A reopening roadmap for the region’s business events industry has been charted and reaffirmed by ASEAN leaders and Global Exhibitions Organisers, who met face-to-face at the Joint Leadership Summit (JLS) of AEO / SACEOS / SISO / UFI – Singapore at the Fullerton Hotel on 5-7 October 2021.

As Southeast Asia continues its reopening journey, there has never been a greater need for clear steps in bringing back the core purpose and value of exhibitions as vital economic drivers and a sustainable way of promoting and accelerating global commerce. Supported by Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and co-organised by Singapore Association for Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS), Association of Event Organisers (AEO), Society for Independent Show Organizers (SISO) and UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, the JLS convened regional government representatives, major global organisers and trade association leaders on an action plan for the safe reopening of the business events industry in the region.

They discussed the critical need to re-open inter- and intra-regional travel routes while ensuring the health and safety of travellers as core policy measures. These are the foundations and assurances that business events organisers need to commit their resources and investments into the restart of events across the region. Accordingly, the leaders are calling on the authorities to put into place clear policy initiatives and common operating protocols across the region to be calibrated for a Covid-endemic environment.

To support the industry’s evolution through a Covid-endemic operating environment, the event also saw the launch of the Asia CEO Summit, an annual dialogue for the exhibition industry to review the regional business environment and chart the next course of action and collaboration for the betterment of the industry. The inaugural Summit will take place from 4- 6 October 2022 at the Fullerton Hotel, Singapore.

Singapore Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan, witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by AEO, SACEOS, SISO, UFI and Singapore Tourism Board. The MOU showcases the commitment to revitalise the regional exhibitions industry and strengthens Singapore’s long-standing position as a safe and trusted Global Asia hub for business events.

Aloysius Arlando, Immediate Past President, SACEOS said: “The reopening of our MICE and Events industry requires a global effort and commitment by public and private sector players. As we continue on our journey towards an Endemic Covid-19 world, it is now time for us to bring back the core purpose of business events – driving commerce. We are delighted that regional leaders and global industry partners have come together to chart a practical roadmap towards the reopening of business events. And the launch of the Asia CEO Summit in 2022 gives added momentum to the restart of inter and intra-regional business and MICE travel. This will be vital in rebuilding our communities and economies.”

Mary Larkin, UFI Immediate Past President & President of Diversified Communications USA said: “We are on our way to recovery. We came together as a united industry during the Joint Association Leadership Summit to advocate for the reopening of business travel and events in APAC so as to revitalise the incredible international marketplaces that come together here.

“With our experience in the US, Europe, and Middle East, we were able to demonstrate the safety protocols and reopening successes we have had in many regions, and to share that it can be adapted and implemented throughout ASEAN. We did lament not being joined by our colleagues from the APAC region, like UFI President Anbu Varathan and our next UFI President, Monica Lee-Müller, because of unaligned travel policies, but we are heartened by the strong roadmap in place for restarting the industry.

“Most critically, what was abundantly clear from this week’s dialogue is that our customers need events. Businesses, especially SMEs, rely on events. The economy is bolstered by events. There are no other channels where businesses are able to accomplish so much, so quickly, and we have seen time and again in regions where events are restarting that business is recovering faster and innovation is pushing forward.”

Hervé Sedky, SISO Chair, President & CEO of Emerald said: “We have been working on putting this event together for over three years, and the global leaders in attendance at the Joint Association Leadership Summit this week in Singapore, along with others who were not able to join, have put in a substantial effort into making this happen – this is a significant moment.

“We have always recognised the importance of the Asia event market, and how we need a forum to bring together global leaders in the industry, to share and exchange ideas about opportunities in the ASEAN market. AEO, SISO, and UFI all run annual CEO summits, and these are key meeting places for us as an industry, and a fixture in all of our calendars – but we were missing a critical gathering in Asia.”

Carina Bauer, AEO Chair, and CEO of IMEX Group said: “Reconnecting face to face with the colleagues from across the world during the AEO, SISO, SACEOS, UFI Joint Association Leadership Summit, over the last few days has provided strong evidence to support, and a real reminder of, the power of face-to-face events. Many leaders had not met, or indeed travelled, since February 2020, and we are grateful to SACEOS and STB for enabling this leadership summit to take place.

“Sharing experiences of how other regions have restarted their event sectors, in a safe and controlled manner, has been hugely valuable, and the roadmap we have proposed during the summit we hope provides the framework to support the safe reopening and restarting of the APAC events sector which is critical to economic recovery. We very much look forward to returning to Singapore, for the inaugural Asia CEO Summit in October 2022, to further this dialogue, and enhance collaboration across both the region and our respective associations.”

Dato’ Vincent Lim, President, Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations (AFECA) said: “It is a good start to see all the industry leaders coming together with the same common purpose. It proves our resilience, perseverance and agility to progress and I look forward to the future with more of these collaborations to reboot and spur the industry’s growth when we make a comeback. As the saying goes, “Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much”.

Norihisa Hamada, Chairman of the Japan Exhibition Association (JEXA) said: “On behalf of the Japanese exhibition industry, I would like to express my appreciation and full support for the initiative of holding the Asia CEO Summit in 2022. Exhibitions play a significant role in the creation of new business and economic activity, and so it is essential that restrictions on intra-regional business travel be eased at the earliest opportunity to enable exhibitions to achieve their full potential in driving commerce. I am confident that the Asia CEO Summit will be successful and result in a reinvigoration of the region’s exhibitions and business events industry.”

Francis Teo, President of Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) said: “MACEOS would like to laud the joint effort of SACEOS, UFI, SISO, AEO and Singapore Tourism Board to launch the Asia CEO Summit on behalf of the ASEAN MICE community. This Summit will showcase the capability of the ASEAN countries to organise international standard events in a safe and secure manner.”

Joel Pascual, President, Philippine Association of Convention and Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (PACEOS) said: “The pandemic is an events industry problem the world shares. Therefore, efforts such as the Asia CEO Summit to bring the world into a meeting of minds is a big step in the right direction. PACEOS will continue to give its full support and remains hopeful that far-reaching strategies and solutions can come from this noble undertaking.”

Pravit Sribanditmongkol, President Thai Exhibition Association (TEA) said: “On behalf of Thai Exhibition Association (TEA), I would like to express our appreciation and compliment to your initiation to launch the Asia CEO Summit during this difficult time for the world’s business events. I fully support the idea to get together the world’s leading organisations to share and envision the next move of our industry. I wish the Summit every success in setting the objectives and to lay groundwork for our industry to move on.