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Coronavirus latest: meetings industry unites in response to outbreak

The events industry must respond to the coronavirus outbreak with resilience and calm. That’s the message that came time and again from industry leaders as they responded to the spread of the infection, also known as the COVID-19 virus.

Many echoed the sentiment of Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), who said that ‘containing the spread of unnecessary panic is as important as stopping the virus itself.’

IMEX Group revealed that there are no plans to postpone or cancel IMEX in Frankfurt in May and that they would be acting with ‘common sense and sound judgement’.

Tom Kemp, chairman and CEO of Northstar Travel Media owner of The Meetings Show and M&IT, said the company would continue to conduct business as normal.

He said: “We will not change our behaviours based on fear or hysteria. The change in behaviours by individuals and business have the capacity to wreak far more damage to our economy and the travel industry than the actual disease itself.

“We have been through these events in the past and have always survived, as a business and industry, stronger than ever. We will survive the current outbreak of the coronavirus and come back stronger as a result.”

Paul Van Deventer, chair of the Events Industry Council, said that event professionals must make informed decisions about meetings – and remind themselves how resilient they are.

He said: “We are adaptive. Events will continue despite COVID-19. The majority of events around the world are still happening, despite what the media reports. Some will be – or have already been – cancelled or postponed. Most of them will come back just as they did after other major world events.

United, resilient and confident

“In the interim, we have a job to do. We must continue to be good stewards of our industry. That includes reminding one another who we are, the value we provide to those we serve and why what we do matters to others.

“Our industry has weathered disruptions in the past. Working together, we will weather this, too.”

In a statement, ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath encouraged its member-suppliers and associations to be pragmatic in challenging times but to also share positive messages where possible.

“Big events are continuing to take place in their destinations, despite worries and complications brought from the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said. “To boost the meetings industry during this difficult period, we should send out encouraging messages to show we are united, resilient and confident as an industry.

“We should be prepared for negative messaging about the need for people to meet face-to-face, but where this is not possible, we must collaborate and bring solutions to maintain the exchange of information, as we believe the international meetings industry can have a role in finding the solution to the outbreak.”

Meanwhile, the organisers of Experience Africa, set to take place on 22-24 June at CCT Venues Plus, Canary Wharf, London, said that the show would be going ahead.

Be calm and communicate responsibly

Byron Shirto, event director, said: “We are all doing our best to keep a rational head whilst remaining resilient in all our mutual business activities. Our stance right now is a cautiously optimistic one; let’s take care of one another sensibly and carry on with business as usual.”

Nigel Vere Nicoll, president of Atta (African Travel and Tourism Association), said: “The travel industry is notoriously resilient, and it is important that we work together with our members and partners to meet the challenges that may arise as this situation evolves.”

The PCMA issued an update saying it believes that the business events industry is uniquely positioned to react to COVID-19 and aid in the global economic recovery.

It outlined a three-point plan, as follows:

– Monitor local, national and international public health departments and agencies for advice.
– Review your crisis communications plan to ensure it’s up to date.
– Be calm and communicate responsibly.