The coronavirus pandemic has been revoked, but it would be naive to think everything will simply fall back into place like it never happened. Many industries will keep feeling the effects for some time and one of the most affected is surely the meetings industry. A group of industry experts formed an initiative committee to share their thoughts and concerns with the government and try to persuade the competent authorities to help keep the meetings industry on its feet.
We asked members of the initiative committee for the preservation of the Slovenian meetings industry for their thoughts on the current situation, post-COVID-19 times and governmental help.
JANEZ LEVEC, Managing Director at Proevent
Q: What is your official position on the measures taken so far by the Slovenian Government to help the Slovenian meetings industry?
Broadly speaking, not only looking at the meetings industry, the Slovenian government made very good decisions in the first phase and adopted correct measures, which is reflected in the favourable epidemiological picture today. The meetings industry was severely affected, as were most industries or activities, dependent on the attendance or participation of individual groups. There were practically no concrete measures, except for salary subsidies – I do not see the release of individual restrictions as aid measures, but as an approximation to normal working conditions. We are facing the most important and demanding period for the entire meetings industry, as its representatives will not survive the autumn with limited operations. Society indubitably needs fairs, congresses, festivals, concerts and other mass events, so I hope that the Slovenian government will help interested organizations with subsidies and enable them to actively participate in these events and thus help maintain the meetings industry.
Q: What will be the revenue drop in your company compared to 2019? How many events did you have to postpone or cancel?
It is difficult to talk about the loss of revenue in our company, as it will be felt for a long time. Most events are organized 8-10 months in advance and more accurate estimates of the consequences of the pandemic will be possible only towards the end of 2020.
We have postponed two events, namely Collecta – the International Collector’s Fair and the Logistics Congress, which will be held in the fall. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, we cancelled the traditional summer edition of the Ljubljana Wine Route, so we are looking forward to the autumn edition – Martinovanje.
Q: The government is slowly releasing restrictions. Do you think the situation in this area is slowly normalizing itself?
The situation is slowly normalizing, but the day will come when there will still be a lot of ambiguity, fear and no clear picture and predictions for the future in our sector. There is high interest from exhibitors, and we all look to the future as optimistically as possible, but somehow trust is what collapsed in the past months and it will consequentially take some time to re-establish. We all want an even better future than the past and this will happen if we stand together and pave the way, which will, therefore, be easier for everyone.
Q: What does the current situation mean for event planning? What would make your business much easier in this regard?
Organizing events at this time is still very difficult due to all the ambiguity. Within our Proevent team we are preparing for events in the fall and putting together guidelines, but how it will all look in the future is still a matter of guesswork. From a professional point of view, it is a fact that events, where thousands of people are present, cannot be staged overnight. Many people are not aware that it takes many months of hard work and effort to organize a fair, festival or congress. All our events are based on professionalism from design to execution, and our main concern is the well-being and connection of visitors of all generations. Clear guidelines from the government for the coming autumn would certainly help facilitate the planning process.
SOCIALIZING WITHOUT EYE CONTACT IS UNIMAGINABLE AND IRREPLACEABLE
Q: During the crisis, we found that events could also be organized remotely. What is your position on this?
Proevent and our events have a clear message: we bring people together! We stand firmly behind this and believe in our words, so we do not make use of online events. Genuine personal contact is a basic human need. In these months we postponed two events and cancelled one. However, we were extremely surprised and received a confirmation that we are doing well, as we were daily contacted by exhibitors and visitors with questions about when we will meet again. Socializing without eye contact is unimaginable and irreplaceable.
Q: What are your crisis exit strategies? Are you preparing any innovations?
Our strategy is optimism. We have set some innovations for ourselves within the team and they will be seen in the autumn.
Q: The initiative to preserve the Slovenian meetings industry was signed by almost 700 individuals. How do you evaluate the initiative and could it lead to a new formal movement or integration?
In these difficult times, the employees of the same sector have achieved something special, extremely important and positive – that is, we have finally boarded the same boat, grabbed the oars and started rowing in the same direction. It is a time that has ignited a common positive light in us in this precarious situation. I hope and believe that it will now be easier to pave the way for the future, which we have made difficult for ourselves in the past.
Q: What did the forced break mean for you personally? Has it given you a glimpse into the meetings industry from a distance? What is your view?
The forced break brought self-reflection on a personal level and consequently even more optimism and views not only forward, but also in all other directions. Within the team, we became closer and got to know each other even more, in a completely new, even better way. In fact, I can say that regardless of the negative effects on the economy, the forced break also brought something good, as we were able to engage in work process optimization, which would otherwise not be possible in the wild rhythm of business life. Of course, we can no longer afford such a break, but I wish we could pass on some of our experience to the future.
Q: Tell us why the Slovenian government must urgently support the Slovenian meetings industry.
I am convinced that, first of all, it is to preserve jobs, as the meetings industry together with support industries provides almost 30.000 people with employment. This group includes event planners, providers of trade fair and other equipment necessary for various quality events (stages, sound systems, catering…), but we should also not forget the positive impact of the meetings industry on the entire domestic economy and support environment: catering, transport, hotels, tours and additional tourist offering (museums, galleries, tourist attractions) and I could keep going.
We, humans, are social beings, we need socializing, networking, communication and our society would be poorer without events – so I believe that with joint efforts and with the help of the Slovenian government we will be able to preserve the meetings industry and strengthen and upgrade it in the future.