Nobody saw it coming in a clear enough manner, nobody was prepared for it and nobody knew precisely what to do. Such was the war declared on the entire world by a minuscule organism in just a few days. There was no escape and there was not a country in the world that remained unaffected in any form. Almost all economies were forced to rise to the challenge - including the meetings industry.
At the same time, a silver lining appeared. The skies cleared, because most aircraft stayed at home. Cities remained empty, because people were afraid of being trampled (not by the crowd, but by an invisible attacker). And, in most MICE sectors, people determinedly looked for solutions, because the very bedrock of our industry – physical contact – was affected.
The drive to resolve the situation in a matter of months was unprecedented. Congresses and conferences were suddenly transformed into mere sounds and images. Not a breath could be felt or heard. We continued to search and hope that everything would return to the way it was before: travelling to lots of places, attending lots of conferences and organising lots of social activities. In a word, letting life sing.
Life will go on, but the meetings industry of the future will definitely be different. One benefit is clear, though: many venues will place an emphasis on welcoming fewer visitors. This means that huge crowds will be replaced by groups of higher standard of quality. Did you hear the speech of New Zealand’s new minister of Tourism, Stuart Nash? “Our future is high-net-worth visitors!”
The time has come for countries to convert to complete sustainability. One of the best examples of the rigorous choice made by Costa Rica, named 'UN Champion of the Earth' for pioneering role in fighting climate change in 2019. Whoever is not convinced that a change is very much needed should take the time to attentively watch the documentary David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet. The world is ready for a complete reset because nature and humankind have drifted too far apart.
Therefore, the meetings industry will need to obtain special government support and large-scale funds to give all forms of meetings a new future. It will take a great deal of work or, to conclude with a futurologists’ adage, "the best way to restore the future is to create it."
Do we have the faintest idea of how to do this? We have to be better prepared for changes.
By Marcel A.M. Vissers, HQ's editor-in-chief
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.