BANGKOK, 29 May 2020: If show organisers intend to host events in Thailand with the same turnout as previous years they will need to rent double the space to meet stringent distancing rules.
The physical distance rule is part of extensive measures outlined in two hygiene guideline documents released by the Public Health Department and the Thailand Exhibition Association in mid-May.
Asked to comment on the impact of the distancing rule on exhibition space rental a reliable source at the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau admitted: “Yes, one way or the other because of safety precautions, you will either have to double the space or halve the number of attendees.”
At present, there is a 50-people limit on public meetings, but that rule is likely to ease allowing for bigger meeting and conferences focused on Thailand domestic events market over the summer months June to September.
Thailand’s meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions markets (MICE) collapsed in mid-January when the first Covid-19 cases were reported in Thailand. Recovery remains months or even a year away due to the lockdown, ban on air travel and the suspension of visas.
A high-ranking TCEB executive who asked not to identified said the viable option moving forward was to introduce a hybrid meeting model that relies on smaller real-time attendance that extends to a much wider audience online.
“We are promoting hybrid events with a smaller live meeting that reaches out to a broader audience online worldwide.”
The measures outlined in the two guides aim to cut risky touchpoints that delegates may encounter when attending events by using a mobile phone, QR codes and facial recognition technology.
The TCEB source argued that Thailand could easily deliver touchpoint-free technology saying the bureau already has an application called Biz connect that can support touch-free functions for event organisers.
Paper promotions and to some extent, even snacks and coffee offered at booths will be curtailed rather than eliminated entirely. Still, booth hospitality would require a different distribution process that cuts touchpoint
“Delegates will need to use digital tools to present their products and interact with others to help minimise human contact and reduce risk,” the TCEB source explained.
It looks like even the traditional business card will be replaced at shows going forward as the hand-to-hand transfer could be identified as risky. There are reliable alternatives to pass on personal data via a mobile phone or QR code that make the business card redundant during the Covid-19 crisis.
“For sure going forward, events hosted in Thailand will rely more on digital tools and promotions to ensure the conference or exhibition experience is of the highest safety standard.”
On when the MICE industry can expect events of more than 500 people to reconvene in Thailand, the TCEB source said the government is preparing to open up the option for larger gatherings in June, but it would be a staggered phase-in depending on how the virus is contained.
“We expect to be ready to convene large scale event of more than 500 next month (domestic events) but with a strict commitment to covid-free guidelines.
“The exhibition industry is critical to our economy and employment so TCEB together with Thai Exhibition Association we will work with Bangkok’s two venues, BITEC and IMPACT, to ensure we can all commit ourselves to offer the highest hygienic standards.”
The biggest challenge is not the venues that already have measures in place to provide a secure environment for delegates, but the risks delegates could face travelling to the venue on public transport or taxis.
One solution for the event organiser is to partner with hotels that are close to the venue to offer customised shuttle bus services sanitised after each trip.
Having alternative pre-arranged transportation or limiting transfers to just private transportation could be an option. Still, some event organisers might follow the lead of TAT which moved its annual TTM trade show to June 2021 to be on the safe side.
“For international events hosting the event in Thailand will become more realistic by mid-2021 as it is likely there will be a vaccine available by then. I expect large scale events will begin to recover, starting Q1 2021. Before that, there may be some specialised events to test the market, particularly to build attendee confidence.”