In Conversation With Joel Pascual, President, Philippines Association Of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers

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“The effectiveness and amount of business generated by the face-to-face is unmatched anywhere in the world. Therefore, during a meeting with the biggest MICE players around the world, it was agreed that virtual will just remain as an added feature but the main focus will continue to be the physical expo.”

ES. How has PACEOS role been instrumental in developing the Philippines into the leading, top-of-mind destination for MICE?

Joel Pascual. At a time when MICE was not a priority of the national government, PACEOS lobbied for recognition of the industry as a high-impact contributor to the country’s economy in both tourism and trade.

Some of the efforts PACEOS initiated were the very first Philippine MICE Forum which brought global players into the country. This made government pay attention and eventually adapted the project as its own. Only in recent administrations has MICE finally been put as part of the country’s tourism priority industries. To further drive the importance of MICE, PACEOS once again initiated the creation of its own MICE Roadmap. This was, likewise, quickly adapted by the national government and has resulted in the creation of a consortium of private & public MICE stakeholders towards the realization of the goals of the Roadmap. Today, PACEOS and the Department of Tourism are closely working together in training and capacity building of MICE in the major cities of the Philippines.

ES. Leaders sit at the helm, confront high stakes, and are charged with advancing. What were early projects you are particularly proud of and early defining career moments?

Joel Pascual. As President of PEPTarsus Corporation, our growth and industry leadership has largely been a product of 3 main thought pillars within our company :

  • Value for Money: the age-old adage of “under promise, over deliver” has never gone out of style and that, to this day, has been a mantra for the company. Exceeding expectations is what creates a loyal customer base
  • Innovation: at the end of every show, we already ask ourselves what new things we can introduce the next year. We are never satisfied unless we are able to answer the questions “what’s new?” This is the only way we know how to remain fresh and relevant for both our exhibitors and our visitors.
  • It’s The People: every effort is exerted to equip our people to be professionals and, at the same time, have a healthy relationship with our client base. Our expertise should always evoke confidence while our relationships create that all important team spirit between organizers and exhibitors.

With these at the core of who PEPTarsus is, we very ambitiously opened up shows and quickly grew and was recognized as delivering highly effective trade shows. Some of our defining moments were :

  • Just on our first year, we already opened up strong with two halls of the World Trade Center, and it just continued to grow every year until WOFEX became the biggest food show in the country
  • Since we already filled up World Trade Center, we took the courage to open up a second venue, the SMX Convention Center, a 10min ride from WTC. That leap of faith paid off as we eventually filled up both venues as well.
  • We created the Philippine Culinary Cup, the only WACS accredited competition in the country and quickly attracted global participation and is acknowledged as one of the best the region has to offer.
  • Because we were wall-bound, one of the ways we could grow was to go regional. By bringing our show to the major cities around the Philippines, we were able to bring the sellers closer to the buyers and WOFEX quickly became the natiowide marketing strategy for a lot of our clients.
  • We also created World Food Magazine, a quarterly trade publication that further extended our capability to disseminate relevant information at the same time serve as a marketing medium for our clientele.

ES. What is WOFEX and what makes the concept special? What are some of the products that you find are a unique addition to the sustainable and organic market?

Joel Pascual. WOFEX is the World Food Expo which is the largest and most effective food show in the Philippines. First thing about its being special is its size and international participation which is the biggest in the country. Also, it houses the most prestigious culinary competition. It has simultaneous seminars, conferences and cooking demos throughout its 4-day run.

WOFEX has also been supporting the Slow Food Movement, an international organization that started from Italy and has become nationwide. It highlights the importance of biodiversity, of organic and natural farming and chemical free produce. Through the support of WOFEX, the movement has grown in size, importance and relevance.

ES. A sustainable world starts with good food. How WOFEX has consistently been innovating to become the biggest and most effective trade show in the region?

Joel Pascual. WOFEX achieves its success by being able to showcase the best of the world side-by-side with the best of the Philippines. This allows the participants to benchmark on international standards and sets the tone for the upgrading, upskilling of the entire foodservice industry of the country. When the best of the world come to Manila during WOFEX, great things happen.

