“For over 6 months we have been doing everything we can to survive”
Q: How badly has COVID-19 affected the meetings industry in your country?
In my opinion, in Poland, the problems of the incentive and tourist industry and the transport industry related to them, and later the event industry, began at the beginning of February this year. At that time we began to observe an increased number of cancelled trips to Asia, in particular to China. After a few weeks, customers began to cancel trips to Italy and other European countries. Later, all trips and events were cancelled or postponed. As industries connected with tourism, for over 6 months we have been doing everything we can to “survive” and keep our companies alive.
Q: How much damage has the epidemic caused for your company?
We reduced costs, sought support, interpreted the provisions of the EU directive on tourism. Unfortunately, it turned out that it does not protect entrepreneurs in any way. At that time, we also submitted a number of postulates to the Polish ministries, indicating the steps, in our opinion, necessary for implementation. We have implemented new services in our company, including #bezpiecznebiuro, #bezpiecznyhotel, we supplied hospitals with protective equipment, we also provided our clients’ employees with things needed for remote work. We have orders for small events since July; we also provide online training and meetings.
Q: How do measures put in place by regional governments help with exiting the crisis? What do you miss?
In Poland, these activities were very diverse. Individual local governments decided whether the funds were to be in the form of a loan or a subsidy. In addition, the funds were not intended for all victims only for a part of the industry. Often minutes were decisive for receiving support, because the funds were distributed “first come, first served”. Many companies were left without support. In the Masovian Voivodeship, where we run our company, the recruitment has still not been resolved. We are waiting patiently.
Q: Do you think the situation will get worse before it gets better? Have you prepared any preventive measures in case of a second coronavirus wave?
At the moment, our company is stable. We have secured ourselves for the next months and we have adapted to online and hybrid meetings. Large companies with an extensive employee structure are in the worst position, as well as inbound tourism and hotels. We are trying to work together to restore demand. In March, we created the TUgether initiative, and in July, the Meetings and Events Industry Council (we associate 18 associations) and we work in every field to survive this difficult time.
Q: What has the epidemic taught us about the current state of the meetings industry? Will the epidemic also bring something positive? Do you think the quarantine period was beneficial for unwinding and gathering new creative ideas for the future?
It is certainly positive that we use the opportunities offered by online meetings or events more often. There is no secret that thanks to them we save both time and resources needed for organization or transport. We can also see how employers and employees (of course not all :)) became convinced to work remotely. And how many benefits and savings can be made for both sides. We stopped rushing so much, it got calmer, we spend more time with our loved ones, traffic jams in cities have decreased, tourist places are not as crowded as they used to be. I have the impression that everything has returned to balance, at least for the moment. These are the huge benefits that we can have from this situation.
As an industry, we learned new rules of the sanitary regime, implemented safety procedures and quickly adapted to new conditions. Now we are waiting for new government decisions, releasing of meetings and incentive trips by all global corporations.
“I am an absolute supporter of live events”
Q: What are some alternatives to live events? Are live events a thing of the past or will we continue to meet in person after the coronavirus?
Of course, we will meet in person – I can’t imagine any other option. This difficult time has shown us how much we need each other, how much we need direct contact. You can already see that people want meetings, galas, face to face training. Some of us are tired of the online world, we need to reach out to people. Can you imagine an online award for top traders? Will we visit the Eiffel Tower online? No way. Aeroplanes, the newest coaches and other means of transport have modern filtration systems adapted to safe travel, hotels and event agencies have introduced procedures for safety meetings. Let’s meet safely and prove to the world that it’s okay. We have to learn to LIVE in all of this.
Q: Do you think online events can replace the physical experience of live events?
No. I am an absolute supporter of live events. Starting from interpersonal contact, influencing the senses, emotions and experiences. This can never be achieved online. As humans, we are made to interact directly with another human being. Being online for too long leads to many psychological difficulties, and more and more studies show this. The more meetings, the healthier business and private relations are. I believe that nothing charges your batteries for further work as a wonderful journey, nothing relaxes you like that, nothing makes you feel better. Let’s travel as much as possible.
Q: How have you managed to connect the digital and analogue world at your events and in business?
I estimate that I have participated in over 10 online meetings a week since March. I did everything online. I am really fed up at the moment and I sincerely want face to face meetings. We currently use online meetings when working with clients, and I think it will continue to do so in the coming months. I hope that everything will start to return to normal with the new year.
Q: In these turbulent times, what separates your company from the competition?
We have created two very cool projects: a safe office and a safe hotel. As an agency, we supplied hospitals with the necessary security measures. We went beyond the scheme. We adapt very quickly to changing circumstances. Fortunately, we have our own office and warehouse, so we don’t have any additional rental costs. Also, we always carefully planned fixed company costs. And we operate in four Associations and the Meetings and Events Industry Council, we lobby for help at the Ministry. We are up to date with the regulations.
PERSONAL QUESTIONS FOR OLGA
Q: What will we be discussing over coffee at the same time next year?
About how everything returned to normal and we are operating in full swing. About what events are hot and what travel destinations are the coolest for our clients. I am very curious about it myself. These last months have changed everything in our lives – I am curious how it will translate into our future actions😊.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for events in these tough times? Do you have a favourite event agency or role model?
I observe many Polish and international agencies and industry competitions. I watch important world events, galas and projects with great interest. I visit interesting places, meet interesting people, thanks to them I get inspired every day.
Q: What inspires you in your daily life? (music, books, nature…)
I find peace and balance in sports and travelling. I love sports. By far, my strongest disciplines are squash and skiing. I love travelling and getting to know new places. I love my life and although this year is harder, how one of the Polish bands sings: I believe “that it will be beautiful, it will be normal again”.