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.

Eric Bakermans, Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions

keep a low profile and work on future scenario’s to be prepared

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

It seems that European countries have imposed different restrictions; each understandable. From total lockdown to somewhat less restrictive, but all with one common goal: to prevent further spread of the virus and to lower the impact on healthcare and healthcare professionals.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

This situation is unprecedented in our time.

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

Many European countries have taken initiatives to support the economy and therefore also the business events communities.

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

In these times I’m happy that we at least we have the possibility to get in touch via virtual meetings. It is a perfect way to keep each other informed and to keep normal business operation continue where possible. In general, and beyond the extraordinary times we live in now, a virtual meeting cannot replace a live event. It depends on the nature of the event, the number of participants or delegates. For example; a regular EU summit takes days and sometimes go on the entire night. The most recent virtual EU summit took a couple of hours, without actually coming to an agreement and lots of open ends, dissatisfaction and irritation. Why? Leadership cannot look each other in the eye, cannot see small gestures or withdraw a short moment to have a quick ‘entre-nous’ or behind-the-scenes-chat.

So in short; Virtual meetings are not an alternative to live meetings and vice versa, they serve a different purpose.

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

We follow the rules and regulation as imposed by our government. Where possible we work from home and practice social distancing.

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

I can only hope that the situation will return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. Predictions are very hard to make. We all need to live and adhere to rules and regulations to contain the spread at this time.

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

Unless it serves a purpose to the current situation to does, otherwise keep a low profile and work on future scenario’s to be prepared.

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

We’re working on different scenarios for the future; short (June), mid (september) and long term. (December) and how to address our target audience with respect for what is happening around the world as well as our own stakeholders who are confronted with an extreme situation to their businesses.

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

Yes, we are working on an impact study within the Strategic Alliance of the national convention bureaux of Europe. ICCA has organized 2 webinars already and I’m sure there’s more to follow. Solutions are not in sight yet, so we must stick to containment at this time and make plans for the future.