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.
Sigurjóna Sverrisdóttir, Reykjavík Convention Bureau
Virtual meetings are an excellent way to bring people closer
Q: How do you feel about the restrictions that European governments have implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19?
I do think European governments are doing what they feel is best to contain the COVID-19. I think they are following the advice of experts and healthcare providers, and it is essential that we all do our part and follow their rules and recommendation during this time of great uncertainty.
Q: What would you compare this situation to?
I guess you could compare this to the Financial Crisis of 2008 or the Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. That was also times of great uncertainty. Fortunately, we managed to bounce back from these events relatively quickly. I feel confident, like we did in 2008 and 2010, that by supporting each other, we’ll emerge from this stronger than before.
Q: Economic consequences for the meetings industry have already started to show, what do you expect government institutions to do?
The Icelandic Government, like most others in Europe, have already taken measures to protect our economy from the negative impact of COVID-19. They have laid out an action plan that will assist (many) companies in the industry, although it is very hard to say at this point if these actions are enough. It depends on how long this crisis will last on a worldwide basis.
Overall I am quite content to see how the Government has reacted; they have been transparent and proactive from the get-go. They have demonstrated their commitment to the Tourism industry here in Iceland and their understanding of the problematic situation that we in the meetings industry are facing. I do expect the Government to stay in our corner. To do what is necessary both to protect the companies and the high level of knowledge and skills we have built up here over the years in the meetings industry.
Q: What is your opinion on virtual meetings, as an alternative to live events?
Virtual meetings are an excellent way to bring people closer. They give people who work together remotely the opportunity to meet regularly; they save time, money, and I don’t think I can say anything negative about virtual meetings. We at Meet in Reykjavík use them quite frequently. However, virtual meetings will never replace personal interaction. What business events are all about is the engagement and physical interaction between all the delegates. That is what companies and associations are looking for when they host an event.
Q: What precautions/measures are you taking in your company?
We follow the recommendations of the Icelandic authorities regarding the COVID-19. All our staff members have the opportunity to work from home if they choose to. We have changed the layout at the office so that it easy for everyone to keep two meters distance at all times during work hours. We are not hosting any meetings at the office, and we have hand sanitizers on every desk.
Q: When do you think the situation will go back to normal? Are you optimistic about the summer Olympics?
I’m optimistic that we’ll be on the low end of the curve in June. It’s going to take us longer to deal with the economic fallout of the crisis. It is hard to say when we’ll be “back to normal.” Hopefully, it won’t be too long. I don’t know about the Olympics, though. It would be lovely to have them this year. We could use the uplifting they bring.
It is essential to be visible and proactive, and digital media are great tools to accomplish that
Q: Is digital marketing in times of crisis even sensible?
We are not doing our standard digital marketing campaigns to promote the destination and our partners at the moment. This kind of situation changes the customer journey, and it’s not a very good usage of your budget to publish the same messages as before. We are, however, using social media, newsletters, and Google to get information to our clients, partners, media, and other stakeholders in the industry. For a company like ours, it is essential to be visible and proactive, and digital media are great tools to accomplish that.