Macao Convention and Exhibition Industry Creates New Opportunities from Adversity

With the completion of a number of large exhibition halls and the implementation of the Government’s support policies, Macao’s convention and exhibition industry is taking shape. 2008 was a prosperous year for the industry, according to information from the industry; there were a total of 41 commercial exhibitions, showing a 40% increase over the 29 registered in 2007. While the industry was confident about future growth, it was knocked backwards when the financial crisis hit it and many of Macao’s businesses have been badly affected. We interviewed Mr. Li Zhizhong, Chairman of Macao Convention and Exhibition Association, Mr. Tony Lam, Chairman of Macau Fair and Trade Association and Mr. Edmund Wong I Mun, Chairman of the Association of Advertising Agents of Macau and asked them how the convention and exhibition industry is tackling the financial crisis and the direction they feel should be taken for future development.

Government Help for the Convention and Exhibition Industry
The financial crisis has affected the economy of many countries with different degrees; this year the H1N1 type influenza is also posing a grave threat to the growth of Macao’s convention and exhibition industry.

Macao SAR government allocated a total of MOP172.4 million from the Tourism Fund in support of the tourism industry and launched a “Strategic MICE Market Stimulation Program”. MOP65 million of which will be used to support conventions, conferences, exhibitions and travel awards, as well as providing partial financial support to overseas participants. The Program includes Macao promotional assistance liaising with relevant government departments, exhibition venue rental support and hotel accommodation subsidies for overseas exhibitors and fixed amount subsidy for exhibition venue hardware facilities. It is expected that the measures will encourage new exhibitions to come to Macao and maintain the stability of current exhibitions. The total number of conventions and exhibitions has currently grown to 41, reaching the same level as last year, a result of the launch of the stimulation program.

Be Optimistic when Facing Difficulties
Li Zhizhong, Chairman of Macao Convention and Exhibition Association, believes that Macao’s convention and exhibition industry still has a bright future while having a growing influence in the region. However, with certain limitations, particularly in the face of competition from neighbouring regions, Macao should try to make the best of its special features, capitalise on its strengths and overcome its weaknesses in future development to achieve the most rewarding outcome with the least effort.

Mr Li said that under the infl uence of the fi nancial meltdown, Macao is still in the situation where it is able to hold a similar number of convention and exhibition as last year, despite the fact that some exhibitions have been cancelled or postponed, it is estimated that the total number will only drop by 10 to 20%. The stimulation program can help make up for this loss of revenue. He also believes that the crisis will generate opportunities as it can alert the industry to paying more attention to regional co-operation and domestic demand and force enterprises to explore markets by participating in more exhibitions. This is undoubtedly a business opportunity for the convention and exhibition industry, lessons drawn from this difficult time will be an useful asset for the future development of the convention and exhibition industry in the city.

Mr Li also said that in face of difficulties, the convention and exhibition industry is working closer together and is more united. Trade associations will work together to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, promote regional co-operation, strive to attract inward investment and look towards international markets. This means that on the one hand they are going to attract more overseas exhibitions to Macao, while on the other they will proactively promote Macao’s convention and exhibition industry around the world. The three associations will discuss the convention and exhibition industry development plans on regular basis; a concerted effort will be made to study new ways to develop such as referencing the Outline of the Plan for the Reform and Development of the Pearl River Delta and drafting Macao’s own convention and exhibition industry’s development plans based on the city’s overall expansion plans.

Li Zhizhong welcomes the Stimulation Program and believes that it will assist the long term development though it is only an interim measure. The industry needs to solve current issues, while not forgetting the need to plan for future. He hopes that this programme will help to attract more conventions and exhibitions to Macao. Temporary remedial measures along with the long term development plans will address the problems both on and below the surface.

The Industry Helps Itself
Mr. Tony Lam, Chairman of Macau Fair and Trade Association, said that Macao is competing with neighbouring regions in the convention and exhibition industry, under the threat of the recent economic crisis, our competitors launched remedial plans six months ago; for example, Hong Kong and Taiwan launched supporting measures of more than 100 million, while Singapore has established a Convention and Exhibition Development Bureau.

