China’s move to reopening public schools in coming weeks is raising hopes among meetings industry stakeholders that large gatherings could soon be allowed again.

This was shared during the April 14 Global Meetings Industry Day webinar organised by MCI China and PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) entitled China: From Crisis to Recovery.

Panellist Wayne Cha, general manager, Suzhou International Expo Center, reported that government meetings with 400 delegates have already begun.

However, Xiaodong Gao, representative of the Shanghai International Forum of Infection Control, commented that while Covid-19 is under control, it is here to stay. Gao further recommended that meeting numbers be kept small, and that social distancing, the wearing of masks, provision of hand sanitisers and good personal hygiene had to continue.

To aid China’s recovery, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) Commercial Sub-Council, has put in place current and future plans to support stakeholders and industry members, according to Jack Yao, its secretary-general.

Apart from organising webinars, CCPIT last week disseminated professional standards for exhibition and exhibition professionals in preparation for recovery.

Yao said that CCPIT had come up with the SPA model, with S – survival and providing services for 1Q/2Q; P – preparing (to recover) in 2Q/3Q; and A – actualisation (of business) in 3Q/4Q, adding that the council was helping industry members to analyse and apply the model to their businesses.

Meanwhile, Frankie Gao, managing director, MCI Group China, said its recovery plan required a “clear objective of what kind of business do we want to be in”; as well as consider existing players, competitors, new opportunities; understand the different stages of recovery and how to identify supplier and partners; and the “face-to-face DNA” of the business.

He questioned if webinars could be profitable, how then, could traditional meeting planners face the new challenges, and coined the term “phygital” events in integrating future face-to-face events with digital ones. The MCI head noted this was already being looked at in cities such as Chengdu and Suzhou, with partners such as Hyatt.

In his message to webinar participants, PCMA, president and CEO, Sherrif Karamat stated: “PCMA is resolute in the role business events will play in the recovery and our purpose in the post-Covid-19 world.

“Tomorrow, our industry is going to be different. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be better or worse. But it does mean we are going to have to move outside our comfort zone. It means developing new skills, re-engineering our business models and finding new partners that weren’t on our radar just months ago.

“Simply put, we need to meet differently,” Karamat commented.