Boost exhibitions to help rebuild economy

Maceos president Vincent Lim: “Moving forward, we foresee online and on-site merge into a new form of hybrid exhibition to complement each other. It’s the way forward and the future direction of the industry.”

KUALA LUMPUR: Exhibitions can play an important role in the rebuilding of Malaysia’s economy, say industry experts during a recent webinar.

Themed Exhibitions: Key to Rebuilding Economies, it was hosted by the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (Maceos) and held in conjunction with the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry’s (UFI) Global Exhibitions Day 2020.

The session, moderated by Maceos honorary secretary Francis Teo, saw the participation of Maceos president Datuk Vincent Lim, Informa Markets group managing director M. Gandhi, the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Abdul Khani Daud and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) deputy CEO Mohd Mustafa Abd Aziz.

Maceos’ 2018 report shows that close to 300 exhibitions were organised here, with 77% being business-to-consumer exhibitions and the remaining being business-to-business (B2B) or trade exhibitions. These exhibitions recorded RM11bil in sales, contributing RM330mil to the national gross domestic product.

“It’s a big business and a key economic contributor. Exhibitions also act as economic multipliers and bring growth to the industry, besides the indirect impact that also goes to airlines, hotels, food and beverage and many others, ” said Lim.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent movement control order, however, the business events planned for the year covering the meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions spectrum have ground to a halt.

A recent Maceos survey also revealed that 92% of its members will suffer between 71% and 100% revenue loss coming up to an estimated RM2.5bil.

Matrade, which had 72 trade activities and programmes – 46 are Matrade participation in trade exhibitions and nine International Sourcing Programmes – planned for 2020, has only participated in four exhibitions up to end-April. It is uncertain whether it will be able to execute the rest of these initiatives until the end of the year, said Mohd Mustafa.

Gandhi said: “What’s very important to remember is what’s behind these events. Small and medium enterprises depend on these exhibitions to build their business and contribute to the economy.”

He suggested controlled organised trade events as the way forward by implementing new standard operating procedures (SOP) as there is minimal risk to allow exhibitions starting August or September, beginning with local-only events, moving on to signing bilateral agreements with certain low-risk countries and then opening up the global market when the vaccines are ready.

“Trade exhibitions are organised by professional exhibition organisers. It’s an industry that works on SOP. We spend one year planning just for a three- to four-day exhibition, so it’s very possible for us to introduce and implement an SOP, ” he added.

To that end, the industry – via Maceos and Informa Markets among others – and MyCEB has already submitted a post-Covid-19 SOP proposal to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry that is pending approval.

Abdul Khani said: “Exhibitions are very special as visitors that come into exhibitions are registered, so you can plan accordingly in terms of how many can come into the hall at a certain time.”

The industry has also requested Matrade to reconsider its endorsement criteria for 2020 and 2021, including reducing the threshold or minimum requirements of the Market Development Grant (MDG).

As for Matrade’s efforts, Mohd Mustafa said the trade promotion agency is “seriously considering” expanding the MDG’s scope to include virtual trade exhibitions.

This is a timely move, as Lim explained: “Moving forward, we foresee online and on-site merge into a new form of hybrid exhibition to complement each other. It’s the way forward and the future direction of the industry.”

In addition, since the first MCO, Matrade has enhanced engagement through virtual B2B meetings with 474 conducted thus far and 363 leads disseminated alongside 188 market intelligence reports, facilitated by its trade commissioners in its 46 offices abroad.

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