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25 May 2022

Insights from the AEO International Dinner by Damion Angus

Insights from the AEO International Dinner by Damion Angus

On Monday the 23rd of May, I had the pleasure of chairing the return of the AEO International Working Group’s International Dinner series.

Our first topic post-COVID was the APAC region, joined by industry veteran and regional expert Michael Duck sharing his insights on the recovery in Asia.  

Michael is EVP – Commercial Development for Informa Markets and EVP – Commercial Development, Group for Informa Group. He’s lived in Hong Kong for over 30 years, and has worked and travelled extensively throughout the region - and the globe for that matter - in his 28 years+ in the industry.

It was a serendipitous opportunity for us to have him as our guest speaker as he is passing through the UK for a short time on one of the rare trips he has had out of Hong Kong in 2+ years.

As current restrictions stand, he’ll have to do a 7-day hotel quarantine upon his return to Hong Kong, so, let’s all keep our fingers crossed those regulations change before he heads back!  

It was remarkable to hear how so many major event markets are still actively dealing with travel restrictions, lockdowns, and the pauses in activity due to COVID-19, whereas in the UK, as well as most of Europe and the US, we’re feeling fortunate to be running shows “as normal”, breathing a sigh of relief as feedback from our customers and audiences is positive, rebook strong and the majority pleased to be able to get back to face to face business.

Sharing a summary of some of the topics we chatted about over dinner:  

The situation in Asia is fragmented and constantly evolving  

We are seeing a rise in positive activity out of Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, where restrictions are lifting and normal life and operations are returning. We can expect a reasonably fast recovery in both of these markets and an abundance of opportunities for events, with several guests around the table commenting on the support from the STB and willingness from the Thai Government at TCEB.

We’re also seeing positive trends in India, the domestic market is already recovering and international restrictions should lift soon. There are definitely opportunities for growth in India, but many of the challenges that existed pre-COVID remain in this market. The market is very competitive on costs, but it still has a long way to go to compete against the best-in-class sophistication of the event market in China. 

Things are still difficult in Hong Kong, and throughout China, which affects the entire region as these are truly the epicentres for the APAC events market. There are still strict restrictions on travel, lockdowns still in place in Beijing and Shanghai, and for many cities that are open social distancing is still in place.  This has been extremely difficult for the events market where some flagship Hong Kong exhibitions have moved to other locations (like Cosmoprof  and Hong Kong Jewellery show  running in Singapore, APLF running in Dubai, and Asia Fruit Logistica running in Bangkok). 

Members that have moved shows to Dubai see good potential in this market, with it sharing many of the benefits of HK in having a low or no taxation environment , good infrastructure and good links for travel.

We will keep tabs on this region, but it was noted that – even though prosperous – this would not be a replacement for Asia, with Hong Kong still offering a wealth of experience, customer loyalty and easily accessible to the APAC market.

The story is more mixed in other events markets like Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Korea. They have certainly all dealt with their share of challenges during the pandemic, but we have reason to be hopeful about their recovery.  

Industry-wide challenges  

While some topics are very regional, or sector-specific, there are certainly many worries that are keeping us all up at night, no matter where we are or what markets our events serve. So, no industry gathering at the moment would be complete without discussing things like; talent (how can we better attract and retain great talent), pricing (what are we doing about inflation and rising costs? What are we hearing from exhibitors about the “total” cost of exhibiting?) and sustainability (how are we truly, properly, making our events more sustainable and where does this sit on the priority list?)

While we discussed these during the dinner, and certainly the Asian perspective on several of these topics, these are also things we are covering in our Cross Association Sustainability Group, UK CEO Summit and the Development Board are undertaking a big three-phase project to address the talent issue. If you’re interested we encourage you to join any one of these groups or look at the relevant tab on the AEO Website.

If you are interested in more of our international programmes, the next activities for the International Working Group are:

  • Our next International Dinner on the 20th of September at The Ivy  - German focus
  • Our annual ASEAN Summit, run in conjunction with SISO, UFI and SACEOS – 4th – 6th October in Singapore.
  • AEO Talks Podcast – Planned in for November and region decided on nearer the time to ensure that the content is relevant
  • AEO International Summit – January 2023

I’d like to thank Michael for his time and sharing his incredible depth of knowledge, the 16 new and familiar faces who joined us for dinner and a lively discussion at the Lucky Cat, and our generous partner, Circdata for supporting the International Dinner.