he Coronavirus seems to be omnipresent, also on the Frankfurt subway to the Messe Frankfurt: Asians with face masks on their way to the 'Ambiente'. Not really an unusual sight, as many Chinese wear these masks to protect themselves against polluted air. And yet … the other passengers' eyes seem to silently ask the question: Are you still allowed to travel abroad? On the other side, 96 percent of the businesses surveyed by the German Business Travel Association and 80 percent of those questioned by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) no longer travel to China. And how could they? Almost all airlines have discontinued their services to that country. China is the world's No.1 exporter, and Chinese are traveling around the world.
The threat of the Coronavirus has triggered global anxiety. "This is the time for facts, not fear," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization. He calls on all countries to share data, knowledge and experience. The WHO has declared the onset of 2019-nCoV a public health emergency of international concern, but Ghebreyesus sees "no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade." That's something easy to say if you're not an international event organizer sharing in responsibility for participants' health and life.
Meeting planners across the world are monitoring the situation, checking cancellation clauses. In China and other Asian countries as well, meetings are being cancelled, postponed or held in virtually. Up until nine days prior to the scheduled event, the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID) was determined to go through with its annual conference in Kuala Lumpur from February 20 to 23. They've now postponed it to September. Their delegates are critical to the national and international response to the epidemic and are needed at home in order to protect their own communities.
The crisis shows how vulnerable the meetings industry is. It reacts quickly, because after health, business is at risk. Online support is available from the Events Industry Council, EIC. The whitepaper 'Crisis Management for Meetings' published by the International Congress & Convention Association, ICCA, is compulsory reading. Crisis management begins before the crisis sets in, that's not really new – just now it's more urgent than ever before. One thing is certain: more crises will follow. Our world is in a state of unrest driven by climate catastrophes, cyberattacks and political imposters. Isn't it high time for an Events Crisis Council?