As I sit in my office this morning the corona virus hysteria has hit fever-pitch. I see it on all channels: news, web, emails, Linkedin, Facebook, WhatsApp, phone calls and text messages. In my 20 years in the industry I’ve never experienced such a phenomenon. It is all consuming and the global travel industry truly is in a period of disarray right now.

So what happens next? How do we as an industry get through this? I definitely don’t have the answer to that but I believe there are some actions we can take collectively that hopefully will restore some sanity and reduce the levels of panic we are currently witnessing. But first I’d like to establish some facts and face up to the reality of the situation:

  • 1. The damage is done. If your region/sector hasn’t been affected yet, it is highly likely that in the coming weeks and possibly months it most probably will be in some form or another. It is highly unlikely that any country, city or industry will not be affected by the fallout from the virus.
  • 2. Corporate clients and event planners have no choice but to exercise caution and a duty of care, therefore any decisions relating to travel or large-scale events will be handled with the utmost conservatism.
  • 3. The situation is temporary. The virus will not last forever. A vaccination will eventually be found and/or the spread will be contained eventually. The unknown at this stage is how long that will take or when it will be: it could be a few weeks or months.

As an industry, we should be doing everything in our power to convince and assist clients not to cancel travel incentives, meetings and events. Instead, encourage a wait-and-see attitude, work with suppliers and partners to honour deposits paid for use on future dates, check future availability and work on moving programmes and events to 6 or 9 months from now. Help gain commitment for future dates.

My message to the MICE industry – whether you are the hotel, supplier, event planner, end client or the DMC providing the programme – is to communicate with your clients. Sell the benefits of travelling at a later stage, focus on the positives, offer more time to plan and more time to research and make programmes better. Why not highlight the fact that buyers will soon have tremendous buying power if they are willing to commit to future operations? Discounts will be found everywhere instead of incurring cancellations fees that in reality are a lose-lose situation.

Our mindset should be one of how do we make our programmes happen, rather than just accepting cancellations, never to be seen again.