Beyond Recovering: Creating A Better Meetings Industry

3rd October 2022

Seoul finds its business events sector thriving after the pandemic with recovery numbers rising constantly to meet pre-Covid success levels. International association conferences seem to be attracted to the city thanks to its well-planned recovery strategy, including advanced virtual offerings as well as knowledge and financial support to local and international event organizers.

Words Vicky Koffa

Virtual Seoul 2.0

With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Seoul immediately struck back with the creation of Virtual Seoul, an online platform for efficient business events planning. The demand and success of the platform led to the upgraded and renewed Virtual Seoul 2.0. The tool offers e-conference broadcasting (with break-out rooms running simultaneously), and a virtual exhibition function which includes shopping, storing visitor’s business cards, 

and showcasing products. One-to-one meetings and networking and an event branding function also contribute to the high efficiency of the platform. 

Boardroom met with Jin Hyeok Park, Director of the Seoul Convention Bureau, earlier this year during IMEX in Frankfurt. He said: “Part of our short-term recovery strategy is Virtual Seoul 2.0. We tried to create a digital tool that offers high quality hybrid solutions to the international market which is now reopening with advanced technological demands. Our efforts focus on offering the best of both offline and online worlds.”

Seoul MICE Alliance & PLUS SEOUL

In the same framework of evolution towards an improved meetings sector, Seoul Tourism Organization has put together the Seoul MICE Alliance (SMA). This initiative was aimed at promoting Seoul’s meetings infrastructure and advantages to buyers around the world by providing educational and financial support to members of SMA to join international meetings and exhibitions of the industry. 

“10 categories – 327 member companies to be precise – have been identified as falling under the SMA’s support scheme: convention centres, hotels, unique venues, service providers, exhibitions, PCO’s, DMC’s, shopping, transportation, and entertainment. Besides financial support to develop their business models in a more sustainable way, they also receive education opportunities on how to follow the latest trends of the market,” says Park.

The Alliance is Seoul’s way of educating and improving the local market. As a matter of fact, the city’s attention is on advancing national conferences first. The reasoning behind this is that, in order to be better in the international market, they first need to stabilize and excel locally. 

Of course, comprehensive support goes also to international associations interested in bringing their conference to the city. The PLUS SEOUL program offers international organizations financial and consultative help throughout the entire cycle of a potential conference, from bidding to promotion and hosting.

Long Term Industry Planning

“Financial support to our local professionals is a plan to recover now and fast; our long-term strategy revolves mostly around sustainability and legacy. As of this year we have established a full set of programs dedicated to promoting these topics within the local market. Example of an incentive is found among SMA members: the more sustainably a member behaves, the more merits it gets from the support fund,”continues Park. 

In fact, the convention bureau has changed its policy and is now evaluating members of the SMA based 50% on their sustainability efforts and the rest on financial returns. The focus is on how incoming events can positively affect the local community, how many local companies participate in some way or another in the event, as well as no paper or plastic use policies and waste management. Thinking long term again, Seoul is trying to change the tourism industry’s ecosystem using sustainability and legacy efforts to attract a higher quality type of tourist, such as a business visitor. 

The Results Are Already Present: ACOMS 2022 Case Study

The largest Asian organization of oral and maxillofacial surgeons, the Asian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (Asian AOMS), has concluded its 15th international congress on May 28 with a big round of applause from the participants from Korea and abroad. It was a successful case of an international medical symposium held in a hybrid format centering around face-to-face meetings held at the Osstem Implant’s (Gangseo-gu) headquarters and Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Botanic Park. 

With this success, ACOMS 2022 may have paved the way for hosting the next congress. The organizer went beyond the conventional purpose-built meeting facilities at the conference center or hotel and utilized an affiliated company’s infrastructure. Its proprietary high-quality real-time streaming service and Virtual Seoul 2.0, the MICE platform developed by the Seoul Tourism Organization, leveraged at a lower cost, contributed to the success.

About 1,000 oral and maxillofacial surgery experts participated from 30 countries worldwide. Scholars visiting from Austria, Spain, and Japan, introduced the latest research trends and had active discussions in the following oral and maxillofacial areas: transplant for the implant, tissue regeneration, temporomandibular joint, complex implant cases, congenital deformity, and genetic analysis and customized treatment for oral cancer. During the three-day ACOMS 2022, a total of 116 guest speeches and symposiums, as well as 250 oral presentations and e-posters, were delivered.

Outside the seminar rooms, a medical equipment exhibition attracted the visitors. About 30 reputable oral and maxillofacial companies, including Dentium, DePuy Synthes, Jeil Medical, and the hosting Osstem Implant, participated in both the on-site and online exhibitions. The online exhibition was hosted on the Virtual Seoul 2.0 platform, where companies displayed and promoted their new equipment and latest technologies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced ACOMS 2020 Singapore to be held a year later in an online format. Consequently, we had to consider whether to postpone ACOMS 2022 to the following year. We had to untangle a series of issues from venue selection, hybrid event technologies, to the way we run the symposium,” reflected Hyung Jun Kim, Chief Director of KAOMS. The organizers mulled over how to incorporate the face-to-face meetings as much as possible while the online format was inevitable. A solution turned up unexpectedly: unusual venues for online and offline events. The idea was to host offline events at the Osstem Implant headquarter and online events on the Virtual Seoul 2.0 platform.

Chief Director Kim said: “Virtual Seoul allowed not only the online participants but also those who were on-site to watch the live-streamed presentations via their smartphones or laptop computers. Particularly, foreign participants were astonished to find that there was only a couple of seconds delay between the actual presentation and online streaming.”

And he concluded: “Asian and European participants were impressed by the Korean IT capabilities. They were amazed by the ability to see the event in real-time by logging into Virtual Seoul 2.0 via their mobile devices while attending a seminar at the venue. We displayed Virtual Seoul 2.0 on the main screen of the seminar rooms. Social programs enlightened them about the cultural diversity of Seoul and Korea. We heard that they hoped we would host symposiums again. Our association plans to actively leverage the hybrid format in training programs such as fellowship and short-term courses, conferences, and seminars.”

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