In this post: indoor events face the biggest challenges and will be one of the last to recovery. This is impacting downtown convention and conference centers and downtown hotels. Virtual conferences using meeting apps have filled the void. Regional trade shows will return more quickly as participants can drive versus fly. Challenges within the travel industry occur as long as coronavirus cases increase.
The volume of webinars on meetings, conventions and conferences are endless. Everyone is trying to forecast “when” but too many variables are known for venues with closed air circulation. The hardest hit will be convention and conference centers, many situated in downtown locations. In recent years, many convention districts have flourished with new restaurants, sweet treats shops, craft breweries, music venues, galleries and studios, and stores. Adaptive reuse of wonderful old buildings have enticed a new generation of city dwellers. We can’t be certain what came first the convention center or the businesses but we do know their existence brought synergy to the streets, customers and money into small business’ bank accounts … until the pandemic hit.
With ample lead time to plan, virtual conferences have now flourished, especially those that provide the ability for participants to network. Whova is just one meeting app, among many.
Regional industry trade shows have a greater chance to thrive than national ones simply because driving is the better option than flying at the moment. Some airlines have allowed for an empty middle seat, while others are seating passengers three across. Unfortunately, the most trying airline altercations are being posted on social media and deter bookings. Many airports took the down time to install equipment and put safety measures in place to help assure travelers could be confident when departing and arriving.
One possible hardship is being created by travel trade organizations putting tourism destination staff (CVB and DMO) in a precarious position. In a perfect world, they’d all like to get back on the road, attend appointment shows, meet with potential clients and serve as a catalyst for tourism. However, a number of people don’t feel comfortable themselves traveling, let alone suggesting others should do the same. Unfortunately staff isn’t in a position to stay at home or broach the subject about their tourism tax dollar supported jobs with their boss. A recent trade event held in Florida didn’t follow CDC guidelines and put participants at risk according to one attendee. Applause to the Virginia Tourism Corporation. They cancelled their annual November VA1 Tourism Summit and moved to a webinar format.
It’s been interesting to watch the research questions related to conventions. From mid-March until now, data has continued to be collected on meetings. Responses reflected attitudes tied to the stay-at-home orders, safety measures and cleaning practices put in place, and changes that occur with rising COVID cases. Below is Destination Analysts’ graph with responses to this question: I will be unlikely to attend any conferences or conventions until the coronavirus situation is resolved.
*DestinationAnalysts – October 20, 2020, Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report.
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To learn more about event and festival management, check out “Secrets to Successful Events: How to Organize, Promote and Manage Exceptional Events and Festivals.” For those with event planning experience, consider, “Secrets to Successful Events Resource Guide: 42+ Easy-to-Use Tools and Resources.” Both are written by internationally known author and speaker Lynn Fuhler and are available on Amazon and at major booksellers.
To obtain a copy of The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide, click here.