Coronavirus and the Event Industry
The coronavirus that started its outbreak in the Chinese province of Hubei could not be contained to that region. Within a few weeks after the first reports there were victims in surrounding countries like Korea, Japan and Singapore. We now have outbreaks in Italy and Iran, and cases in Germany, France and in the Netherlands the first cases have been reported as well.
The virus will also have consequences for our business, the event industry. A first clear sign was when the Mobile World Congress 2020 in Barcelona was cancelled after a few major sponsors withdrew. An expected 100,000 participants would have attended of whom 6% would have been from China.
Other events had to take measures as well. The International Trade Mark Association had its Annual Meeting planned in Singapore at the end of April. That meeting is now rescheduled to take place in the USA, end of May or June. Around 10,000 participants were expected to join, so this change of plans has major consequences for airline and hotel bookings.
In the United States event planners are getting worried. Goldman Sachs cancelled its partner meetup after some Asian partners decided not to fly. Facebook rescheduled its Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco, a meeting that would have had 5000 visitors from all over the world.
It is predicted that European event organizers will be making similar choices. A week ago the assessment would have been: do we get many visitors from Far East destinations? From affected regions? But with corona patients appearing in Europe, the risks will have to be re-assessed as a domino effect is happening.
As a precaution the carnival in Venice was scaled down. Some fashion events at Fashion Week in Milan were altered. Giorgio Armani did present his new collection, but the audience was replaced by cameras and the show was webcasted via social media.
Health authorities in Spain, the US, Germany and The Netherlands assure us that the risks are understood. Medical professionals are prepared to prevent infection of larger groups, but companies and individuals participating in events have to make their own risk assessments.
These assessments might take into account that the number of new patients in China is currently decreasing. It seems the Chinese have managed to limit the outbreak and prevent the virus from spreading further within their country.
Chinese Economy slows down
The Corona virus has also slowed down the Chinese economy. Airfreight stayed at the airports and containers were left on the docks. Factories were closed down for a few weeks and production was delayed. Retailers all over the world are slowly feeling the impact of the virus on their business.
The worldwide fashion industry is depending on garments and buttons from China. Companies such as Calvin Klein and Nike depend for 25% on China for their products. Samsung and Sony manufacture in neighbouring countries, but they depend on China for vital components. The car industry has the same handicap. Components from China are delayed. In a lean industry a slowdown in supplies is felt immediately. That slowdown also shows in the supply of event merchandise. Your provider of bags, badges and writing tools might already experience shortages.
What to do?
Adding paper tissues and hand sanitizers to your goodie-bag is an obvious suggestion. Place extra signs to remind attendees to wash their hands and how to wash hands properly. Make sure essential health precautions are taken at your event location, such as increased cleaning and disinfection of the venues common spaces.
The best advice to event professionals would be to make a proper risk assessment that is updated frequently. Discuss developments with suppliers and ask to be informed when new knowledge surfaces. Maybe even consider making your meeting a hybrid event, with recordings distributed via social media and your website. That is what Giorgio Armani decided to do: the show must go on!