MANILA -- Manila FAME, the country's premier lifestyle and design trade event, has moved online as virus-related restrictions on gatherings and travel continue.
But the decision was not done at the last minute as plans for digitalization have been made public since last year by Pauline Suaco-Juan, the executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM).
Nevertheless, she admitted that the novel coronavirus pandemic has made their transition more difficult than it should be.
"When we first started, everybody on the team and in the company was clear on the fact that we had to do digital even before the pandemic struck. But the process of doing that itself was actually challenging," she said in a recent virtual briefing with the media.
"The team at CITEM can do Manila FAME with their eyes closed. We've been doing it since 1983 so they know the process inside and out. So to produce something like this given the limited time frame, given the challenges of work-from-home, and given the fact that not everybody is digitally savvy… We had to deal with all of these," she added.
"All of these were things that we had to do for the first time and proved to be a challenge. But thank God after two years, we're now here and we've been able to launch."
Called FAME+, the new virtual showroom provides a new avenue for exhibitors to showcase their products to the world 24/7, 365 days a year.
Suaco-Juan said the next step now is to populate the website and get as many Filipino companies engaged in home, fashion, and lifestyle to use it.
"Now we will see how effective our design is, if it resonates with the users -- both buyers and exhibitors, and other stakeholders. Because at the end of the day, what good is a shining, beautiful site if people can't use it?" she said. "Once all of this comes into play, I think it's a game-changer and it will be exciting times ahead."
The CITEM executive director went on to clarify that FAME+ is not an e-commerce website but a "promotions platform."
"You tell your story, you post your products on FAME+, and we distribute it and make it searchable online. If you would like to buy, then normally in Manila FAME there are B2B (business-to-business) facilities for you to be able to do this. There are also e-commerce links within the exhibitors' microsite so that will take you to their e-commerce platforms if they have one or another. So the transaction does not end on the FAME+ website," she explained.
Suaco-Juan hopes that they could resume their physical trade show by October 2021, if the coronavirus situation starts to improve.
But she said FAME+ will be here to stay.
"We do know that digital is the new way... [With FAME+] We have our chance, even if we're here in the Philippines, to sell and shout out our products to the world," she ended.
For his part, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman said FAME+ is "a big step" toward helping micro, small, and medium enterprises in the Philippines.
CITEM is DTI's export promotion arm.
"I think this is something that we can always aspire to do in the trade department since the preference of our big buyers, and even the small consumers, have become anchored on what grabs their attention online," Macatoman said.