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‘COVID‐19 has thrown a curve ball like never before’ says new ICCA AP chair

It’s full steam ahead for the ICCA Asia Pacific (AP) Chapter with a newly elected executive committee, headed up by Ashwin Gunasekeran, CEO of the Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB). 

We caught up with him to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the region’s association meetings industry, what the chapter is doing to aid its recovery and what plans the new committee has for the chapter.

What plans do you have for the Chapter?

My vision for the chapter is to nurture the AP business events industry to become the ‘growth centre’ in the global economy.

Leveraging on the strength of AP chapter being the largest ICCA chapter, the various business opportunities that rise here will be our legacy.

How much of an impact has the COVID‐19 pandemic has on the region’s association meetings?

COVID‐19 has thrown a curveball like never before at us, and these past few months have been a steep learning curve for the events industry.

The prevalence of technology in business events have led to some innovations and transformations in how meetings and events have been conducted in recent years. We have been using technology such as live streaming and online polling in conferences and meetings and AR and VR in exhibitions.

What COVID‐19 has done is to speed up the online revolution in our industry.

The ICCA Asia Pacific committee is in the midst of planning relevant online engagement and learning activities with and for the members. We continuously encourage the members to provide feedback as it is important to understand the different situations in everyone’s region and country.

What is the ICCA AP Chapter currently doing to help its members?

Besides planning more relevant online engagement, we are reaching out to one another at this time of crisis to keep the spirits and motivation level high – be it amongst our partners or clients, and the ICCA Asia Pacific committee is looking forward to having more and more online interactions with our network of members, partners and clients.

In light of the COVID‐19 pandemic, what do you think the future of the association meetings industry will look like?

It is not only the association meetings industry that is affected but generally, the whole business events industry is being affected by this pandemic.

It will definitely take time for the meetings industry to recover, and it works both ways as this involves the tourism and travel industry as well. There are also relevant interconnected partners that will keep the industry moving again like the hotels, airlines, PCOs, event planners and etc. Still, the meetings industry will continue to be strong now and in the future.