The coronavirus has already affected events throughout the world. Events in China and other parts of Asia are affected the most, and many organizers chose to stay on the safe side by either postponing or cancelling their events. Even some events outside the affected areas are being cancelled, and event organizers are being criticized for doing so.
The global business events industry generated $2.5 trillion worth of business sales in 2017, contributed $1.5 trillion to global GDP and employed 26 million people worldwide in 2017. And now the coronavirus outbreak is causing the cancellation or postponement of more than 24 exhibitions and conferences worldwide, hurting a $2.5 trillion trade show industry.
The cancellation of trade events is having effects in the hotel, airline, entertainment, marketing, restaurant, and other industries. And it’s not just trading and business events, we’ve listed some of the confirmed events that have already been cancelled in the last few weeks below. Keep reading!
What’s the harm?
Rescheduling events can become a serious financial issue for organizers. They may not be able to book the same venue for their preferred date and can lose money they’ve spent on the event space and other services like catering and conference management. Exhibitors and attendees also face challenges when events are cancelled such as costs of booth deposits, event registration, and travel arrangements. The hysteria has taken a toll on the supplies production of goods that it provides to the entire world. Factories in China are working at reduced capacity and have been struggling to make shipments. There are all types of equipment and products in the event management industry that are sourced from countries like China. If the suppliers and contractors get supplies from other sources, there will be changes in pricing, which will change the prices of overall event management. One of the biggest benefits of networking events and conferences is for professionals to meet face to face. But what happens when such benefits come with health risks?
Is the coronavirus coming for our social lives as well? What about the people in the industry? What about events staff and venues?
The event staff is responsible for managing events, attended by hundreds and thousands of people. The first challenge for the event organizers 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, considering this is an easily spreadable disease. They also need to make sure that the venue is sanitized properly. Measures will have to be taken for the proper equipment. Some event management companies have relocated 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, this option comes with its own issues. When the event is moved 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 smart decision. Changing the venue will require a lot of things to be replanned and rebooked which includes flights, local transportation, and hotel accommodations. And since we mentioned flights, lots of them are now being cancelled too. So be smart.
Most of the event contracts are signed a few months before the event, and most of them don’t include the cancellation fees. If you are an event planner now is the best time to drop any cancellation clause from your contracts. Cancelling one location is just the start, then you have to select the new location and move quickly. It’s critical for event organizers to choose a place with a minimum risk of COVID-19. The venue requirements have changed a bit, they should provide you with all the necessary equipment, isolated rooms, etc.
What about huge events in Asia?
Since the COVID-19 virus spread in China in December, U.S. airlines have cut service to huge parts of China and Hong Kong, resulting in dozens of trade exhibitions and conferences being cancelled or postponed (alongside with event organizers taking precautions of course). Corporations have pulled their executives from attending conferences across the globe, especially China. Marine Money Shanghai, a conference for shipping financiers, was planned for March 3th and 4th and was postponed because of the virus and concerns from attendees. The Chinese Grand Prix, set to take place from April 17th to 19th has been postponed to prevent the disease’s spread, according to the event’s website. The cancellation marks a turning point for companies who fear the possibility of exposing their workers to the deadly new virus that’s killed more than 2,100 in China over the last seven weeks. Shanghai Fashion Week, which was scheduled for March 26 to April 2 and features more than 1,200 fashion brands, was also postponed last week. The Food&Hotel Asia — Hotel Restaurant and Cafe expo (FHA-HoReCa), in Singapore has been moved from March to July. The expo’s sister event, FHA-Food & Beverage, was scheduled for the end of March in Singapore. Its organizers were planning to offer masks and hand sanitizer on-site to attendees but they eventually postponed it on February 14th. The disease may even disrupt the opening of the Tokyo Olympic Games in July. Organizers had previously said the 2020 Games would go ahead as planned, but this week a member of the International Olympic Committee suggested the games could be cancelled if the disease is not contained by the end of May. Football games all over the world are affected too. Fashion weeks in Beijing and Shanghai were postponed. Meanwhile, numerous Chinese fashion brands have pulled out of fashion weeks in Paris and Milan. The Buddhist spiritual leader announced he would postpone an ordination ceremony for new monks and cancel all his public duties until further notice.
And the rest of the World?
It’s the opening race of the Formula One season, and three other races — in Australia, Bahrain, and Vietnam could be postponed. The mayor of Nice, southern France, cancelled the last day of the carnival because of тхе coronavirus. Meanwhile, in Venice, the annual Carnival celebration was cut short by two days, since the coronavirus appeared in Italy as of last weekend. Milan’s Salone del Mobile, the largest furniture fair in the world, was to take place between April 21st and 26th. Organizers announced it’s been postponed until June. Last week, Facebook cancelled its annual Global Marketing Summit scheduled for March 9th to 12th in San Francisco. The event had 4,000 confirmed participants. Facebook also pulled out the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The Irish Rugby Football Union, postponed two Six Nations rugby matches between Ireland and Italy set to take place in Dublin between March 6 and 8. British rapper Stormzy postponed concerts in Japan, China, and South Korea as part of his world tour.
Organizers of the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest trade show for the mobile phone industry, pulled the plug on the show less than two weeks before it was set to start in Barcelona, Spain. МWC typically draws 100,000 visitors from all over the world. The four-day conference was to feature keynote speakers from AT&T, Airbus, Google and other titans of industry. LG Electronics, Amazon, Ericsson, Cisco, Facebook, AT&T, Sony, Nvidia, and other companies pulled out of the MWC prior to the cancellation. Amazon cancelled their attendance at MWC because of concerns about the virus, Ericsson had similar fears.
What should event professionals consider doing?
- Monitor for changes in recommendations about events and travel, and follow guidance from health and government offices.
- Prepare for attendees to have concerns, and provide them with resources
- Share recommendations on how to stay healthy
- Anticipate travel delays for airport screenings and flight/registration cancellations
- Provide options for virtual participation.
- Prepare a communication plan to keep participants and partners informed in the case of an event cancellation.
- Provide education on health, safety, and communications protocols.
- Proactively communicate any cancellation policy changes
- Consult with legal counsel about your responsibilities, and the impact on event insurance, contracts and refund policies.
The Events Industry Council (EIC) held a webinar on February 7th, here’s what they advised us:
Maintain perspective. Don’t be held hostage by fear in your decision-making process. Be wary of sensationalism. It’s prudent for event organizers to do everything they can to minimize the spread of germs, making sure that hand sanitizers are readily available and working with venues to step up sanitation efforts. Everyone needs to be more diligent because we are in the business of bringing many people together. Hold off on making a decision. If possible, wait another 10 days or two weeks before deciding whether to postpone or cancel your event. This is the riskiest time to make such a decision. Rely on local sources for facts rather than depending on the media. Be aware that this is a rapidly changing situation. Communicate with your audience. If there is any question about whether your event will be held, make your website your “central repository” for information. Don’t underestimate the toll of the outbreak but stay positive.
What we believe is the right course of action:
The industry must come together and be flexible. “We need to hold hands as an industry to make sure all of us get through this with the least amount of negative effect.” as it was said at the EIC webinar. We strongly believe in those words. We need to come together. Always stay flexible, now more than ever, and obviously — cut out all cancellation fees.
Stay safe, and don’t panic!
Written by Milena Komitova
Resources: CNBS, Eventscouncil, Quartz, GlobalSign