Asia is the new darling for congresses: experts

A NEW study of the meetings industry conducted by Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), has found that more of its respondents are looking to bring their events to Asia and Australia/Pacific Rim.

Sharing a selection of the results at the Business Events Week press conference on Monday, Sherrif Karamat, COO of PCMA, said 42 per cent of respondents intend to host their events in Asia, compared to 38 per cent in 2013, while 28 per cent are keen to take their events to Australia and the Pacific Rim, over 21 per cent last year.

The study is conducted every year and draws responses from its members who are planners in the meeting, convention, event and tradeshow industries.

While this is positive news for Asian destinations and sellers keen on attracting trade and association events, specialists warn that congresses that shift from Europe or the US to Asia-Pacific tend to lose delegate numbers due to the greater distance of travel – and therefore higher cost of travel – needed to get to the shows.

Paul Zimmet, director emeritus, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and programme chair of the World Diabetes Congress 2013, told TTGmice e-Weekly that congress attendance fell from 16,000 in Dubai, 2011 to 10,300 in Melbourne last December.

“Distance is always an issue and a loss of attendance was expected when the congress was brought to this region. What we did for the event in Melbourne was to strengthen our content with many celebrated speakers, using them as carrots to entice more delegates to make the effort to fly here and participate,” Zimmet explained.

Yariv Gal-Yam, associate director, purchasing with Kenes International, also shares this observation. Drawing an example, he said a medical association event had 3,000 delegates at its edition in Europe and 2,000 in the US, but only 1,500 to 1,800 are expected to attend an upcoming one in this region.

Besides the longer travel distance, Gal-Yam also blamed the lack of content to cater to the local audience for the attendance attrition. “The language barrier is a challenge most prominent in Asia and Latin America,” he added.

However, Karamat urged associations and congress planners to look at the big picture: “Taking events to Asia-Pacific gives societies an opportunity to raise their profile and attract new members from the region.”

Karamat also pointed out that not all association congresses are afflicted with this problem, as global associations are seeing a growing number of Asia-Pacific members, with some having as many as 60 per cent of members from the region.

He suggested that concerned associations could try hosting a regional congress first, before rotating the event to Asia-Pacific.

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