by Esther Faith Lew | April 22, 2016
Speed matters in the hectic world of Michael Chiay, senior director, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) Meetings & Events APAC. With hardly ample time to ground himself in the routine of a demanding job, Michael is constantly redefining his daily experiences and accelerating his way through life.

As a member of the Asia Pacific Leadership Team, Michael spurs on 280 experts in the region to produce world-class meetings and events, source for venues and provide group travel and strategic meetings management solutions to a stable of multinational clients.

Meetings & Conventions Asia digs deeper into his insights.

What are the key trends for MICE in Asia?

Firstly, the unpredictable economy and health-related scares threaten to limit overall growth for Asia Pacific. China and India will dominate overall industry expenditure in the region.  As highlighted in the CWT 2016 Meetings & Events Forecast, we expect strong demand from these two countries to drive up prices (cost per attendee per day to increase by 5%) and group sizes (to grow by 11%) in 2016, which should mitigate the challenges we're seeing in the rest of the region.

Secondly, we see an increased emphasis on governance and compliance within the industry, driven by the pharmaceutical industry, prompting organisations to look for ways to gain the best control over their overall M&E programmes, such as through Strategic Meetings Management (SMM).

Thirdly, the penetration of smartphone ownership has seen the use of mobile technology explode at events. More common than ever, mobile apps at events are replacing paper event programmes, agendas, attendee lists, exhibition guides, course notes and post-event surveys. Event apps have also better enabled onsite social media networking, targeted announcements, networking and gamification. For most organisations, the question is no longer whether they should introduce mobile tools or even when, but how best to do it - with the right app and policy to back it up.

Why is strategic meetings management important?
 
In our recent 2016 Meetings & Events Forecast, we noted that global meetings and events (M&E) companies with a presence in Asia Pacific are becoming more interested in SMM programmes.

This increased interest in SMM is driven by organisations trying to harness their combined spend as they look for ways to cut costs and improve programme efficiency and control, in anticipation of tighter hotel cancellation policies, growing food and beverage (F&B) costs and an increased focus on compliance.

What is the impact on the bottomline for companies?
 
Companies are able to drive savings and operational efficiencies by implementing a consolidated hotel strategy that leverages meetings and business travel spend by identifying opportunities based on travel patterns, key markets and emerging markets.

In the past 10 years, we have achieved over US$730 million savings for companies large and small - an average of 20% overall savings.

Which technology solutions have been instrumental in ensuring an events success? And which have been sensational but disruptive?
 
Firstly, we see that more clients are seeking to understand how meeting apps can be used in planning (e.g. creating a more efficient registration process), on site (e.g. facilitating check-in, instant feedback, enabling networking and surveys) and after an event (e.g. improving the reporting process). New technology will emerge to create a more connected, innovative experience as well as to measure meeting return-on-investment and effectiveness.

Secondly, online registration tools benefit organisations seeking to gain better visibility and transparency, as well as leverage their combined spend for greater savings. As more organisations roll out small meeting strategies, we will see online adoption, tracking and monitoring increase.  

Thirdly, one-stop, comprehensive event management tools are gaining popularity. We see more companies looking to integrate their group air online booking tools with online attendee management tools to improve the attendee experience and reduce fulfillment costs.  A key consideration here is ensuring meeting level policies are monitored prior to ticketing.

Event planners will find mobile technology incredibly useful in optimising their processes for efficiency and convenience. The smart event planner will use the mobile to open up various new ways of interaction with attendees and provide useful data for future analysis to further improve the event experience.

What game changers should industry players pay attention to?

Looking to the future, it's important for both travel managers and event planners to monitor upcoming technologies, such as wearable devices and mobile payments, for developments in M&E and managed travel. These are expected to further advance the usage and usefulness of mobile technology. We have already seen the airline and hotel industries dipping their toes into these areas.

Finally, an exciting development is the potential for truly tailored insights and services through big data, offering ways to customise and improve the attendee experience and support programme objectives. With big data capabilities, customisation now involves using increasing amounts of personal data to consider every customer as "a market of one" with a unique set of needs and preferences.