Updated: May 5, 2020
Chetan Shah from MICEBOOK was joined by Gunther Homerlein, General Manager for Destination China, Stefanie Mura, Events & Marketing Director for CS Event Italy as well as Ursuala Winterbauer, Director of Marketing & Strategy for the German Convention Bureau to review where the industry is in the pandemic. Here are a few bullet points summarising the discussion:
Italy has been in lockdown for 8 weeks and the measures put in place were very strict and reinforced by the police. Rules will relax from 03 May but they will remain very strict. The MICE industry has reached out to the government requesting some deadlines regarding the re-opening of public spaces as well as guidelines on social distancing regulations to be enforced. The first events to come back to Italy are likely to be from the pharmaceutical and technology industries but some more clarity from the government is needed before anything can happen.
Germany is starting to relax some of the rules with more shops and some schools re-opening. A mask must be worn to take public transport and go into a supermarket. MICE events will not be able to go ahead until 31 August at the earliest but this is likely to be extended. At this point, Germany has not seen any decline in RFPs for 2021 and 2022 from either domestic or international markets. As far as the next few months are concerned, most events have been either postponed or replaced by digital events. All the new leads for events taking place in late 2020 are domestic. Going forward it seems likely that each person attending an event will need an authorisation to attend (possibly under the form of a QR code) as well as a COVID test upon arrival at the venue. The current GDPR regulation could make the identification process very challenging. Going forward social distancing will lead the way therefore only small events are expected to take place for quite some time.
China no longer has strict measures in place but people must have a QR code on their phone so that their movements and health status can be tracked by the authorities. New RFPs from international markets are only expected to come once a vaccine for COVID is found. Currently all domestic events require a minimum of 2.5 square meter per person within the venue. A mask must be worn, temperature must be checked and the air conditioning system must comply with strict regulations. Over the past 3 to 4 weeks, local buyers enquiring about events have been using ground agents/DMCs rather than liaising directly with the various suppliers. For them using a one-stop-shop is the best way to ensure that no stones are left unturned and that all aspects of their event comply with the current government regulations. Post SARS, China saw an increase in meetings and conferences therefore post COVID is expected to be similar.
At the moment, constant contact with suppliers is key but keeping in touch with customers is also very important as they are the ones who will kick-start the industry once the time is right.
Live events will have to be organised differently in the future as social distancing will be a key element.
Virtual events have proved a viable option and they are here to stay. That said, nothing will replace direct contact and people will want to come together once again as soon as a satisfactory level of security is in place.
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