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Industry Briefs
BE CAUTIOUS BUT DON’T PANIC
BY SOLOMON J. HERBERT



At Black Meetings & Tourism, the safety and well being of our publishing team, our audience of meeting planners, association executives, travel agents and other industry colleagues is our top priority.   So we will continue to take every precaution to reduce the risk of contracting and limit our exposure to this highly contagious Corona Virus.   We will aggressively use our various media platforms to share helpful information with our industry about this rapidly changing COVID-19 environment that is causing so much chaos in the meetings/tourism arena.

 

But we must also keep in mind that how we collectively respond to this crisis will impact this industry that we all love and depend on for generations to come.  This is not the time for panic.   Nor is it the time for irrational and illogical decisions based on fear and misinformation.   Keep in mind that this current situation surrounding the Corona Virus is only temporary.   But the impact of the decisions we make will last much longer.   Perhaps permanently for small travel/hospitality-related businesses like independent meeting planners, travel agents, transportation companies and others who service the meetings industry that may not be able to survive a complete shutdown.

 

Some conferences have already been cancelled, and with the recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention advising that for the next eight weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the U.S. this number will certainly grow.  For those smaller meetings that will be held as scheduled, planners need to take extra precautions to safeguard their attendees.   There are protocols and procedures that can be put in place to ensure increased protection against coming in contact with or transmitting the virus amongst delegates.   Simple measures like providing hand sanitizer kiosks throughout the facility, and placing signage in meeting rooms and public areas alerting delegates to practice social distancing, replace handshakes and hugs with elbow bumps and the need to wash hands often. And eliminate buffet-style meal functions altogether in favor of plated meals served by catering staff are just a few possibilities.  

 

But for the vast majority of meetings, conferences and conventions that will be put on hold, we must all work together to limit the economic damages incurred.  First and foremost, wherever and whenever possible, events should be postponed and rescheduled, not cancelled.   Secondly, hotels, resorts, convention centers and other meeting venues need to follow the example of industry leaders like Marriott and Hilton that are allowing changes or cancellation without a charge or penalty.  Deposits made for meetings that must be rescheduled should be applied to the new dates and not just forfeited.  

 

And finally, as you well know, meeting planners typically plan their events 2-3 years or more in advance.  So any marketing efforts made now (or not made now) will surly impact the bottom line in 2022-2023 and beyond.   So while there may be a need for destinations, hotels, cruise lines, airlines and other industry suppliers to retool their marketing message to take into account the current climate of fear permeating our industry, to cancel all marketing efforts until the crisis has passed, in my opinion is short-sighted, and may not be the best course of action to take.

 

If we work together and cooperate we can minimize the negative economic impact of COVID-19 and lessen the time needed for recovery.  If we don’t, once this pandemic is behind us, our industry my take years to come back, instead of only weeks or months.   If anything, marketing efforts should be intensified during this time of uncertainty to guarantee growth and quick recovery as we move forward into the future.

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