With a worldwide reduction in association memberships, together with further variants, sluggish vaccine roll-outs and domestic economic recoveries in most countries being pivotal, the return of events in large-capacity numbers around 400 plus is unlikely before late 2022 into 2023.
This is the belief of Helen Brewer, MD of The MICE Academy, who feels the biggest challenge to recovery is trying to foresee uncertainties, with constant attempts to put in place circumventions to cushion the unexpected.
According to SAACI CEO, Glenton de Kock, Destination SA has secured international business events for 2021, many of which were arranged before the pandemic, but the unfortunate challenges are that many countries still have restrictions in place for their citizens to travel.
He says while SA’s borders are open, other countries are limiting their citizens’ travelling. “This poses a problem and, as such, we have seen many business events shift out to the Q4 of 2021.”
While vaccine roll-outs are a step in the right direction, says De Kock, countries are prioritising healthcare workers and those at a high risk of contracting COVID-19. “It could be months before our events’ target audiences receive one. This means that in-person mass events and exhibitions may only start happening again in the last quarter of 2021.”
He says the business events and exhibition industry have made proposals to the government to prioritise all frontline workers within the tourism industry and aid the vaccine roll-out.
“We believe the industry will play a significant part in assisting government in its vaccine roll-out. With the necessary expertise in planning and executing big events, with the venues at our disposal, the industry is ready to activate the moment government is ready and willing to call on us.”
De Kock believes that, with regard to the rapid antigen tests costing several hundred rand, a funding mechanism should be put in place that splits this price tag between event organisers, sponsors, attendees and government.
“All of these stakeholders stand to benefit from events going ahead, and sharing the cost makes it a more viable and fair solution. Continuous discussions on this are critical, as it will provide additional assurances that all attendees are COVID-19 free and further enhance the already stringent regulations regime that the business events and exhibition industry currently operate under.”
Chairperson of the SA Events Council and President of PCO Alliance Network, Ellen Oosthuizen, agrees and continues to posit the rapid antigen testing capabilities as a potential solution, working with policy-makers to make this a more affordable and viable solution across more event types.
Did you know?
All affiliates of the SA Events Council work closely with the South African National Convention Bureau as a strategic business unit of South African Tourism. They are collaborating around campaigns to reignite tourism currently.
Key initiatives currently include, among others, the development, planning and delivery of a National Buy Local Exhibition platform. The project will act as a catalyst to stimulate the exhibition industry while also creating a Business-2-Business trading platform.
Oosthuizen says finding solutions to provide payment relief for the events industry is also on the agenda, as is gaining Government support via the #TrustUS campaign.