It’s the question any summer road-tripper dreads to hear. Frustration levels increase exponentially in the front in accordance with the frequency with which it is asked from the back. I must be honest I’ve been asking the same question over the last few months when reflecting on the MICE industry, and I’ve been getting the same sense of growing frustration and exasperation. I think you can agree that even the most pessimistic of us all thought we would have been much further down the road to recovery by now. I’m guessing the answer to the question for us in the industry is just the same most drivers give their passengers: “not long now”, “in a little while” or “just round the next corner”.
Meanwhile, our industry is hemorrhaging and doesn’t have the luxury of time to sit back, enjoy the scenery and wait for our time to come. We need to make a call to action now, we to look at the indisputable facts and use them to reframe the current narrative. We need to get the map out, plan the final leg of the journey to ensure we reach our final destination of ‘back to business’ and back to normal as soon as we can. Let’s not allow ourselves to fall asleep at the wheel or be a helpless passenger careering down the highway to nowhereville.
“That’s all very well”, I hear you say, “but how? How can we as MICE industry professionals and suppliers turn the tide of the impact of this terrible pandemic and begin to rebuild our livelihoods?”
Well in order to do so, we need to consider the following significant realities and apply them in our marketing and correspondence to reinvigorate the market. Our role as MICE professionals is now more about engendering trust and confidence than anything else. We need concrete solutions and answers to address our clients’ insecurities and concerns. And here’s some good news: in reality we already have most of those. So, what are we waiting for?
We know that the pivot to virtual is not sustainable, virtual meetings and events cannot replace the real thing. There is a huge pent up demand from all quarters to meet in person again as soon as possible. Many are dreaming of walking down the aisle as soon as possible and hearing those immortal words, “This is your captain speaking”.
The protocols needed are in place. Every day, more suppliers, venues, hotels, governments, airports, shops restaurants, museums and bars are re-opening globally with a full set of safety protocols in place. At euromic our members are applying a best practice set of protocols to guarantee that programmes, events, incentives and meetings delivered by them will be conducted safely and in accordance with global requirements.
What was ‘the great unknown’ has now become ‘the known’: we are now crystal clear on what needs to be done to protect ourselves and others from spreading the virus and to keep us all safe. In fact it’s quite simple: constant cleaning, wearing masks, washing hands and ensuring there is enough space between everyone. This we can and are already doing.
Meanwhile, medical technology is improving daily. Even the most conservative estimates predict effective vaccines will be available en masse in 6 to 7 months’ time. Faster and improved testing technology is improving daily too, so it won’t be long before self-testing kits that indicate the presence of the virus within minutes will be available. In fact, self-testing kits that identify the antibodies within 10 minutes already exist. Medical developments like this will significantly impact the way we control access to airports, cruise ships, hotels and events. More importantly still, they will stimulate an immediate response in a willingness to travel.
Contracting, deposit flexibility and COVID cancellation policies are all in place. Supplier terms and conditions are most probably the most generous they have ever been, which means there is no doubt it is a buyer’s market with plenty of deals to be had for the early birds.
The way I see it, we have two choices. Sit back and wait to see what happens OR kick-start the change. I believe it is OK to start planning again, it is OK to begin working on 2021 now, and I predict that Q3 & Q4 of 2021 are going to be a seller’s market with significant capacity constraints - so get in early.
Or we could just irritate everyone by constantly asking, “Are we there yet?”