Tony Lam continued that, Macao’s convention and exhibition industry has been facing the problem of insufficient manpower training resources and SME’s lack of confidence for a long time. Over the last six or seven years, tertiary education institutions and government training organisations have trained more than 3,000 convention and exhibition staff and so gradually built up a convention and exhibition human resources pool. The government has also given a lot of resources to encourage SMEs to attend the last two MIFs. According to statistical data, the number of participating product suppliers reached 52 in the 12th MIF, half of them have since made tremendous progress in their businesses during 2008. This prove that the convention and exhibition industry has favourable conditions for human resources and market.

While the convention and exhibition industry was getting ready for future sustainable development, the economic crisis broke out, which resulted in a freefall in its growth from 2007 to 2009 and affected the confidence of convention and exhibition operators and SMEs. Therefore, it is of vital importance that their confidence is restored to prevent them from changing to another industry.

The three convention and exhibition industry associations recently proposed to hold joint exhibitions as a remedial measure to save the industry. It is planned that each association will bring two overseas exhibitions to Macao and also create two home grown exhibitions with the aim of stabilising the convention and exhibition market in 2009. After the plan was proposed, the three associations took measures to promote Macao’s convention and exhibition industry to cities like Chongqing and Qingdao and also invite enterprises to compare the convention and exhibition industrial environment of Macao and neighbouring regions. The Stimulation Program has enhanced Macao’s competiveness and created the necessary conditions needed for the development of local brands.

Before the Stimulation Program was announced, the convention and exhibition industry had already launched its 2009 working plan. Firstly, launching a seed training programme for the next generation of convention and exhibition registered managers, familiarising them with the logistics of convention and exhibition events, encouraging them to build their own brands, assisting with the exploration of the local specialty industry, conducting market research, and organising exhibitions. The plan targets the needs of domestic and external markets and it is hoped that the plan will bring a new dynamism to the industry. The launch of the government’s Stimulation Program has proved to be a success in stabilising the confidence of the industry.

Advertisement Companies Transform into Convention and Exhibition Companies
Edmund Wong I Mun, Chairman of the Association of Advertising Agents of Macau, believes that the economic crisis has not had a serious impact on the advertising industry. He explained that the convention and exhibition industry is not mature yet and that there are not so many companies that can organise exhibitions. The advertising industry however, only accounts for a small segment of the convention and exhibition chain; therefore, it has not been too badly affected by the crisis.

2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and the 10th anniversary of Macao SAR. It is also a year of two elections: the election of the new Chief Executive of the SAR government and the election of the Legislative Assembly. Many events will be held in the second half of the year, which will be a crucial time for the advertising industry, but Mr. Wong believes that people need to think long and hard about how to promote the development of the industry after this busy year of double anniversaries and double elections, they need to consider how to highlight the features of the convention and exhibition industry and how to attain sustainable growth. The expansion of an industry is usually accompanied by government policies; everyone hopes that the city can attain industry diversity. IPIM has been promoting the convention and exhibition industry, the Government Tourist Offi ce promotes business travel and the Economic Services is doing its best to help industry and commerce. These are efforts being made by the government to promote growth.

The advertising industry is part of convention and exhibition industry, though the proportion is not big, is an important link in the convention and exhibition industry chain. The current trend is for advertising companies to transform into convention and exhibition companies. As the market is dominated by domestic demand, if local exhibition organisers proactively visit the Mainland enterprises, they could expand their market. Local exhibition organisers could expand their markets by visiting Mainland enterprises. Mr. Wong I Mun believes that “Macao convention and exhibition industry needs support from government, enterprises, the labour force and capital investors to attain a healthy growth. One should proactively promote diversification and regional economy, co-ordinate with Macao’s micro economy to build typical local product exhibitions, community activities, combine cultural tourism with economic and trade convention and exhibition and help SMEs to organise small and medium sized exhibitions to accomplish diversification.

Major Convention and Exhibition Events in the Next Six Months:
Macao Franchise Expo, Guangdong and Macao Branded Products Fair and MIF

A number of major conventions and exhibitions will be held in Macao in the next six months. Macao Image introduces several important upcoming trade and economic events.

Franchising Creates Business Opportunities
With the support of the China Chain Store & Franchise Association, jointly organised by Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), Brazilian Franchise Association, Association of Chain and Franchise Promotion of Taiwan and the Licensing & Franchising Association of Hong Kong, the first Macao Franchise Expo (MFE) held on 3 and 4 July on the 2nd floor of the Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Centre. The event was participated by international franchising, chain stores operators and more than 20 local chambers of commerce. The total exhibition area was around 1800 square metres with 50 standard exhibition booths.

