After working as an assistant professor in the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for six years, I joined the Ewha Womans University in September 2021. Throughout my academic career, I have been teaching and researching MICE and event tourism. For most readers of Ewha Voice, however, MICE may be an unfamiliar term. MICE refers to business events, including meetings, incentive travels, conventions, and exhibitions. Given that MICE events inherently involve human interactions, socialization, and international travel, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an unprecedent crisis to the MICE industry. Over the past two years, numerous international events (e.g., Consumer Electronics Show 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games) have been cancelled, postponed, or downsized.
Humans are naturally social beings. Even during the pandemic, many people still had strong desires and necessities to attend international MICE events for business and other purposes. Subsequently, many events have been (re)organized in online or hybrid formats. Nonetheless, the MICE industry has managed to continue and survive during the pandemic despite the tremendous challenges faced by event organizers, convention centers, hotels, and travel companies. The MICE industry is in the midst of revitalizing through a lengthy tunnel of devastation. Historically, this industry has been resilient and has shown a V-shaped recovery pattern after previous crises. Ultimately, I believe that this COVID-19 crisis will eventually benefit those who have survived and have been preparing for the future.
Therefore, the new normal of the MICE industry post COVID-19 must be explored. I want to point out two keywords, namely, digitalization and sustainability. In terms of digitalization, technology innovation has provided diverse online/hybrid events, such as “digital MICE.” The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation in the MICE industry. Although some events cannot be done online, and some people have an exceptional attachment to face-toface events, many events can be done in online or hybrid formats. Moreover, during the pandemic, an increase in the number of first-time attendees of digital MICE transpired. Many of them believe that digital MICE is adequate to meet their needs and can minimize travel time and costs. In the post COVID-19 era, digital MICE will be rapidly extended to develop and adopt state-of-art meeting technologies, such as big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, and even metaverse.
Second, sustainability is an important trend in the MICE industry. As COVID-19 heightened the perceived threat toward health and safety, our focus shifted toward various issues in environment, human society, and local communities. Sustainability refers to taking actions to fulfil our current demands without compromising future generations’ opportunity to meet their own needs. Thus, sustainable MICE promotes positive environmental, social, and economic impacts. For instance, recently built MICE venues were designed and operated in an environmentally sustainable manner. The growing number of convention centers and hotels are applying and achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which is recognized by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). In addition, internationally reputable standards and guidelines (e.g., ISO: 20121 and the APEXASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards) have been recently established to promote event organizers’ effort toward ESG (environment, social responsibility, governance).
I anticipate a bright future for the MICE industry post COVID-19. If a student aims to advance her career as a meeting professional, she must prepare for digital MICE and sustainable MICE. Thus, online communication skills will be an essential ability i n t h e n e w n o r m a l . M e e t i n g professionals must monitor newly emerging technologies in the market that can be used to support digital MICE. Environmental and social responsibility is related to meeting professionals’ mindset and attitude. Meeting professionals must understand the potential impact of their events on society and environment and adopt new practices to ensure sustainable MICE.