How is Japan dealing with the covid19 challenge?
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Ms. Etsuko Kawasaki, Executive Director of the Japan Convention Bureau describes how Japan as a Destination is helping, safe-proof events and supports Associations that wish to hold their meetings there, now and in the future.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect Japan’s business events industry?
Over the past decade, Japan has experienced record numbers of foreign visitors, jumping from 8.61 million in 2010 to 31.88 million in 2019. We also successfully hosted major international events such as the G20 Summit in Osaka and the Rugby World Cup, and we were getting ready to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
But the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted international travel and forced us to review our plans, as associations postponed their conferences in Japan.
According to a recent JCB survey, 71.4% of Conference Ambassadors said the COVID-19 crisis impacted their international association’s conference. Among them, 62.5% said the conference was postponed, and 35% were cancelled. Associations converted a number of meetings completely or partly to a digital format. The Ambassadors expect that association’s meetings in the post-COVID-19 era will be hybrid, on a smaller scale, divided into smaller groups, and based on new strict safety guidelines.
Although the recovery will take time, we are already getting requests for meetings from associations in Asia, so we can see that there is still a demand, and that it is starting to resume at the regional scale.
And of course, as a result of the pandemic, all of our businesses have had to adapt to the “new normal” and find new ways to cater to associations’ needs while adhering to COVID-19 regulations.
Speaking of this, how is Japan ensuring the safety associations’ events?
First of all, Japan has a nationwide campaign to fight COVID-19 based on countermeasures, meant for businesses and individuals, which aim at avoiding what we call the “3Cs”:
· Closed spaces with poor ventilation
· Crowded spaces where many people are closely gathered
· Close contact points leading to droplet infection
Complementing these guidelines, industry-specific information has been produced by various organisations in Japan, including the Japan Congress & Convention Bureau (convention bureaus’ association) and the Japan Convention Management Association (PCOs’ association).
At the Japan Convention Bureau, we are disseminating these guidelines among associations to help manage COVID-19 and restore the business events industry. So, one of our tasks from now on will be to accompany associations in their meeting projects and to explain how we can arrange events that comply with the new requirements.
The guidelines cover all the areas where the risks related to infectious diseases can be mitigated and aim at ensuring the safety of event attendees and organisers. This includes all the measures that are part of the “new normal”: physical distancing, crowd management, disinfection, temperature checks, ventilation, food service (individual rather than buffets), etc.
In our latest Guide on Business Events in Japan, we share various case studies of partner suppliers which show how the new safety measures are being implemented at every level of a meeting by event organisers, airlines, public transports, convention centres and hotels.
We also organised a networking event for Japan’s Convention Ambassadors to showcase a safe gathering under the “new normal” guidelines. We had over 50 participants, a record high. Of course, we took care to follow the health and safety protocols, such as setting up thermal cameras at all entrances, requesting that participants wear a mask during the event, installing acrylic screens between seats, and so on. We also invited meeting equipment suppliers as exhibitors, to inspire ambassadors to hold online and hybrid associations events. The event was a great success, and nobody reported falling sick afterwards.
What support is available to help associations hold their meetings in Japan?
Despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis, Japan is doing its best to maintain the support policies established at every level. At the national level, JCB continues to help associations find the best host cities and venues, and to sponsor their inspection tours. At the local level, most prefectures and cities’ CVBs are still offering subsidies and other in-kind support during the event.
Recently, many local CVBs are even offering support in order to reduce the costs of the new hygiene and safety measures that associations need to implement. For example, the Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau now offers a subsidy to help cover the costs of measures such as renting additional space for physical distancing or purchasing masks and hand sanitisers.
JCB will also help associations in a very concrete way to make their conferences safer by providing free face masks, disinfectant sprays, and other supplies to ensure the highest possible hygiene of the meeting space.
Finally, we are aware that, in spite of the difficulties to travel for the time being, associations still need to plan their conferences in the mid-term. That is why we decided to hold “Meet Japan”, our annual event designed for conference planners, fully online. The programme will offer educational seminars on meetings in Japan, virtual visits of 4 attractive destinations, and finally meetings with local convention bureaus. Moreover, the participants of this online edition will be prioritised for our next invitation to on-site tour inspections.
Contribution by Aurélien Bandini, MICE Specialist at Japan National Tourism Organization