The Singapore Futurist to the Global MICE Industry – By Harish Shah
My name is Harish Shah, and I am a Professional Futurist. My work, is what you call Futures Studies. You can call it the forensics of time. Crime forensics involves Crime Scene Investigation. Futures Studies involves Future Scenarios Investigation. Both require evidence, and evidence does not lie.
By looking at the evidence and what it is telling me, I am herein writing about the future outcome of the ongoing war between the Global MICE Industry and the Covid-19 virus that has disrupted the world since the start of 2020 with its pandemic spread.
While there has been no industry or sector spared anywhere on earth, from the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the very first industry struck was the MICE industry. It was a sudden, unanticipated silent blitzkrieg.
Towards the tail end of 2019, some folks likely became infected as a result of indulging in culinary practices involving wild creatures not typically associated with the average human plate.
This infection occurred in Wuhan, Hubei, China and spread rapidly within Wuhan. Before it could be identified or addressed, infected individuals travelled both to other parts of China and abroad.
Well before the end of the first quarter of 2020, the world acknowledged the pandemic situation. Before flights were grounded and some airports cut operations, public events began to decome delayed or were postponed and cancelled during January of 2020. Big ticket events were cancelled at the last minute in places like Singapore.
By the first of February 2020 across much of Asia, most MICE operators could not foresee with certainty when their next events, such as Expos, Conferences, Seminars and whatnot, would be held. In Singapore, where I am, a calendar building up since 2018, became a blank slate up to the end of June. By mid-February, the entire calendar of events in the country, seemed to have become a blank slate, save for some scribbles and stains on edges, for up to the end of December of the year.
In fact, across most of Asia and in many other parts of the world, all revenues stopped for most MICE companies as of February 2020. At least, airlines and hotels continued to draw some revenue. It is as if all the world’s trade and commerce were an armed force against an enemy. The MICE industry was at the frontline and the first line of both attack and defence. Its members were the first to fall when Covid-19, the enemy, attacked.
Up until April 2020, many MICE companies around the world have lost overnight in their entirety, extremely hardworking, talented, dedicated and loyal teams painstakingly built up over many years. Many are considering folding or venturing into other forms of businesses. The response is understandable. Imagine what the leadership at Pearl Harbour felt, when World War II came to them. The situation for MICE has been similar.
The Power of MICE
The secret to the future, lies in the past. Human society, has evolved and taken shape from the very beginning through exchange of ideas and collaboration. We have moved from cave art to Virtual Worlds and through synergies, brought about by synthesis of ideas, competencies and talents.
The acronym MICE which stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events is relatively new when looked at in the perspective of the length of the human story thus far. The industry itself has thrived. Driven by the need for organisations of all types to come together even with their direct competitors, to shop for thoughts, ideas and developments, so that the participating business enterprises may survive.
In such daunting times, it is important for MICE leaders not to forget their value as well as their power. All industries progress, evolve and sustain themselves through collaboration, exchange, learning and the co-creation that MICE facilitates neutrally. That organisations today have their executives and C-Suite meeting counterparts virtually, independent of MICE organisers in a desperate survival option. It is not an ideal practical option. MICE remains desirable and remains necessary for the long-term.
As every industry struggles with its own disruptive challenges brought about by Covid-19 to overcome and heal from the damage that the widespread disruption is causing, along with the undesired transformation of the overall global business landscape for a long time to come, MICE, is the ticket out of the quandary.
The Virus Must Die
The pneumonic plague did not last forever. SARS did not last forever. The Avian Bird flu did not last forever. Covid-19 will not last forever. Like a suicide bomber, Covid-19 might achieve its objective if it causes enough losses to business and industry to cause a global economic and societal meltdown that extends for periods far longer than the lifespan of the pandemic itself. Enter MICE.
MICE will negate the impact of Covid-19 enough, to expedite the world’s return to normalcy. That will be the true defeat of the virus. MICE will not kill the virus, but humanity will find a cure for it, rather sooner than later. Given our knowledge of science today, we can say confidently that MICE however, will defeat virus by not letting it disrupt our way of life the way folks outside of the industry may fear.
MICE to the Rescue
While the pandemic and social distancing is in swing, “friends” and colleagues may be keeping their distance. However, this is not a time to bring people together physically, this is the time, to build up your capabilities, your strengths and plan. This period is the time to get ready to hit the ground running at the pandemic’s end.
Whichever country or market you are operating in, if you are a MICE leader, on the day after the pandemic has been acknowledged to have ended, you need to be busy packing your event calendar. You need to be driving venue operators crazy with bookings, logistics and coordination.
While every other industry is seeking answers to heightened security threats from hackers and terrorists, you need to be ready with options and answers. While every other industry is scrambling to deal with a transformed market, unprecedented global unemployment, underemployment, a large group of the new poor and changes to cost dynamics, you need to be ready with options and solutions on neutral grounds. While every other industry runs to adopt, embrace and develop new technology or innovations to future proof itself against a repeat of similar scenarios that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought upon them, you need to be there, with options, to facilitate their quests.
This pandemic period is the time to be busy with strategic planning. It is not going to be easy with sponsors reluctant, revenues down to nil and funds for wages to maintain teams not possible. The world once seemed lost to the Axis in World War II, but the allies won. You need to play Winston Churchill and rally the hoteliers, the caterers and whatnot. You keep those phone numbers in your diaries. The day the pandemic ends, bring your team together to run.
You will kick Covid-19’s arse, because 7.7 billion people need you to. It’s has taken enough lives. You can’t let it, disrupt the lives of all those who survive. Business needs to go on. People need food on the table. Companies need to remain profitable. Your value, or the value of your existence, in in ensuring that that happens.
About the Writer
An autodidact and a polymath, Harish is Singapore’s first local born Professional Futurist. The world leading Futurist in the area of Technological Evolution & Foresight, he is endearingly referred to most commonly as “The Singapore Futurist”.
A livewire on stage, he has actively been opening major conferences across interest areas of industry as well as business functions, setting the tone for future-centric visions, since 2015