Many of the European countries are already prepared, in all respects and with all the rules of hygiene and safety, to organize events again. In some countries like Austria, from September onwards, events can be organized with large numbers of participants, both indoors (5 000 people) and outdoors (10 000 people).
We, the supply-side of the market, have been announcing for weeks now that we are ready to start again with face-to-face events. However, events that were still taking place after September and until late 2020 have been cancelled or turned fully virtual recently.
I must say that, in these cases, we should think a little about the negative impact that these decisions have on a large number of partners in the destinations, which suddenly leaves them with a “handful of flies” from one day to the other.
Since the positive impact generated by the event organizers (corporations, associations, etc.) is so much vaunted, one should also think about minimizing the negative impact of those decisions made.
Considering the disastrous economic consequences that the lockdown has generated, and seeing that we are all still “frozen”, waiting for a vaccine – which for obvious reasons cannot be developed in a couple of days – I wonder if the lockdown served any purpose after all.
The number of deaths caused by Covid-19 is not small, and one can only hypothesize how many more would have been without the lockdown. However, this is just a hypothesis.
At the end of the day, if everything depended on a vaccine that will give us the kick-off, why have we spent weeks and months figuring out how to proceed, how to pivot our organisation to “contactless” virtual events as the only way possible? We have participated to an endless amount of partly boring how-to-do-now webinars about turning to virtual – while craving for live meetings to come back –, investing on social distancing, masks, disinfecting gels … all for nothing? People still do not travel and do not risk meeting face to face.
I guess once we all are vaccinated we will go back to that “old normal” that we all seem to be looking forward to, and everything we have worked out during the lockdown will be obsolete. Moreover, to think that we have racked our brains and transformed our work environment for nothing gives me personally a sense of time wasted. And I think this must also be the case for a whole lot of others involved in the events sector like venues, hotels, transportation companies, catering companies, etc. who had to find ways to perform differently while waiting for a vaccine to arrive. Do we all need to freeze until mid of 2021 when the vaccine will hopefully be available?
Had I known, I would have hibernated like a bear in March and poked my head out (and my arm if necessary, for the vaccine) again in December.
James Lancaster makes this clear in his last post in AMI magazine: “With thousands of event industry jobs on the line, the eagerness to ‘reopen’ is understandable, and for domestic meetings, this might be possible with social distancing measures and rigorous health and safety protocols. But if you really believe in the value of in-person international meetings and want them to be a fixture of daily life sooner rather than later, then the priority right now must be the determined squashing of the disease.”
In view of the situation in some countries and their respective infection outbreaks, it will be difficult to get anyone to leave their country and go abroad to participate in an event. Before, the claim was “stay at home” and now it is “stay in your country” or “staycation”.
Let us hope the blessed vaccine arrives soon and with it the thaw.