Seoul cautiously resumed on-site MICE events starting with an exhibition and congress in June. Though few conventions were on the event calendar of COEX, the city’s best-known venue, the facility have started to welcome large-scaled exhibitions and more each month since.
From now through December, COEX has about eight international exhibitions and conventions listed on the event calendar, although abrupt changes are still possible. Other convention centers in Seoul such as SETEC, aT Center, Sejong University Conference Center also started holding events under comprehensive quarantine measures around the same time.
The Korea Landscape and Garden Expo 2020 held from June 3 to 6 was the first exhibition since the industry was put on hold. It was followed by Seoul International Dental Exhibition and Scientific Congress 2020 (SIDEX 2020). SIDEX 2020 was the first large-scaled event and had 4,860 attendees in two days.
Enforcement of the COVID-19 safety measures during the event had some rocky moments. Among the concerns were the size of the crowd – the expo is a popular one. However, the organizing body of the SIDEX 2020 turned the operation into a seamless success with quarantine measures, safety precautions for attendees and the ability to completely disinfect the venues and equipment with frequency.
In fact, two weeks later, the official word came that there were no infection clusters arising from the event or anyone who attended.
The Central Disease Control headquarters in Seoul, in conjunction with the Central Disaster Management headquarters, released Disinfection Guidelines to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 at Public and Multi-purpose Facilities on April 2, 2020 and convention centers also have their own procedures and measures in place.
Taking this further, each organizer goes through the necessary measures and announces specific measures based on the makeup of the event. For example, plastic gloves were given out along with other personal protection equipment (PPE) at the Seoul International Wines & Spirits Expo 2020, as activities during the event would involve plenty of hands-on exchanges.
SAFE STEPS TOWARD RECOVERY
As the first step of quarantine measures, each attendee is registered with a QR code. With the country’s sophisticated and precise tracking system, it’s much faster to find anyone with potential exposure to the virus.
Wearing a mask is mandatory to enter any public gatherings including MICE events. Temperature checks are taken upon entry, applicable PPE is provided, the venues are disinfected frequently, as are attendees sometimes when they enter, frequent reminders are displayed and the indoor air is changed frequently.
More recently, the PLUS SEOUL support program added such options as Personal Hygiene Kit support, rentals of Thermal Imaging Cameras and venue disinfection services.
Even though the gatherings seem risky, attendees are cooperative and follow guidelines, making these conferences both successful and safe.
LARGE MEETINGS WELCOMED
The 10th Korea Smart Device Trade Show 2020 (KITAS), which was held from July 23 to 25, welcomed 19,862 people in three days. KITAS was one of seven international MICE events that happened at COEX in July.
As this difficult pandemic has been prolonged for more than half a year now and with little positive news on the horizon, comparisons with pre-pandemic times are not really applicable to the current state of the global MICE industry or tourism.
However, South Korea is among the world’s top ten MICE countries and standing as a beacon of safe recovery. And it heralds its place on the bottom when it comes to infection severity, according to ongoing releases from the Global COVID-19 Index
The MICE industry of Seoul is slow and steady on its rise to recovery, not unlike the fabled tortoise. It is a race that may be exasperating in its persistence and invisible in its progress, but it is not invincible.