In these challenging times, Kongres Magazine is trying its best to provide meeting planners with the most relevant and useful information regarding the spread of COVID-19. We also want to share opinions from key members of the meetings industry.

We asked key opinion makers from the meetings industry for their thoughts on the situation and how they are coping with COVID-19.

Gernot Marx, Salzburg Convention Bureau

a 4 billion corona fund has been established within just a few days.

Q: How do you feel about the restrictions that European governments have implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19?

The Austrian Government was one of the first to bring in restrictions to prevent the people from further harm.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

I think there is nothing to compare this situation to. You can’t compare it to second world war in terms of economic damage nor to the harm this virus does to the people worldwide. I have been workin in this industry during 9/11 and the past world economic cirsis, but it never hit us harder than this now.

Q: Economic consequences for the meetings industry have already started to show, what do you expect government institutions to do?

Again, Austria was one of the first countries that came up with solutions to keep companies’ financial liquidity up and ensure that as many employees keep their jobs as possible with short time work. At the moment a 4 billion corona fund has been established within just a few days to help.

Q: What is your opinion on virtual meetings, as an alternative to live events?

Working remotely from home and using elearning plattforms can help and support, but from a psychological perspective, it can never replace face to face meetings. I think this crisis will affect the thoughfulness and meaning why people should meet in person in the future. I think the “Why” will be in the center of decissions for meetings in the future.

Q: What precautions/measures are you taking in your company?

In order to stay out of any potential contact with people, we are working from home and ensured to be there for clients and suppliers. However, we do all meetings online and have a fantastic tech stack to work remotely.

Q: When do you think the situation will go back to normal? Are you optimistic about the summer Olympics?

If anyone can tell me that, I’d be very glad to hear it. At the moment we make decissions from one week to the other. Having said that, I am very confident that we will be able to start of again in May. However, it will take some more time for the markets to recover and bringt activities back to normal – at the moment we are very far away from normal.

To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the Olympic games in Japan. I want the people to stay healthy and I am not sure if the decission to keep the date by the IOC is purely focussed on this fact.

Q: Is digital marketing in times of crisis even sensible?

Our communication strategy very much pays off now. Having put this in place years ago and focussing on other parts than live communication on the markt makes it easier, but frankly speaking, people are confronted with other problems than marketing at the moment. So one has to be very sensitive about what they communicate now.

WHY will hopefully be the first question you ask yourself when organising an event

Q: What will happen after we’ve beaten the virus? How will you (re)start your marketing activities?

As you know, we are just postponing all activities or cancelling them at all. I think there is a risk of the markets beeing flooded with marketing events in late summer, autumn and beginning of winter. So I think this year will be everything but normal as the markets have already been oversaturated in the past with Forums, Workshops and trade shows. The good side will be, that we will be more mindful in organising marketing events and activities. Again, “the why” will hopefully be the first question you ask yourself when organising an event. I sometimes have the feeling, that some buyers / supplier formats take place because there is not sufficient decission power and knowledge. We already stepped back from participating everywhere and select marketing events very carefully, but our own communication strategy helps beeing a little more independent.

Q: Are you in contact with colleagues from around the world? Have you talked about any potential solutions?

We are in constant contact with colleagues all over Europe and the globe. Most have a positive attitude about handling this situation and we continue to embrace every opportunity to keep up this mindset.

How concerned are you about COVID-19?