Manila, Philippines — During the April 28 livestream webinar on Global MICE Situationer in the Time of the Pandemic, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat relayed a sense of optimism which was shared by industry leaders.

Organized by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) under Chief Operating Officer Atty. Maria Anthonette C. Velasco-Allones, the DOT co-sponsored a 90-minute long webinar with the Philippine Association of Convention and Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (PACEOS).

“MICE is one of the tourism industry’s key components currently paralyzed by the global pandemic crisis. The perspectives and insights shared by the resource speakers certainly translate to valuable inputs to our own recovery plans as we close ranks with the world’s tourism stakeholders in a collective effort to bounce back from massive losses,” Sec. Puyat remarked.

The tourism chief noted that, “The Enhanced Community Quarantine in the different parts of the country and lockdowns in different parts of the world has presented us with a problem and an opportunity. A problem on how we promote tourism when we are asked to stay at home, and how we can implement our programs when majority of the world is put on pause. However, we also look at it as an opportunity for us to rethink our initiatives and to reinvent ourselves to be able to adapt to the new normal.”

Those invited to speak in the webinar were international organizers from the four segments of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector, namely: Gary Grimmer, Executive Chairman of the Gaining Edge global convention consulting firm; Noor Ahmad Hamid, Regional Director for Asia Pacific, International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA); Jenn Glynn, President of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence; and Mark Cochrane, Regional Manager of the Global Association of Exhibition Industry.

Grimmer, who served as the moderator, commended the DOT leadership’s positive response to the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines, noting that there may be a gradual return of industry activities in the local, regional, and then international level under the new normal—of which a sentiment the rest of the speakers mutually agreed.

Touting the popular slogan, It’s More Fun in the Philippines, Grimmer said the Philippines has the potential advantage of offering an alternative MICE destination that is known for its people’s hospitality, food, and competitive pricing.

In the tourism industry, Noor Ahmad said that optimism is compulsory, not an option. He also remarked that workers have to return to work and cannot be on lockdown forever, citing that markets in Asia may be slowly and cautiously coming back including major cities in China, New Zealand, and Australia.

Further, Ms. Glynn said no devastation has had a far-reaching effect on the industry as this pandemic since the 9-11 terrorist attacks with estimated US$450 billion losses for tourism this year.

She, however, spoke of a positive outlook but with cautious optimism, seeing restrictions eased in some countries, and a semblance of normalcy or the new normal.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel…This, too, shall pass and the event industry will forever be changed,” she said.

Mr. Cochrane shared Glynn’s statement that the COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything that the B2B and B2C have ever seen before, impacting the exhibition industry and affecting hundreds of thousands of service providers and SMEs. Further noting that some markets in Asia, particularly that of China, are starting to move back into action, however some events facilities, including those in Manila, are being used for medical support purposes.

All three speakers remarked that the Philippines is truly a competitive MICE destination, with Glynn spotlighting the Philippines for its cultural authenticity that which creates quite the memorable visit.

Noor Ahmad, for his part, expressed his hopes to return to Manila in the hopes of organizing a future ICCA event.

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