he lists the Kingdom’s international flight connectivity as a determining factor. “It’s the best place for MICE because we have so many hotels and attractions to accompany the activities. For example, one can split up their destination between Bangkok and Pattaya, or even Phuket, for variety.”
It would seem that even with the advent of technology, trade show delegates still rely heavily on that extra level of human service and communication to serve their needs for business – granted the actual location and exhibitors align with interests. Digital disruption may face its greatest competition yet – the handshake.