The Hard Truth about the Events and Conference Industry after Covid-19

As venues and restaurants start to reopen in Chicagoland and other parts of the country, Americans are beginning to see a  glimmer of hope. Speakers, hosts, and entertainers are looking forward to paid engagements while citizens that have been confined to their homes for months can’t wait to attend concerts, conferences, and social events again. After speaking to a friend in the events and entertainment industry, however, I begin to question the optimism of those looking forward to the return of the events and entertainment industry.

According to a survey conducted by Schaefer Marketing Solutions, 40% of respondents expect small events (gatherings of 100 people or less) to return by the end of 2020. However, larger events such as conferences and concerts are expected to return by Q1 and Q2 of 2021.

Many think that once we have a vaccine and people are less likely to contract coronavirus or die from complications, things will return to normal. New York Times contributor Stuart A. Thompson reported that the average vaccine takes 36 years to develop, and says that a vaccine isn’t as close as people think. Thompson also referenced how an H.I.V. vaccine still has yet to be developed after 40 years of research. However, there have been breakthroughs in medication and treatments that improve the quality of life of those living with H.I.V; but how many are willing to contract a disease known to be deadly? With Covid-19 passing from one carrier to another much easier than other viruses, people may be less likely to flock to events and conferences, even if the virus can be somewhat controlled. There’s still much to learn about coronavirus, but we do know that it attacks the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and creates strange new illnesses in children. 

Corporations Are Backing Out

Many corporations who sponsor events and send their employees to conferences are backing out. My friend in the hospitality industry told me that her organization has been losing $500,000 a day due to canceled events well into 2021. 

Organizations impacted by Covid-19 no longer have the budgets to spend on nonessential business activities. And with so much uncertainty due to travel restrictions and regulations, even corporations in the green aren’t thinking about business travel and events.

With Zoom meetings and Facebook watch parties becoming the new normal, people are more comfortable with virtual events and familiarizing themselves with the technology. This will make it more challenging for the hospitality industry to reinject the excitement and sentiment they drive people to large social gatherings. 

Additionally, the hospitality industry depends on travel and leisure. With many travel bands still in place, limited flights, and people less inclined to travel for nonessential reasons, event planners, speakers, and entertainers have huge hurdles to overcome. 

Hope for Hospitality

Amid all the uncertainty, there’s still much to hope for and look forward to. Not only will the hospitality industry have support from the government — as it is an industry we can’t allow to fail — there will also be support from the media, which can help with the sentiment of consumers.

This pandemic will also force new ideas to emerge. Just as the music industry had to adjust to the digitization of music, brands will have to get creative and find new ways to generate revenue until a vaccine can be secured. 

With so much urgency to quickly find a vaccination, dozens of companies including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are working hard to find a solution. Bill Gates himself said in his Notes that it can take as little as 9 months or as long as two years to develop a vaccine. So a vaccine can be a reality very soon!

Youth-oriented events and conferences are more likely to come back fast, as younger generations are more eager to return to live events and less worried about death. 

With all this being said, we still have to wait for things to play out. The hard truth is that it can take two or more years for the events and entertainment industry to return to “normal”. But when it does return, it’s for sure to come back better than ever!

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