Let us take a look at the positive impacts of the pandemic on the business events industry and our lives (as no one wants any more bad news).
According to Worldometers at the time of writing, Malaysia has re¬corded 8,663 COVID-19 cases, out of which 97.7% have recovered with a low 0.01% death rate (interpreted as 4 people per 1 million of our population). Although the rest of the world’s actual number of cases and deaths cannot be determined due to many untest¬ed, unconfirmed, or unaccounted-for mild and asymptomatic cases, the numbers seem to be escalating.
Within a couple of months into the coro¬navirus global pandemic, the World Economic Forum reported that the USD$1.5 trillion global business events industry postponed, made virtual, or entirely cancelled most trade shows and cultural and sporting events across the world. International tourists, worth US$1.6 trillion annually, are predicted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to cause a US$1.2 trillion loss in 2020. According to the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers, the business events industry in Malaysia has suffered a total loss of RM1.5 billion from cancellations and postpone¬ments.
When will business events return and how will they look like? If there is one topic that most meeting and event planners and organisers talk about today, it is about the virtual experience. COVID-19 has not only changed our way of life, it has hastened the arrival of a new, radical future of work. We are such social animals, we have to engage in social events in one way or another!
Digital Content Industry
The 2.5 billion people who have been at home under full or par¬tial lockdown have triggered a global cultural revolution in working from home. Deemed as essential employees, people who work from home are relieved of expenses on fuel and can enjoy the utmost freedom from daily commutes. Whether it be serving clients through digital channels or leveraging artificial intelligence, algorithms, and automation to ensure business continuity—we have embraced the new normal. Our inboxes are packed with invites to free webinars and content-rich virtual events, and our audiences appreciate the easy access.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has out¬lined the health and safety measures for mass gatherings, taking into consideration the risk fac¬tors associated with a particular gathering/event and the ability to reduce risk with control measures. New practices for organisers in conducting live events include liaising with hotels, venues, and event vendors to ensure verifiable sanitation pro-cedures, reducing attendee counts, regulating the entry and exit flow of crowds, maintaining physical distancing between par¬ticipants, requiring the use of face masks for attendees, performing temperature checks, having medical personnel on duty, holding events at outdoor venues rather than indoors, and eliminating buf¬fets to serve plated or boxed meals instead.
Most events are still moving forward in 2021. For cancelled events, however, attendees are being compensated with incentive offerings such as gifts, cash rewards, or trips in the future.
It is heartening to see the optimism within the events and hos¬pitality industry about the prospects of returning and conducting live events this year, and fortunately, our government has eased restric¬tions on public gatherings. However, it cannot be denied that the coronavirus has dramatically changed our lives and shifted the landscape for the business events industry. As lockdown restrictions ease and countries across the globe lift their borders, the WHO warned us to stay alert for a possible resur¬gence of COVID-19 infections, adding that the biggest threat now is complacency.
Senior Teaching Fellow
School of Hospitality
Originally published in July 2020