The Asia Pacific Incentives Meeting Event — AIME, owned by Melbourne Convention Bureau and managed by Talk2 Media & Events — will take place next week, Feb. 17-19, in Melbourne, Australia. Last year, AIME received more than 2,500 attendee registrations, 62 percent from outside of Australia. In light of recent events — the twin crises of the coronavirus outbreak in Asia and Australia’s bushfires — Convene reached out to Jay Martens, AIME’s event director, to see how AIME has been affected and how it is aiming to keep both the show and its participants healthy. Martens responded to our questions via email.
I see that you have been providing updates on the show vis a vis the coronavirus on the AIME website. Are there any other ways you have been communicating with registrants to provide updates?
Our AIME community has been updated as the coronavirus situation has unfolded. We have worked through our event-management system, email, exhibitor portals, and industry media to distribute key messages.
According to a press release, the travel restrictions (no one from mainland China, unless an Australian citizen, is allowed to travel to Australia) will affect only a small percentage of hosted buyers and exhibitors. What are your estimates in terms of percentage of overall participants who had registered but will now be unable to attend?
Less than 5 percent of total buyers, exhibitors, and media from mainland China have been impacted by the travel restrictions.
Have you been able to fill those hosted buyer appointments? What approaches have you taken to keep the show “whole” and fill those slots?
When the decision was made by the government, we reviewed all the meeting diaries to [see] which exhibitors had been most impacted by the restrictions. We reached out to these companies and worked through various options by understanding other key markets they were keen to meet with, resulting in us being able to backfill diaries. Our goal was to be able to offer all our exhibitors a diary that was at a minimum 80-percent filled.
We have increased our push for more visitors to attend the event and worked closely with various national and state associations to encourage their event planner members to visit AIME this February.
For us, the challenge is not only the coronavirus but also the bushfires that have affected many regional partners here in Australia.
Do you think there have been/will be any kind of drop-off in attendance because of a reluctance to travel during this scare? Has AIME been fielding concerns?
You always have people who are concerned. We have been working closely with hosted buyers and exhibitors to reassure them that the show is still proceeding this month and have them understand the measures we have put in place to address safety concerns.
As a team, we are confident that AIME is ready and we are excited to welcome the Asia Pacific business events community. The event has grown by 20 percent. In terms of exhibitors and our visitors, registration numbers are up from last year, which demonstrates to us that the industry is looking ahead and [on] how to generate new business.
Preparation is everything and unpredictability is part of the events industry. We are confident that everything is in place to deliver a solid AIME. We met a lot of challenges since the beginning of the year but have been encouraged by the resilience of our partners and the overall business events community.
Have any of your other programs been impacted? For instance, you are introducing an invitation-only association round table this year. Have any of those participants been unable to attend?
None of our programs have been greatly impacted. Where cancellations have occurred due to travel restrictions, we have always found replacements where needed.
Regarding the Association Roundtable, three medical association presidents are no longer able to attend as their expertise is required in their home countries at this time.
Obviously, with the Australian bushfire crisis, it’s critical for people to support Australia through face-to-face events. Has that factored into any decisions about postponing the event or was postponement never a consideration? Will there be messaging about how event organizers can support Australia’s recovery effort by planning events there?
Australia had to deal with the tremendous impact of the bushfires. It has been hard for the regions that were affected the most. But several campaigns have been launched to help rebuild communities and affected regions by the government — campaigns like #eventherethisyear.
Together with Tourism Australia and all Australian convention bureaus, we are working to push these campaigns nationally, in Asia Pacific and globally.
Postponement wasn’t a consideration. The best way to help the fire-affected communities is to drive business to them. AIME can play an active role in the business regeneration of these regions.
What precautionary measures will be put in place at AIME — extra hand sanitation stations, for example? Will there be any messaging about minimalizing the spread of germs as much as possible to allay any concerns?
We are following the health and safety standards as outlined by the World Health Organization and the Australian Chief Medical Officer. These will be communicated to all attendees’ pre-show and available on the AIME website. These do include additional hand sanitisers.
On a positive note, what are you most looking forward to at AIME 2020? What other new initiatives are you excited about introducing this year?
There is a lot we are looking forward to: We have over 10,000 prescheduled appointments between buyers and exhibitors. There are amazing evening networking events over the three days.
We have the inaugural Association Roundtable this year and we are welcoming over 30 leaders from 15 different countries, facilitated by Remi Deve [chief editor, The Boardroom magazine] with the discussions focussed on growth and relevance.
This year, our Leaders Forum is welcoming Professor Greg Clark [senior advisor, Future Cities & New Industries HSBC Group] and Genevieve Leclerc [cofounder and CEO of #MEET4IMPACT], leading the conversation on why and how we should embrace the role that business events play in a city and how we measure the social and economic impact of business events.
Our goal has always been to position AIME as the first grand slam meeting event of the year and with so many challenges since the beginning of the year, we are excited to welcome the world in Melbourne this February for them to share and prepare for the year ahead.