Japan’s First Major B2B Trade Fairs Since the Lifting of the State of Emergency

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Event Report

7 exhibitions including the 12th Kansai Hotel & Restaurant Show: 1.6 billion JPY spread into the local economy, and 3.1 billion JPY achieved in business talks

 From Wednesday, July 29 to Friday, July 31, 2020, the entire INTEX Osaka facility was host to the 12th Kansai Hotel and Restaurant Show, Maintenance & Resilience OSAKA 2020, as well as five other exhibitions (organized by the Japan Management Association and other organizations.) A total of 460 companies at 830 booths exhibited their products and services.

Pioneer events in implementing infectious disease control measures, these exhibitions received 13,933 visitors over the course of three days (calculated using the global standard of counting one person even if that same person attended multiple days.) Including attendees’ transportation, food, lodging, and other consumption, 1.6 billion JPY spread into the local economy, and business talks at the event reached 3.1 billion JPY in value.

An Exhibition Symbolizing the Revival of the MICE Industry

The 12th Kansai Hotel & Restaurant Show marks the first major BtoB trade fair in Japan since the state of emergency was lifted. In the five months that have passed since the Prime Minister’s request on February 26 for voluntary restrictions on large-scale events, the MICE industry has seen universal cancellations and postponements, and exhibitors (mainly small and medium-sized businesses) as well as attendees, MICE-related enterprises, hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies have all lost business opportunities, and the local economy has suffered severe losses.

“Human life is supported by not just medical care, but also economic activity. The extent of the MICE industry encompasses a wide range of businesses and has a large ripple effect, and is an engine that drives economic activity.” With this idea in mind, for the past four months the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau has dedicated to ensuring that the MICE industry can restart as soon as possible. Specifically, along with working closely with the Osaka prefecture and Osaka city governments to create our Guidelines for MICE Organizers for Infectious Disease Control (https://mice.osaka-info.jp/en/page/mice-guideline), we have positioned this exhibition as a symbol of the MICE industry’s revival and have supported the organizers as an official supporting organization.

At the first day’s Opening Ceremony, Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau President Hiroshi Mizohata gave an address stating “By firstly holding Japan’s first major exhibition amid the coronavirus pandemic, we want to send a big, encouraging shout to those concerned about exhibitions and international meetings held across Japan.” During the event’s three days, more than 300 MICE industry professionals attended and we received many delighted comments stating that they felt greatly encouraged by the visible resurgence of MICE. Although it depends on the spread of COVID-19, we anticipate that this exhibition marks the first movements of an earnest MICE revival across Japan.

New Operations to Mitigate the Risk of Infectious Disease Spread

The organizers created even management policies based on the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau’s guidelines, as well as those of the Japan Exhibition Association and the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), and prepared infectious disease control measures with scrupulous care.

Management solutions were implemented to ensure the safety of participants. Starting with advising people ahead of time not to attend if they feel unwell, the organizers carried out the basic measures of mask wearing, temperature checks, and hand sanitation. The organizers took additional steps to set capacity limits and change floor layouts to allow for aisleways of at least 3 meters in order to ensure that attendees in the venue could maintain social distance, and ensured that audience chairs in the seminar areas were frequently disinfected.

INTEX Osaka, the venue, also provided complete support for the exhibition’s success by ensuring that common areas such as restrooms and lounges were periodically cleaned and disinfected, as well as posting signs everywhere in the venue to remind attendees of infectious disease control measures. Many exhibitors and visitors expressed favorable opinions that they felt at ease enough to conduct business, and the venue got even more active in the following days likely because of the spread of these comments of relief.

On the morning of the first day, the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau conducted an inspection of the above-mentioned guidelines inside the venue alongside Dr. Tetsuo Kase, special lecturer at Osaka City University’s School of Medicine and Department of Public Health, who oversaw the editing of the guidelines. Dr. Kase deemed that “the exhibition is carrying out infectious disease control measures above and beyond the guidelines” and “the exhibition space’s ceiling height and ventilation is favorable and is an environment similar to outdoors.”

He furthermore elaborated that even though “the contents of the guidelines are generally necessary and sufficient, the regulations on the venue’s entry limits and seminar space layout are even stricter than necessary.” In order to further make our guidelines realistic and pragmatic, we plan to release a revised version later this month based on Dr. Kase’s assessment. In the afternoon, Dr. Kase and OCTB MICE Policy Director Tanaka together held an open discussion for attendees on the main infectious disease control measures that MICE organizers should be implementing. They touched on real-life infectious disease control measures that cannot be understood just through the guidelines, and many attendees expressed that the discussion was helpful for them. A recording of the discussion is available below (in Japanese.)

Reaffirming the Overwhelming Value of Real-World Events

Amid the rapid spread of web meetings and online technology, some have started looking to hold MICE events and exhibitions online. However, this exhibition reaffirmed to the many attendees that real-world events are the most effective form of business transactions.

In a survey conducted by the organizers, many exhibitors expressed thoughts about the event such as “Of course, speaking directly with clients is really effective. They could experience our products first-hand, and their feedback is helpful for our product development,” as well as “We were able to engage with a major hotel through the business talks’ appointment system, and we’ve already received many requests for a quote.”

Visitors, likewise, expressed favorable opinions such as “We had been really troubled recently by having no trade fairs to attend. It was really helpful to be able to get concrete quotes on-site,” and “We came to the exhibition and could experience the exhibitors’ positivity, and we came to feel that we absolutely cannot lose.”

The organizers commented that “we, too, feel encouraged by the attendees’ positive expressions. We have a renewed understanding that even amid the coronavirus pandemic, exhibitions are in strong demand as a place of commerce, especially for small and medium-sized companies. We will continue to work hard to ensure attendees’ safety and peace of mind in our operation management.”

This theme of “real-world or online” is attracting a lot of attention in the MICE industry, and Tanaka conducted an open discussion alongside Managing Director Kaoru Shibuta of major meeting management company Congrès Inc. on this topic, as well as on what will and what will not change for MICE in the “with-corona” era. The discussion is available to view below (in Japanese

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