Over the past several days and weeks, we have been approached by numerous clients and partners, asking for counsel related to recommended courses of action in light of today’s quickly-changing landscape due to the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. These decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis by each of our customers and should be based on the most current information from expert resources to assist them in making the most informed decisions regarding their event. One outstanding resource has been the Events Industry Council (EIC) who recently put out a statement commenting that it is making “informed decisions about our meetings based on sound information and guidance provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As always, health, safety and security are the top priorities”.
Several resources listed by the EIC that our customers and partners might find useful include:
- A live-tracker of the spread of the disease from Johns Hopkins University.
- The latest updates from the WHO on the virus.
- WHO’s recommendations for the public to reduce exposure.
- The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations for traveling.
- WHO’s event planning guide with recommendations for those planning large events.
- A Joint Statement on Tourism and COVID-19 – UNWTO and WHO Call for Responsibility and Coordination.
- WHO’s rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
- The CDC’s interim guidance for planning mass gatherings or large community events.
Additionally, the PCMA has issued these suggestions regarding communications plans for event organizers. https://www.pcma.org/covid-19-coronavirus-event-marketing-during-crisis/
And this article speaks to some general best practices employers can follow: Coronavirus: The Business Management Angle
Along with our fellow industry executives, we are closely monitoring the situation and working with our clients and partners to assist them in managing the planning and communication strategies surrounding their upcoming events. As they evaluate the latest expert information along with federal, state, and local government guidance applicable for the location where their event will be held, we encourage our customers to consider the following:
- Our customers should consult with their legal teams to review their cancellation insurance policy on whether communicable diseases are covered, or if there is wording such as “commercially impracticable” included. They also should review for any exclusions in fine print. If they are even possibly considering cancelling they need to notify their insurance provider in writing with the “notice of possible claim”. If they do not then the provider could choose to decline their claim later due to not receiving timely notice.
- We also encourage our customers to reach out to their hotel, conference or convention center or other venue to get a statement of what policies the venue is putting forth to help mitigate the spread of the virus. In addition, they should consult with their hotel or venue on cancellation, postponement or negotiation of reduction of minimums/attritions.
- We also advise our clients to consider the following factors when making a decision about their event:
- Set a “go/no-go date” for final decision on whether the event will be held.
- Consider the impact of a reduction in attendance – What number of cancelled attendees and/or exhibitors and speakers would make it impractical for them to continue to host their event? Only they can decide what % would be too much to bear.
- For expos, the shipping materials dates should be factored when considering cancelling or postponing.
- Review all vendor contracts and compile what costs would be incurred if they cancelled.
- Consider their event insurance to ensure that they would be covered if someone were to contract the virus at their event. This may be covered under General Liability Insurance, however they should doublecheck. Also consider if someone were to become infected with COVID-19 while at their event, what are the implications of a possible lawsuit and also the potential for negative public reaction on social media or in the news. Is the potential damage to your brand and reputation worth the risk? Each customer must make this decision for themselves.
Hopefully, the above considerations are helpful as you weigh a decision about the status of your event. We encourage everyone to continue staying on top of the latest information. We will continue to provide updated information as we receive it and we are here to successfully execute any required logistical details you need once you have made your decision.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/
National Institutes of Health: https://www.nih.gov/
Events Industry Council: https://www.eventscouncil.org/Industry-Insights/About-coronavirus