Expanded event sees double-digit growth and stronger platform for exhibitors and attendees, but new MICE show needs time to flourish.
In its 12th year in Singapore, ITB Asia not only enjoyed double-digit growth in attendance but also extended its strategic partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board and Marina Bay Sands from 2020 to 2022.
Total visitors increased from more than 11,000 in 2018 to 13,000 this year. The number of buyers and exhibitors also grew between 12 and 15 per cent from about 1,000 in each category to 1,250 buyers and 1,300 exhibitors respectively. Business appointments were up seven per cent to 27,000 during the show days from 16 to 18 October.
“We are pleased to have attracted more buyers, specifically from markets with huge growth potential in travel and tourism,” says Katrina Leung, managing director of Messe Berlin (Singapore), organiser of ITB Asia. “By working closely with exhibitors and through the new Elite Partner Programme, we hope to spur more business opportunities for both parties.”
The creation of MICE Show Asia (MSA) increased total attendance and ITB Asia’s footprint across three floors: the main event spanning the three halls of Basement 2 in Sands Expo and Convention Centre, MSA in Hall A on Level 1 and conference sessions on Level 3.
The downside was that people had to go back and forth to attend business appointments and the numerous presentations running simultaneously.
Messe Berlin launched MSA to “provide industry suppliers with insights and strategies to meet ever-evolving buyer needs”, with conference sessions “designed to get attendees to rethink how they understand the industry, and gain the ability to set themselves apart”.
The inaugural edition, however, underwhelmed several visitors who described it as “mediocre” or “not quite the standard of a MICE show”. A pavilion coordinator, while acknowledging interest and enquiries, says: “Overall, it was a bit quiet, maybe because it’s the first year. We’ll discuss with industry partners whether to remain separate or rejoin our main country pavilion next year.”
Some conference sessions had good turnout but others saw few attendees. Interesting topics included Aventri’s presentation on MICE trends and strategies, Cvent’s tracking attendee footprint and tech topics on smart data for MICE and indoor mapping.
Indonesia Convention and Exhibition Bureau’s presentation, for instance, captured essential information on the country’s MICE strategies and seven priority destinations, showing statistics, airline links, hotels, venues, major attractions and top industry sectors. Even more illuminating, however, was the fact that Indonesia now has a convention bureau — unknown to many until they met participants at the show.
Conferences in the main halls fared better, with Knowledge Theatre and Destination Marketing sessions drawing much interest. Travel Technology attendees often spilled into the aisles — perhaps one reason why the organisers are hiving this into a separate show.
Bertie Lawson, managing director of Sampan Travel Myanmar, says the various talks were the highlight of his visit. “I really enjoyed the presentations. They were interesting and informative.”
The star attraction in Hall A was Dream Cruises’ world premiere of hull artwork of its latest ship, Global Dream, along with a mock-up cabin.
“It was a great opportunity for trade partners, media and invited guests to personally experience the cabin, allowing us to provide a live demonstration to highlight some of the features of the Global Class cabins. The feedback has been very encouraging,” says Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises and head of international sales for Genting Cruise Lines.
Another ‘first’ was the use of facial recognition for show admission, effectively restricting access between L1 and B2. Leung says: “It was essential to introduce facial recognition to heighten security standards. This ensures the accountability of each attendee and prevention of pass misuse. Additionally, as organisers of business events, we wanted to exemplify application of the latest event technologies that enable us to improve event processes.”
In 2020, Messe Berlin will be bravely increasing the size of MSA and launching the inaugural Travel Tech Asia. Leung explains: “While possibly seen as separate events, both MICE Show Asia and Travel Tech Asia complement each other by catering to these rising sectors in the industry. ITB Asia is the premier meeting place for the travel industry to forge new partnerships and strengthen existing business relationships with players in the region. The dedicated shows allow for streamlined attention and to capture a focused market.”