Travel And Tour World: Tell us about the recovery of meetings and business events in post COVID-19 time. How is the MICE industry growing and generating revenue for the country?
Daria Salamatova: According to the National Association of Event Organizers (NAOM) presentation at the annual NAOM 2022 meeting (which was held from January 26 to 29, 2022), the total revenue of the events industry in Russia is about 3.4 billion Rubbles per year. The share of creative industries in developed countries is 6% of the global GDP in Russia; the official figure is 2.4%. The Government of the Russian Federation has set a course to increase the share of the creative economy in the country’sGDP, and the support and development of creative industries, cultural initiatives, business and event tourism throughout the regions of Russia. From these initiatives, the event industry will have serious potential for growth.
I would like to note that currently, the market is unstable and develops in waves. All this is due to an increase of COVID-19 cases and the risk of additional restrictive measures in Moscow, transferring employees of large companies to remote work to minimize in-person contact. The market immediately responds to cancellations of events, even if no new restrictions are implemented, and is actively discussed in mass media. To date, Moscow continues to have restrictions on the number of participants in mass events – such as enforcing that the occupancy of congress halls are limited to no more than 50% of the capacity, and that QR codes for proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test are required for visitors to events. There are also requirements to equip the venue with security measures. Taking into consideration the restrictions and partial occupancy of congress halls, customers are forced to look for more spacious halls than previously required.
As for the World Trade Center Moscow Congress Center, some months during the pandemic have turned out to be even more profitable than in 2019 as they presented “windows of opportunity” to resume projects, while some months were characterized by massive cancellations or postponements of events to later dates.
In 2022, the recovery of the MICE industry after COVID-19 is slow and according to forecasts by the AIPC, ICCA and RUEF, structural changes will occur over the next 2-3 years, and the industry will grow to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
Travel And Tour World: How is WTC Moscow working with the convention bureau for the recovery in the business tourism?
Daria Salamatova:In 2019, the World Trade Center Moscow Congress Center partnered with the National Convention Bureau to attract international events to the venue, and secured long-term projects that in development through 2025. During the pandemic, most of the projects were halted, so we then decided to focus on the domestic market, and strengthen hybrid and online/virtual activities.
Travel And Tour World: Please share with us about the events and business conferences, both national and international, you have secured in this current tourism year.
Daria Salamatova:: In 2021, World Trade Center Moscow, like all those in the events industry were forced to work in a rapidly changing environment. As soon as COVID-19 cases improved and the “window of opportunity” was opened, projects resumed and were placed back into operation. Pre-pandemic, it took 3 to 6 months to prepare large congresses and conferences, whereas last year, the organizers and venues did it in 2-4 weeks. Since the situation at the beginning of last year was very unstable, event organizers tried to move their projects to the second half of the year. In autumn, there was a surge in business activity on the market.
In 2021, the World Trade Center Moscow Congress Center managed to hold 265 events in both hybrid and virtual formats. These include major annual forums and congresses that regularly take place in-person at our site, such as:
- Forum on Practical Security “Positive Hack Days”
- International Customs Forum
- Investment Online Forum “VTB Capital: Russia Calling!”
- “Made in Russia” International Export Forum
- HIV/AIDS Forum
- Russian Retail Week
As well as new landmark projects, such as:
- The 6thInternational Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Data Analysis, “AI Journey,” with the participation of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin
- The Rostelecom SOC Forum “Practice of Cyber Attacks:Counteracting and Information Security Monitoring Centers Building,” also with the participation of the President of Russia
- The 10thannual National Congress “Plastic Surgery, Aesthetic Medicine and Cosmetology”
- And a number of other big medical congresses and conferences
Travel And Tour World: What are the new technological updates taken by WTC Moscow to host secured and successful events or conferences?
Daria Salamatova: Today, in addition to the online/virtual format, which is still the most expensive format for us requiring a high budget, as a venue, the hybrid format of events remains relevant. As 2021 has shown, the hybrid format will remain relevant and in demand for a long time after COVID-19. Currently, it allows us to provide the necessary level of security while also providing an opportunity for organizers to expand their audience without restrictions. The World Trade Center Moscow Congress Center presents its halls as multifunctional spaces that can be used in both online/virtual and hybrid formats, having a total space of 6,000 square meters for the tasks of each individual event. As the Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Protection and Human Welfare) decreases the requirements for holding in-person events, we are starting to promote non-business, education and exhibition events again.
Travel And Tour World: Share with us about the marketing strategies you have taken to promote the convention centre and the city.
Daria Salamatova: During the COVID-19 pandemic, with thousands ofonline/virtual events available, it is important to promote and make your event known. E-mail marketing to customer bases with news, useful content and special offers allows you to be seen by the public and, in the event that the COVID-19 situation becomes more stable and projects resume, the chances of the customer contacting your business increases. It is important to have a brand present across social networks and in mass media; participate in industry events as an attendee, speaker, or exhibitor in order to promote and strengthen the brand; and maintain relationships with partners and event organizers. In 2021, the advertising campaign launched by the World Trade Center Moscow Congress Center has allowed the company to significantly increase the traffic of incoming requests to all groups of venues. The advertising campaign also continues to generate traffic during periods of low market demand. No one knows when the fallen demand will start to rise, so the analytics of an ongoing advertising campaign becomes a beacon that shows that the demand is starting to rise, and it is possible to accelerate in communications and sales. In 2021, thanks to the advertising campaign, we garnered new opportunities – we have launched new client offerings that were not active before, such asproviding various personal growth trainings; meetings with astrologers and philosophers; and other similar events. The need to constantly maintain the advertising campaign and increase the budget for the promotion channels has risen sharply against the background of general instability.
Travel And Tour World: Enlighten us with the sustainability and responsible tourism approach taken by WTC Moscow
Daria Salamatova: The World Trade Center Moscow Congress Center has received the status of “SAFE TRAVEL” from the World Travel & Tourism Council, which means that event participants can feel completely safe. We comply with all sanitary standards and take care of the health and comfort of our guests. Projects and initiatives of the World Trade Center Moscow Congress Center in the field of sustainable development cover three areas- buildings and decoration; souvenirs and printing; and catering. The main issues that the Congress Center is solving in conjunction with other World Trade Center Moscow departments are to create reusable structures, reduce the decoration of artificial flowers, reduce printing by switching to digital media, convert to energy-saving power sources, save on water resources and, together, with a local banquet service, stop using plastic tableware and reduce food waste.