The death tolls being caused due to the novel coronavirus have been rising by the minute across the world. Having infected hundreds and thousands of people in more than 25 countries, the World Health Organisation or WHO has declared the outbreak of coronavirus as a global public health emergency due to the severity of the virus and the threat it possesses to the global community.
What this implies for or the event industry is that the event organizers can no longer sit back and simply take precautions. It is important to actively assess the risks, keep oneself informed about the latest developments being caused due to coronavirus (COVID-19) and be prepared to deal with any possible scenarios that can arise from the outbreak of this virus. For the people in the event industry who have been keeping a close check on the evolution of this disease, they know that COVID-19 will without a doubt affect the course of various events. In the next section, we are going to talk about the different areas that will get affected due to this situation.
Cancellation and Postponement
The event industry in China and other parts of Asia have been seriously affected and a lot of organizers have chosen to be more careful about their events. They are either postponing or abruptly cancelling the events scheduled in the upcoming weeks in the wake of the global outbreak. Reportedly, there have been cases of COVID-19 in India which implies how fast the virus has been spreading.
While the health and safety of the event attendees remain the most important paramount for the event planners who have been considering cancelling their events, they must also think beyond all of this. They must also consider the effect of their decision on the rate of investment (ROI) of their event because cancelling or deciding to organize the event with the same number of attendees who may not be willing to attend it as of now could have serious consequences.
The event planners must talk to the sponsors to review and discuss the contractual terms and the basis of activation of the event. However, if the event planners decide to go on with the event anyway, they must stay in constant contact with all the attendees, talk to the venue management and workout on an amicable solution to combat COVID-19. Each one of them must be aware and regular updates about any possible changes in the plans must be sent to them.
If the event has been postponed or cancelled, the event organizers can negotiate with the suppliers and the venue especially if the services have not actually been delivered yet to minimize the sunk cost. Cancelling or postponing the event will help in maintaining the trust of attendees in the event planners and encourage them to attend the next event.
Believe it or not, transportation has been badly hit ever since the reports of COVID-19 have been confirmed in different parts of the world. For instance, in China, there are cities and provinces that have been under complete lockdown, quarantined and are under strict vigilance. Can not really gauge what is wrong about transporting from one place to another? With cities and provinces being shut down, the airports have been shut too which implies that if an event is happening let us say in Hong Kong, and an attendee is flying all the way from the USA, there are high chances that there may be really a few flights or even worse, they may be suspended.
The COVID-19 has spread to another 26 countries in a month, which has called for nations to close their borders in the wake of health emergencies declared by a number of countries. Certain countries have banned travel to and from the affected nations leaving the travellers stuck in the countries they were visiting due to personal or professional commitments.
Nevertheless, countries have been taking intensive measures on airports to combat COVID-19. They have been closing the outbound traffic from a lot of provinces from China which includes both local and international tourists. The passengers are being thoroughly screened for COVID-19 symptoms and the ones with even the slightest symptoms are being admitted for special care.
Much like the airline industry, the hospitality industry, which is linked with the global event industry, is one of the first ones to get impacted by any global epidemic and the last one to recover. Be it natural or manmade disasters, economic recessions, trade war, travel advisories or health emergencies, the political class all across the world uses it as an effective tool to convince the citizens of their country to take utmost care and precautions in such times.
The global business travellers have been holding off to travel to Asia until and unless it is absolutely necessary and they are especially avoiding destinations that are traditionally visited by the Chinese. Places like Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur, etc have all been bearing the brunt and the hotel bookings have been postponed or deferred for at least a couple of coming weeks. So if there is an event scheduled somewhere in Asia, the Southeast Asian economies such as Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia have been feeling the strain since the hospitality industry is one of the greatest contributors to the growth of a country all throughout.
If you have an event planned at a place where COVID-19 is not widespread, we suggest that you watch what you eat, to wash your hands with soap and water as frequently as possible, maintain as much hygiene as possible and try to keep a distance from the people who show any signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
Using itself as a potential and significant new threat to the world of the hotel industry, COVID-19 has been hitting the room fares hard. If the figures are to be believed, Chinese citizens make up for the world’s largest number of tourists visiting different countries. The sustained outbreak of coronavirus is bound to pose a significant threat to the growth of hotels, constructing new developments in the cash flow, driving the room occupancy down and reducing the daily rates of these rooms significantly.