ES. World Food Expo is the leading and most effective food show in the Philippines today. Simultaneously occupying the two biggest venues in the country, the World Trade Center and the SMX Convention Center. What is your objective for organising this year?

Joel Pascual. Due to the pandemic, a physical event has not been allowed by the government since the beginning of the spread of covid. Therefore, to remain relevant, we have pivoted into the virtual world. We quickly offered many webinars to inform, to assist and to educate the foodservice industry while everyone was adjusting to the new normal. Early 2021, we finally did our first virtual expo with much success. This November, if the situation does not change, we will be having our first hybrid edition of WOFEX. The virtual and hybrid shows are much smaller than pre-pandemic WOFEX, but still it is important to try and reboot the events industry in the country.

ES. What are your thoughts on ‘Local food players should invest in research and development’ and why is it important to upgrade their skills?

Joel Pascual. It is often said that information is gold and it will always remain true. R&D should never be left out if a company wants to progress in its business. Big or small, with or without government assistance, the key to being a step ahead of the competition is to invest in research and development. It is even more important for local players who want to penetrate the bigger international markets.

ES. ‘Investing in equipment is vital to further increase the production of food products. It’s not enough to harvest, it should be processed.’ Please comment.

Joel Pascual. That is one of the most important purposes of WOFEX. A walk through the expo gives the visitor fresh ideas and/or aspirations to level up. Food producers can look at the equipment available on the floor and can study the possibilities of transitioning from being a farmer to a food processor. Processing and the added value it puts into the product will make the company more profitable and the produce can reach wider markets.

ES. How is WOFEX helpful in educating its participants? Do you organise any conference or session during expo?

Joel Pascual. A tag line that always go with the WOFEX name is “The Ulitmate Food Show Experience”. This is because visitors come to WOFEX not just for the exhibition but also for the many learning opportunities it offers.

Simultaneously running are:

  • lectures and cooking demos on 2 main stages called Kitchen Theaters,
  • 4 seminar rooms on wide ranging topics which we call WOFEX University,
  • 4 meeting rooms for associations which we call B2B Prime
  • 2 conference halls for large conferences which we call World Food Summit;
  • The country’s most prestigious culinary competition we call The Philippine Culinary Cup

Clearly, education is a pillar of every WOFEX edition and is the reason the visitors come back and stay long with every edition of the show.

ES. What kinds of trends are you noticing in the last few years? What would be the highlights of upcoming WOFEX?

Joel Pascual. With the advent of the pandemic, trends will greatly focus on SAFETY, SANITATION, ON-LINE COMMERCE, DELIVERY and SUSTAINABILITY. This are the issues that have always been important but the pandemic has made it even more relevant for the years to come.

ES. What are your learnings from the pandemic and how it has changed the face of Exhibition industry?

Joel Pascual. Many around the world have tried to pivot to virtual expos, but most have largely been a poor version of the physical expo. The effectiveness and amount of business generated by the face-to-face is unmatched anywhere in the world. Therefore, during a meeting with the biggest MICE players around the world, it was agreed that virtual will just remain as an added feature but the main focus will continue to be the physical expo. Worldwide, the push is to reboot, reopen and return to the expo floor.

ES. What are your upcoming plans? What would be your message to the industry?

Joel Pascual. For us, we continue to touch base with our base through different online activities. However, we are pushing to be able to do a physical event soon as there is a definite clamor from our clients to once again enjoy the benefits they can only get from the influence of WOFEX. For the industry, let us continue to do our best to prepare for the reopening of events safely. There is light at the end of the tunnel and the experience of those that have already reopened is that it has exceeded their expectations. Rebooking rates of 80-90% has been reported. The exhibition industry is becoming upbeat in parts of the world. For those like us in the Philippines who are still not allowed to open, let us keep the faith that our time will come soon enough. There is do substitute to the efficiency of a trade expo.