Creative technology dominates discussion at this year’s show, but are we ready to put words into action?
This year, IBTM World set new attendance records with more than 77,650 meetings taking place during the three-day event, exhibitors from more than 150 countries, and buyers as SONY, Bayer US, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Procter & Gamble (P&G), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Moet Hennessy.
Commenting at the close of IBTM World 2018, David Thompson, new exhibition director, said: “It was fantastic to feel such palpable excitement in the room and to hear so many positive stories as a direct result of the fantastic business opportunities created here at IBTM World.”
Now that the buzz has settled, we review the itinerary of meetings, knowledge sessions, tech demonstrations and announcements to see what stuck:
Tech sparks conversations, but adoption is slow
This year’s edition featured a new Exploratory Zone with tech companies applying intelligent applications to the events industry. From face recognition badge printing kiosks by Fieldrive, to three large flight simulators from Mach 3 Management, the companies attracted varying levels of interaction.
Organisers conducted a series of tours through the Exploratory Zone, which gathered interest, but extended conversations were a little less common. It seems that new tech may still be a little awkward for buyers like Tinuke Nwakohu.
Explaining why she only tried one station, the managing director of Aviator Travels & Tours Ltd said she still preferred to do things “the old way, human to human”.
“I’ll let the younger generation look into this segment for the future plans,” she firmly suggested.
Founder and CEO of tech company doo Gmbh, Michael Liebman, spoke about some disadvantages of technology in his talk about AI. “When you don’t take enough time to think about the process, it really scares people off,” he said.
Data privacy a pressing concern
With breaches happening to global firms such as Facebook, Saks Fifth Avenue, Cathay Pacific and Marriott, event planners are as worried about collecting data from guests, as they are excited about it.
“This is something that is very regular at this point,” Liebman admits.
“Why is that important? Because you collect a lot of data, and it’s something that is very valuable, so they [government] try to restrict and regulate us. When you think about the things that GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) implement or introduce over the last year… this is something that is not new. GDPR just made it significantly stronger and put strong punishments on that.”
According to Liebman, protecting data privacy means thinking about an event’s purpose. “In a sense GDPR is actually helping because personalisation is something that’s not possible if you don’t ask people for their interest. And that interest is directly catered towards your event. And in that sense, at least from where we are right now and how regulations works with data protection, it’s actually supporting the way we are doing events.”
In a competitive environment, the need to apply creative solutions to events is often cited. However, ground surveys often indicate that not enough resources are actually being used to train staff.
At his knowledge session, speaker and consultant Greg Orme, said “creativity is moving up the key skills that you need to succeed in the workplace”.
And a quick audience survey revealed similar results. While half saw creativity as an important skill set, only a handful received training.
“Most bosses say yes, creativity is incredibly important, but they don’t behave in an aligned way. And I’m not blaming anyone. It’s incredibly difficult to drive for consistency and yet encourage creativity.”
China continues rapid rise
From the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge to China’s Belt and Road initiative, infrastructural connectivity is supporting the rapid economic growth and development opportunities in Asia.
From the Macau pavilion, Denny Ma, vice president of destination sales for Melco Resorts & Entertainment, acknowledged the impact of such developments. “It changed the demand quite a bit because now there’s easier access to Hong Kong and China.”
Rob Davidson from MICE Knowledge says development in China is faster than other parts of the world.
He attends the annual World Mice Conference in Qingdao. “Last year when, this huge conference was at the Shangri-La Hotel. This year it will be held at the Qingdao International Convention Centre – glass, marble, immense construction in less than 12 months – that’s China,” he said.
In the IBTM World Industry Trends Report 2018, China dominates Asia Pacific with in terms of economic growth (despite the ongoing trade war with the U.S.). In CWT’s 2019 Meetings & Events Forecast, Shanghai holds the top spot for the region and China accounts for more than half (59%) of the region’s new hotels. Other fast-rising countries include Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, and another superpower, India.
Hoteliers see brisk business on the show floor
Among the many exhibitors, hotel brands like Hilton, Marriott and Kempinski had a good showing. The luxury brands saw a flow of visitors throughout the event, with constant appointments. This persisted across all three days of the trade show, hinting at the role five-star hotels will continue to play in the business events industry.
Food and tech can be best buddies
Nothing bonds people like food. In a bid to enhance the dining experience, Skullmapping demonstrated their projection technology ‘Le Petite Chef’. Here, guests can enjoy a storytelling element with plenty of humour, as a tiny chef creates the dish on the table in front of them before the actual meal is served.
3DFoodLab offers a more tangible element – by printing edible 3D food structures to wow guests. Using ingredients such as chocolate, cheese or even pate, the invention adds another ‘designer touch’ to dishes at your next event.