Barbara Hunt Vodopivec

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.

BARBARA HUNT VODOPIVEC, Head of MICE Department at Kompas Meet

A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE

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

The restrictions came with a reason and we are all obliged to follow them whether we agree with them or not. We are all working from home, we try to do our best and look forward to the end of this unusual situation.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

I could never have imagined this kind of situation could happen. I do not know what to compare it with. Maybe the Slovenian independence war in 1991, but I was not working yet at the time and it seemed like a very short-term situation to me then. While now it is difficult to predict when we will become fully operational again and this uncertainty is frightening, especially for our industry.

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

At the moment they need to help with the workforce first and later on with bigger and more concentrated marketing campaigns (digital promotion, presence at events with higher visibility, more organized events to meet potential clients, bigger support for organizing fam trips at the destination etc). Our industry has come to a complete standstill and there is nothing we can do about it. It will take time for people to travel again and companies to organize trips and events for their employees abroad. This does not mean anything good for us. But we can rethink our strategy and prepare new high-quality products for the future.

you cannot experience the smells, taste nor the human touch via the internet

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

Virtual meetings can work for reflection, training, the sharing of knowledge and opinions, but cannot replace a meeting in another country which was more or less also organized as an incentive trip to explore a new destination.

I cannot yet imagine that an international conference would be organized online. Even if it involved a presentation of a destination. This might still come one day, but I hope not in my lifetime. Just think of the excitement of exploring a new culture, its gastronomy, its people. You cannot experience the smells, taste nor the human touch via the internet. And this is what keeps us going during these difficult times. To get all that back. Very soon.

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

Some measures have been taken already and some people have been temporarily laid off for a few months. I think it can happen again in a week or two, but it all depends on the general situation with the virus and how quickly the industry starts getting active again. I sincerely hope that we will be fully operational again very soon.

Q: What are your expectations regarding the duration of the crisis and when will the situation go back to normal?

I sincerely hope it will not last long, but I think we will stay in quarantine until the end of April. Hopefully, we can get some of our life back at the beginning of May. But I do not expect groups of tourists to come back to the destination before August or September. The event industry is even more specific than the rest of tourism. Companies, our final clients, might take more time to decide to let their employees travel again.

Q: Is marketing (digital marketing) in the duration of the pandemic sensible (and appropriate)?

I think it is sensible but in moderation. After the first reaction to the virus that caused fear and anxiety, I think we are ready to think again and look into the future with a positive attitude. We are already looking for options regarding how to use our time and how to plan for the future. For a DMC that would mean how to approach our clients, how to inform and educate them about our destinations. And I think they will be looking to learn and to connect as well.

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

This is what we need to think about now. Once the situation improves, people will want to travel again. They will be looking for creative ideas and they will want them immediately. So, we can use this time now to prepare materials that will make our life easier later on when we are back in business.

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

I am looking for updates and new ideas regularly in the daily news, social media and newsletters. Based on that I am trying to evaluate the situation in different countries where our clients are coming from and reach out to them to review the current situation and future prospects.