MFE included exhibition, forums, business matching sessions, brand agent negotiations and product/service presentations to showcase a series of franchising brands and chain operation projects. Franchising business’ products and services were introduced, such as: catering industry, retail industry, commercial services, comprehensive services and agent services. MFE also invited speakers from the world of franchising giving talks on current and future developments in the business. Apart from that, many franchisers promoted their brands during the exhibition.

At 13th MIF in 2008, IPIM established a Franchising Pavilion and organized a Conference on “Grasping Franchising Business Opportunities” for the fi rst time which proved to be very effective and well received. MFE, being held separately this year, aims at introducing more internationally renowned franchisers, chain store operations and international brand agents to Macao and create more opportunities for co-operation and business start-ups for local enterprises, especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Macao – A Place for Macao and Guangdong Brands and Quality Products
At the 10th Anniversary of Macao’s handover, and in line with “The Outline of the Plan for the Reform and Development of the Pearl River Delta” formulated by the State authorities, Guangdong and Macao will further expand the scope of trade and economic cooperation to assist enterprises in both regions to expand their businesses. Under the guidance of the People’s Government of Guangdong Province and the Macao SAR Government, the Guangdong and Macao Branded Products Fair, jointly organised by IPIM and the Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation of Guangdong Province, will be held in the Macao Fishermen’s Wharf Convention and Exhibition Centre from 30 July to 2 August.

Following the “Western Guangdong Famous Products Fair” jointly held by IPIM and the Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation of Guangdong in April 2003, the “Guangdong and Macao Branded Products Fair 2009” is another major event under the trade and economic co-operation framework of Guangdong and Macao which embraced trade, cultural exchange, shopping and leisure as one, rich in content and full of innovation. The Fair includes a Guangdong Branded products exhibition and sale area and typical Macao products area, showcasing branded products of tourism, food and clothing to Macao residents and visitors, to promote Macao’s economy, making use of Macao’s economic and trade platform to facilitate Guangdong branded products to enter Macao and overseas distribution markets, assisting enterprises of Macao and the region to grasp the opportunities from the fi nancial crisis.

Major Annual Event for Economic and Trade Promotion
The 14th Macao International Trade and Investment Fair (MIF), international trade and economic event hosted by will be held at the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel from 22 to 25 October. The total exhibition area is approximately 26,000 square metres with around 1,000 exhibition booths. The theme of this year’s MIF is “Diversity – Key to Extending a Decade of Prosperity” with the aim of further promoting Macao’s advantageous position as an economic and trade co-operation platform to help local and overseas enterprises to expand market networks and business growth. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the SAR government, so MIF will have a special area dedicated to showcasing Macao’s achievements in trade and economic development, as well as its strengths in businesses and trade since the Handover. The event will enable trade visitors and guests from around the world to gain a deeper understanding of Macao and open up new markets using Macao’s platforms.

This year’s MIF features activities such as: a trade and investment exhibition, business co-operation exhibition, themed commodities exhibition, a high-level political and economic forum and conference, investment projects, business matching sessions, as well as networking activities for international economic and trade platforms and Macao industrial and commercial sectors, with an aim of assisting SMEs to explore business opportunities. In the area of recruitment of exhibitors and trade visitors, this year’s MIF is going to launch numerous new measures, which include: a “Single-Trip, Multi-Stop” Service, “Trade Visitor Incentive Plan” and “Special Privilege Plan”. These proactive and practical measures will help encourage the participation of trade visitors and business people.

It is worth mentioning that the Wine & Gourmet Asia which has been held in Macao for two years will be held concurrently at the MIF venue this year. It is expected that 150 companies from around the world will attend the event. Top-quality wine, delicious food, hotel and kitchen equipment, hotel supplies and services will be displayed. Last year the event attracted more than 7,000 buyers and 150 enterprises from 18 countries and regions. It is expected that the Wine & Gourmet Asia and MIF will complement each other in attracting more professional visitors, thus enhancing the impact of both exhibitions and achieve mutual benefits.

Note: Please refer to the following websites for further information:
Guangdong and Macao Branded ProductsFair – www.guangdongmacaofair.com
The 14th Macao International Trade and Investment Fair – www.mif.com.mo/mif2009