Osaka hosted the MICE Safety Expo 2021 last month, which saw 144 exhibitors and a total 4,159 visitors over two days (24-25 March).

This marked only the second exhibition to be held in Osaka since the pandemic, following the Kansai Hotel and Restaurant Show, which took place in July 2020.

“Today’s exhibition is our second such action, and in our ‘hop, step, and jump’ way of thinking today is our ‘step’ stage,” said Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau president, HIroshi Mizohata, at the event.

Also in attendance during the opening ceremony was Michiteru Kashiwagi, chief of the Osaka City Government Economic Strategy Bureau, who indicated that the event represented a first step towards the city’s economic activity, and expressed hopes for attendees to network and build new business opportunities.

Mizohata said the bureau is focused on the safe return of in-person events and acknowledged industry partners such as Osaka City and INTEX Osaka for their “valiant” efforts.

In a true show of collaboration, the MICE Safety Expo 2021 was organised by Osaka City with the support of Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau, the Japan Exhibition Association, INTEX Osaka, the Nippon Display Federation, ministry of economy, trade and industry, the Japan Tourism Agency, the Japan National Tourism Organization, and the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition.

Safe event zoning and networking

The exhibition floor was split into four zones.

The dining and catering zone featured sanitation measures, party and catering ideas, food trucks, cashless payment systems and more. The worker safety and sanitation zone displayed tools for improving work environments and security, while the tools for infectious disease control exhibited items familiar in today’s Covid-setting: masks and face shields, disinfectants, temperature and thermography, and antibacterial solutions.

The fourth and final zone was the business events solutions area, where exhibitors offered MICE facility updates, as well as Covid-era operations support such data-crunching services that analyse attendee behaviour, and technology for 3D virtual site inspections.

According to industry reports, more exhibition space had to be opened up due to overwhelming demand — an indication of the local industry’s appetite to return to in-person events.

Osaka is aiming for a 50% MICE recovery this year, and a complete bounce back in 2022.

Osaka bureau’s Mizohata added: “I truly feel once again that Osaka’s energy is moving Japan’s MICE industry. I have come to feel that, from many different perspectives, MICE events must be held in-person, which is why we here want to make a declaration for in-person events. Together, let’s give it our all as we head for the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The destination had a spike in Covid-19 cases this week, with more than 1,000 new infections reported yesterday (13 April), according to local newspaper the Yomiuri. Osaka also cancelled its leg in the Olympic Torch relay.