On this issue, Thuong My An, Managing Director of Saigon Exhibition and Convention J.V. Co., Ltd. shares her outlook with MICE Travel Advisor about the changes that have happened in Vietnam’s events industry within the two pandemic years. She also highlights SECC’s role as a leading MICE venue.
After two years of the pandemic, what changes are perceived in Vietnam’s MICE industry by and large?
Thuong My An: According to the Travel and Tourism Summit within the framework of The 16th International Tourism Exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City (ITE HCMC 2022), in the first 8 months of 2022, Vietnam has welcomed more than 1.4 million international visitors and served nearly 80 million domestic tourists, with total revenue of 356 trillion dong. The number of newly registered businesses and employees returning to work in the tourism sector has increased rapidly. Vietnam continues to be one of the destinations with the highest increase in search traffic across the globe, ranging from 50% to 75%.
Although there have been positive signals, according to actual records, the scale of events held at SECC has decreased by half. Moreover, with exhibitions where exhibitors are mainly from China, the exhibition area is also reduced to 1/3 compared to before. The main cause of this situation can be mentioned that many small and medium enterprises have gone bankrupt due to the extended duration of the pandemic and insufficient resources to overcome. The fact that businesses switch to online mode is also a factor that affects, but not significant. Offline events and physical experiences are still a certain effective approach in promoting successful trade, commerce and connectivity when the pandemic situation is completely under control.
In the context of Vietnam’s tourism market is gradually recovered, many localities and businesses have changed their strategies and chose MICE tourism as a new development direction, a breakthrough solution to create resilience for them on the post-pandemic recovery journey.
What initiatives are taken by the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center (SECC) to contribute to national economic growth after the pandemic?
Thuong My An: SECC issues and implements various attractive preferential policies, creating favorable conditions for organizers to attract international exhibitions to SECC. This will be an opportunity for domestic businesses to trade, promote investment, stimulate demand, find solutions, and source materials to contribute to developing/recovering the country’s economy after the pandemic.
On the other hand, SECC is implementing the products/services restructuring solutions. From 2019 and earlier, trade shows accounted for 80%, the rest were other events such as entertainment, fashion, music, etc., accounting for 20%. However, the ratio has changed: exhibitions are reduced to 70% and entertainment events and other activities have been increased to 30%.
Share in details about your idea(s) to beef up Vietnam’s MICE scene.
Thuong My An: Tourism businesses need to promote training, improve skills and human resources to commit to synchronous and professional service quality. The infrastructure serving the MICE industry needs to be consolidated and perfected to enhance the capacity to organize large-scale events and international events. In addition, the cooperation between multi-industry enterprises in the chain, the linkage between localities will help create unique affiliate tourism products, effectively meeting the needs of the market. Besides, MICE tourism promotion must not be only directed to the international market but also to the domestic market to ensure the sustainable development of the industry.
What modifications (if there are so) do you intend to bring in your plans to host safe and successful events post-pandemic?
Thuong My An: Currently in Vietnam, almost everyone is vaccinated. As a result, the restrictive measures were gradually eased, business activities resumed, and Vietnam’s economy and trade made great progress. And SECC is considered a safe event venue.
After the pandemic, SECC has always maintained the implementation of pandemic prevention measures to ensure safety, as well as help visitors feel secure. Event attendees can choose to use or not use these measures, depending on their needs. SECC always adapts to all conditions, ensures public health, at the same time, contributes to developing trade – investment – tourism promotion for Ho Chi Minh City in particular and Vietnam in general.
Share in details about the ongoing tourism programmes to boost the region’s MICE tourism.
Thuong My An: International tourists often come to Vietnam to learn about its long history, enjoy its natural beauty and bustling cities with friendly and hospitable people. This is the “soul” of Vietnam’s tourism industry. Every year, SECC is the gathering place of leading businesses in the tourism industry by being the host venue for ITE-HCMC. The event is known as one of the specific activities to promote MICE tourism, and it is also a unique product of Ho Chi Minh City which is only available at SECC.
Through understanding the unique factors of the country and people of Vietnam, many types and attractive tourist products such as Sea and Island tourism; Cultural tourism; Ecotourism and Urban tourism were born. According to the current development orientation of Vietnam’s tourism industry, in order to become a more attractive destination and improve its competitive advantage, Vietnam’s MICE tourism needs to go hand in hand with the above-mentioned mainstream tourism types.
After reopening its borders on March 2022, Vietnam’s MICE scene is re-emerging this year with innovation and resilience. Please share your experience as a leading MICE venue in this regard.
Thuong My An: At the beginning of this year, Exhibitions and Events could not take place as expected for many reasons such as: Immigration and open-door policies of our country as well as many countries faced many limitations, political and social unrest also took place around the world, pandemic prevention measures remained tight, people were still self-conscious and not ready to get back to normal, preparing time for organizing events was insufficient at the time of the Government’s lifting of regulations on mass gatherings, and so on. However, from the end of May to the beginning of June, in Vietnam and many other countries, governments have issued many policies to stimulate demand, promote economic development, and to help business, production and service activities steadily recover. Thanks to that, the exhibitions and events at SECC have showed positive signals. The number of exhibitions and events held at SECC gradually increased, covering the weeks of the month, however, the density and scale have not been as high as before the pandemic.
Annual events have continuously preserved the bookings and there are 1-2 new events added to the list. It is hoped that when the economic conditions are stable, and the pandemic situation in the world is well controlled, the fair – exhibition industry will achieve significant results, and there will be good signals for trade promotion and economic development in 2023 and the coming years.