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“Our schedule is absolutely packed!” Korea shows the way

While event industry professionals around the world look to their political leaders for a crumb of hope, their counterparts in Korea are busy welcoming visitors and signing in delegates.

Large trade fairs – hosting thousands of visitors – are already taking place in the East Asian country that managed to stem the spread of coronavirus and has one of the lowest death rates in the world.

Although Korea has seen a few localised spikes since reopening its borders to international visitors, it is deemed ‘low risk’ and is one of the countries on the EU ‘safe list’ for travel.

And now the country is offering meeting planners ‘enhanced’ support to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 as it gets its events industry back on track.

From now until the end of June 2021 additional funding will be made available to organisers for safety measures such as thermal imaging cameras, face masks and hand sanitizers.

Anne Ridyard, Korea Convention Bureau, confirmed there would be ‘considerable’ subsidies for very large meetings on a ‘sliding scale’ and promised extra resources to support hybrid meetings.

KINTEX Convention Centre, in Goyang, has become a model of best practice since it reopened.

All visitors are obliged to wear a face mask and exhibitors must also wear a face-shield.

Face-recognition thermometers or thermal imaging cameras are installed at the entrance to the venue and visitors are screened again before entering the halls.

Strict social distancing of 1.5 metres is also enforced to minimise the risk of infection and visitors are encouraged to sanitize their hands and wear plastic gloves inside the building.

The venue has also set up an external quarantine tent and has ambulances on stand-by.

Last week KINTEX staged an exhibition with more than 30,000 attendees and a week earlier 20,000 visitors attended three separate exhibitions that were held simultaneously at the venue.

KINTEX Convention Sales & Marketing Coordinator, Hyo In Son, said: “We are no longer facing any mass cancellations on the organisers’ side and our schedule is absolutely pack for the rest of 2020 and the first half of 2021. So, while we will be facing an inevitable sales deficit this year, I believe we can overcome this difficult, namely, COVID-19, together.”

COEX, in Seoul, which has installed similar safety measures to KINTEX, said about two-thirds of the venue’s normal capacity could be accommodated with social distancing measures in place.

The contact details of all attendees are harvested prior to events and a two-week monitoring process is in place to check whether attendees subsequently test positive for COVID-19.

Dental conference SIDEX 2020 took place earlier this month, welcoming 5,000 delegates. Two weeks later, there was not a single case of COVID-19 linked to the event.

Korea, which has had 5G for at least two years, had seen a trend for tech-related meetings, but the republic also majors in automotive, research and design, life-sciences, and fashion.