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Photo of Aigars: iccaworld.org

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.

Aigars Smiltans, MEET RĪGA

COVID-19 will be good material for case studies

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

I think, European governments did the right implementations and regulations. However, some Countries decided to go with a little bit different scenarios and it reflects on the results. Meanwhile in Latvia, the local Government decided to make strict rules and regulations, which are helping to keep slow a rise in infected persons.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

We can’t compare this situation to anything that happened before! The COVID-19 crisis will be good material for case studies on crisis management and economic impact studies.

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

The Meetings & Events Industry and the entire Travel industry are first in the line, which were affected by the spread of the virus. The government of Latvia managed to provide quick “first aid” solutions for various industries, which were instantly affected by the virus spread. There is a diverse complex of arrangements, for example, such as TAX holidays, money loan without interest rates, state compensation for employees and many other instruments.

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

Virtual meetings can substitute face-to-face meetings in some industries, as there is a wide range of solutions for virtual meetings. There are many industries and fields that still need live meetings.

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

We are working according to local acts and rules, which regulates work organisation in the current period. The first precaution was to organise work from home.

Q: When do you think the situation will go back to normal?

A “BACK TO NORMAL” situation will happen, when our Health Care professionals and pharma companies come up with a solution on how to handle a particular virus, and I hope it will happen soon. The current virus situation can be decreased. Things will go back to normal, when people start to behave and observe all restrictions and rules. So, it may be in the middle of May. It is still too early to be optimistic about large scale events, which are planned for the first half of this year.

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

Usually, two industries are badly affected by certain crises – travel and marketing. And this time, both industries received a bad hit! Digital marketing is more adaptive and elastic compare to traditional forms and will be the first back in line after the crisis.

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

The Meetings & Events industry is a very interpersonal business and we are working on various plans and simulations to re-start. We are also keeping in mind local needs of the meetings industry in Latvia.

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

Yes! Starting on a European level within the Strategic Alliance of the National Convention Bureaus of Europe and also on a regional level with our neighbouring countries.