Survey Of Business Event Planners Highlight COVID-19’s Impact On Their Field

The COVID-19 pandemic has roiled the business event industry as it has so many others. Professional Conference Management Association (PCMA), an organization serving those in the hospitality and meetings industry, polled event planners and suppliers on how the outbreak has affected their operations and businesses. A total of 1,776 responded to the survey, which was sent out on April 1.

Most respondent (57 percent) said employment at their organization has been unaffected by the pandemic, although 12 percent said that their salary has been reduced and six percent have had to lay off staff. PCMA expects these numbers may be lower than reality, as its database contained primarily business email addresses, so those laid off or on furlough were unlikely to have received the invitation to participate.

As for how they are using this time, 63 percent told PCMA they are learning new skills, such as virtual event strategies and online platforms.

PCMA also learned that 87 percent of respondents have cancelled an upcoming event, while 66 percent have postponed an event due to the outbreak. Also, 61 percent said they were in the midst of deciding whether to cancel or postpone an upcoming event. The majority of events still under review are scheduled for June, and most said they will be making that decision this month.

The survey found that approximately 70 percent of respondents have moved a face-to-face event partially or fully to a virtual platform and for most, this is not seen as a short-term shift. Virtual events alongside in-person events may become more common in the future as less than 25 percent of those surveyed say they worry that virtual events will cannibalize in-person meetings, and 62 percent say this isn’t an issue that concerns them.

Looking ahead, almost half of those who responded to the survey think that potential attendees will be more hesitant to travel in the future. Some feel a vaccine to COVID-19 may be necessary to return to 2019 levels, and others note that even if attendees wanted to travel, economic realities may preclude this.

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