Rising Sun in the East - clouds in the West


A MICE weather and travel report by Bjoern Kempe (pictured below).

Bjoern KempeImmediately when Covid restrictions lifted for Singapore in March I was one of the first persons to arrive there under the new protocol. The previous time I visited Singapore was back in February 2020.

The place had changed: quiet, with the top hotels far from full and reasonably priced. My flight was a VTL flight and half empty and also reasonable priced.

The second foreign trip I did, in April, was slightly different: I went, under new relaxed protocols, to Manila in the Philippines and Jakarta in Indonesia. While the Covid screening in Manila was strict I had to do on arrival testing in Jakarta and there was no visa on arrival available.

Sentiment was down in these cities as international travellers were just starting to come back.

My most recent trip to Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, in May, already showed a very different picture. I couldn’t afford any 5 star hotels and flights were fully booked. Restaurants were also fully booked – Life was back!

It was a similar situation in India where I was able to fly in without much hassle (although Business Class ticket prices had doubled compared with pre-Covid). The planes were jam packed, as were the exhibitions.

I asked some fellow organisers about their feelings and summarise their responses here:

  • India – A very strong rebound of the business at 100% or even higher compared with 2019
  • Middle East - Many exhibitions quickly attained 90% of capacity after restart. Also Qatar and KSA, which have been hitherto less popular for exhibitions, have noticed a significant increase in business.
  • Indonesia - Organisers generally happy albeit some anxieties about Chinese participation, but on average attendances have been back to 80-90% vs 2019.
  • Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are showing a more mixed picture. There have been some good shows and some ‘OK’ ones. Thaifex Anuga in Thailand was very successful and also many shows at MBS Singapore enjoyed a great attendance. Overall organisers told me they have 70-85% of the business from 2019 and that international visitorship and attendance from EU and China was still down significantly.

In Europe initial results have been encouraging with an average attendance from 35% - 70% (although Messe Munich’s IFAT was around 80% of the 2019 mark) and that is with a war on its doorsteps, inflation at a 40-year high and some severe supply chain issues.

To me, the answer seems to be: the bigger the country the more domestic the show should be oriented post-Covid. We can say after that pandemic the Sun is rising in the East first, just as in Nature itself. It is encouraging to note that the problems mentioned above have not stopped some of the players extending their business.

In Europe Nineteen Events and ARC purchased nice boutique businesses and Asia VNU announced new show launches in Thailand, Düsseldorf in Indonesia, and many big organisers have started to shift some of the shows from Hong Kong away to Bangkok, Singapore and Dubai – possibly a reaction to the continuing local market Covid restrictions rather than a trend.

In Asia at least, there seems to be a trend of focussing on local and niche events. A Chinese return to the market by early 2023 would definitely help the skies to clear.

Meanwhile, European hopes for a return of the mega trade show era maybe somewhat optimistic. I rather predict cloudy and cooler temperatures for most of Europe. Interestingly the UK market shows sunny spots poking through the clouds, an indication that market there has already nicely adapted to the domestic buyers.

Perhaps that is why M&A activities are starting once again in the UK while the rest of Europe is still restructuring, consolidating and keeping the cash together. Where will your next journey take you, I wonder?