Ian Cummings outlines how economic uncertainty and political unrest influence event booking trends.
After six months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, there is certainly a sense of caution around booking events in the city, particularly anything that could extend over the weekend.
Many companies are in a ‘wait and see’ mode when it comes to Hong Kong – and there is a high degree of hope that tensions will de-escalate. Hong Kong has some fantastic event facilities, such as the recently opened Rosewood, and demand can return quickly as tensions ease.
Amid increasing uncertainty, it’s difficult to pin down a single reason why some destinations bounce back faster than others, but I can offer up a couple of theories: Generally, it comes down to the level of confidence event planners have in a city, considering the risk of something happening again.
A city’s level of development and infrastructure can also play on decision-makers’ minds. For example, London and Paris have some of the best flight connections in the world, as well as some of the best medical and response facilities available of any major city globally, which might explain why they have bounced back relatively quickly from security-related incidents.
Lingering uncertainty around Brexit is also seeing many companies adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach, but the key difference (compared to Hong Kong) is that they aren’t postponing decisions on holding events because Brexit isn’t a security concern.
We shouldn’t mix economic uncertainty with political unrest and protests.
When there’s economic uncertainty, we begin to see this manifest itself in a shortening of lead times, and in some cases, a decrease of marketing budgets or multiple meetings being merged into one.
We shouldn’t mix economic uncertainty with political unrest and protests. Hong Kong has now had a sustained period of unrest and therefore event planners will have doubts in their mind about booking large groups of people, under their responsibility, to such a destination until a time when confidence returns. And, for all of us in the industry, we hope that confidence can return soon for business events.
As event professionals, we have to do our research (independent of mainstream press) and consider all the risks of any destination, particularly when organising events with larger groups.
Contingency planning is also critical, and event planners should utilise venues’ safety and security plans, as well as establish partnerships with organisations like International SOS, which specialise in safety and security.
Supporting destinations in recovery?
I don’t believe our industry has a responsibility to support destinations recovering from crises. We have a responsibility to support our clients’ programmes of events in the safest possible way, and we have a responsibility to consider all aspects for our attendees during planning.
Safety and security are among the top priorities – if not number one – for meeting and event planners. Therefore, pushing a particular destination because it’s recovering from an incident may not be the right thing to do for the customer.
That said, if we can help any destinations with recovery through CSR activities, then I believe that is a great opportunity for our industry to give back to many locations.
Based in London, Ian Cummings is vice president of commercial at CWT Meetings & Events.