Most of the four and five-star properties are occupied by more than 60% of Chinese travellers but if the public health continues to be at risk, the long term impact on the hotel industry will be serious. If there is an event happening in a country, and there are people coming from across the globe, first of all, the footfall at the event is sure to decrease. Next, people would be afraid to attend such events due to the fear of catching such viruses making the room occupancy low. Many hospitality companies have not been putting surcharges or levying no extra cost or penalties on the guests who wish to cancel or change reservations.
The event planners should be on a lookout to partner with the venues and hotels that are aware of the safety guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 and are prepared to abide by them.
Contractor & Suppliers
The unprecedented epidemic has obviously taken a toll on the supplies production of goods that it provides to the entire world. The factories in China are working at reduced capacity and have been struggling to make shipments. Now there are various types of equipment and products in the event management industry that are sourced from countries like China. Because of this, the fastest growing country of the world has hit the suppliers and contractors who set up the events making it difficult for them to get their hands on different kinds of components.
For the contractors and suppliers who had stocked up most of the important supplies, their stocks have started getting exhausted because China has not been operating the way it does. Hence, there has been a shortage of supplies from the manufacturing hub causing a further slowdown in the event industry. If the suppliers and contractors try managing stuff from other sources, there is a spike in the pricing surging the prices of overall event management.
Event Staff Management
One of the biggest benefits of meetings and conferences is that professionals are able to meet face to face. But what happens when such a benefit comes with a greater health risk on not just the attendees but also the event management staff who help in running everything smoothly?
The event staff is responsible for managing small scale and large scale events that are attended by hundreds and thousands of people. In such a situation, the first challenge for the event organisers is to train onsite event staff and assure that all the attendees are in the best of their health, do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and will not pose a potential threat to the health of fellow attendees, for it is an easily spreadable disease. The next challenge for the event planners is to make sure that the venue is sanitized properly according to WHO instructions and recommendations. Measures will have to be taken up by the staff to have the proper equipment such as humidifiers and water mists to keep things under control.
Some event management companies have taken the initiative of relocating their event instead of cancelling or postponing it. In case the event is scheduled to take place in China, they are relocating and changing the venue to some other country. While this is one of the best compromises for most of the event planners who are bent upon moving ahead with their events yet are conscious of the risks that are posed by the COVID-19, this option comes with its own issues.
When the event gets shifted to a new location, it must be considered how far the new event location is and whether or not it can prove to be a logistical feat. Changing the venue will require a lot of things to be replanned and/ or re-book which includes flights, local transportation, and hotel accommodations.
Now, most of the event contracts are signed a few months before the event is supposed to take place and most of them do not include the cancellation fees. If you are an event planner and your contract includes the clause about the cancellation of the event, now is the best time to make the most out of it. Cancelling one location is just half the battle won! The other half of the battle includes selecting the new location to move it to.
It’s critical for the event organizers to choose a place with potentially minimum risk of COVID-19 so that the attendees are not worried about catching an infection. Because of the current situation, the venue requirements have changed a bit. The venue should be able to provide you with all necessary equipment, isolated rooms, etc.
Food & Beverage
One of the main attractions of any event is the exotic food being served there. The exotic food and beverages that are imported from other countries is a quite lucrative option to hog on but the quality of those items can not be assured.
Food can be one of the major routes of transmission of the COVID-19. How? The transmission route is droplet infection which can be passed on from animals to humans. There are chances that the people who may be making or packing the food items could be infected from COVID-19 but do not know yet! However, it is stated that COVID-19 need a host – either an animal or a human to grow in and cannot grow in food. Though cooking is expected to kill the viruses at a temperature of about 60ºC, there are a variety of cold cuts, meats, and seafood that possess a great threat to the people who consume them not just at events but overall. It must be remembered that the source of COVID-19 is believed to be animals, but the exact source is not yet known. It is because of such reasons and fears that the event planners have temporarily stopped importing food from other countries.
Onsite Event Communication
The commercial impact of the virus has been affecting each industry. Although the effects of the situation can not be overlooked, each and every sector needs to take the necessary steps to reduce the effects of COVID-19 to an extent. The attendees must be reminded about the need to maintain personal hygiene, the fact that they must wash their hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. In case water and soap are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used but the amount of alcohol should be at least 60%. The people present at the venue must be educated about the need to cover their mouths while coughing and sneezing with a tissue, and later throwing the tissue in the trash bin. An advisory must be circulated among the attendees before the event is set to happen so that if an individual shows any sign of COVID-19, he or she stays indoors.
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