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.
ALIJANA VUKŠIĆ, Managing Director of Tourist Board Split
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Q: How do you feel about the restrictions that European governments have implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19?
All measures and restrictions at the EU level, as well as the Croatian Government and the National Headquarters of the Civil Protection, which have been implemented so far, are considered necessary and unavoidable to limit the spread of the pandemic. We estimate that in Croatia the response was timely and everything that has been done so far has given good results. The most important thing for us now is protecting the health and life of our employees and citizens. However, since we are working in the tourism sector, restrictions have reflected on tourism developments and therefore on total tourism revenues, but the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the City of Split have already adopted measures to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 epidemic, with the aim of preserving jobs, and we believe that additional help will also come from the EU.
Q: What would you compare this situation to?
In Croatia we compare the current situation with the Homeland War which happened 30 years ago and whose memories and losses we still feel. The limitations are similar, but we believe that additional measures will result in a significantly shorter duration of the situation and a much smaller number of human lives and material losses.
Q: Economic consequences for the meetings industry have already started to show, what do you expect government institutions to do?
The economic consequences are already visible, but we believe in timely decisions made by the EU and Croatian governments. We expect some tax relief and subsidies for tourism professionals from the state, short-term liquidity loans and deferred repayment of commitments already made. The tourist board system will be prevented from functioning normally because our only revenue is the tourist membership fee and a tourist tax. The payment of these obligations has now, by a decision of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, been further exempted from all business entities, leaving tourist boards without income. We believe that the Government of the Republic of Croatia will help the CNTB system at all levels to resume normal operation.
VIRTUAL MEETINGS ARE IMPORTANT FOR DECISION-MAKERS TO ACT IN A FAST AND SECURE WAY
Q: What is your opinion on virtual meetings, as an alternative to live events?
I think virtual meetings are important to stay in touch with partners and to increase the productivity. In the current crisis virtual meetings are important for decision-makers to discuss important measures and make decisions in a fast and secure way.
Q: What precautions/measures are you taking in your company?
At our company, we have made an immediate reorganization of work related to the termination of work with clients, but we still continue to provide all activities and information by e-mail and telephone, with the emphasis on news related to new measures caused by the coronavirus, which have a direct impact on our members and tourists. With regard to the prohibition on organizing events, this sector of labour is undergoing major changes, but we are in intense deliberations and plans for action after the cessation of measures and the calming of the crisis.
Q: What are your expectations regarding the duration of the crisis and when will the situation go back to normal?
It’s hard to predict anything at this point. I think that the expectations/opinion of the profession regarding the duration of the crisis are more important and going back to normal will be demanding and time-consuming.
Q: Is marketing (digital marketing) in the duration of the pandemic sensible (and appropriate)?
Digital marketing is a very useful tool under normal conditions, but during the pandemic we use it primarily to inform tourists and members. Concerning all marketing activities and advertising, at level of the Republic of Croatia all activities have been suspended and in cooperation with the Head Office of the Croatian National Tourist Board, we will keep track of market movement and create campaigns.
Q: What will happen after we’ve beaten the virus? How will you (re)start your marketing activities?
We are actively monitoring the situation and in agreement with experts we hope to launch our marketing activities at all levels soon. The problem will be securing the funds, but we believe in the help of the Government and also in good cooperation with the Head Office and the creativity of our tourism staff and marketing experts. Split is a city whose beauty of cultural and natural heritage has been enjoyed by millions of tourists, and we are sure when you have a quality product, returning to the market will not be a problem.
Q: Are you in contact with colleagues from around the world? Have you talked about any potential solutions?
We are in contact with colleagues around the world, directors of all CNTB representative offices and are looking for possible solutions. At this point, it is premature to talk about any concrete steps.