• Coronavirus and Its Effects on the Meetings Industry So Far

    POSTED March 2, 2020

While oceans previously separated the coronavirus from the United States, COVID-19 has now taken hold in 38 states with nearly 1,000 confirmed and potential cases, causing 29 deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. 

While such U.S. statistics are tiny compared to the reported 88,000 global cases, each person infected with the coronavirus is likely to infect 2.2 other people, according to The New York Times. In comparison, a person who gets the flu typically transmits it to just 1.3 people.  

In light of these numbers, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says of the spread of coronavirus, “It's not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen," reports The Independent.  

With the high rate of transmission, a number of worldwide events have been cancelled to head-off the spread. Facebook cancelled its 2020 F8 Developers conference that was to be held in May in San Jose, California. The SXSW festival in Austin,Texas, scheduled for later this month, is no longer on. The St. Patrick's Day festivities in Chicago, including the parade and river dyeing, were postponed. The first games of the NCAA March Madness tournament will play with only "essential staff and limited family attendance," according to the Washington Post. Delta has waived change fees for international tickets throughout the entire month of March. In California, Coachella was postponed from April to October.  Within the industry, ITB Berlin, the world’s biggest travel event, was cancelled. The decision as to whether the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics will go on as planned will be made in May, although the lighting of the torch this week in Greece will be without spectators. IMEX Frankfurt, scheduled to kickoff May 12, was cancelled as well.

With coronavirus anticipated to become more prevalent in the U.S., meetings and events planners should be aware of the impact it’s likely to have on their plans. According to an MPI survey in mid-February, 34 percent of meetings professionals are extremely concerned about the effect coronavirus will have on the industry, while 56 percent are slightly concerned. The top three reasons for worry include attendee cancellations and lower attendance, travel disruptions, and speaker cancellations or difficulty in finding speakers. The next two concerns, in order, are disruptions of supplies such as décor, and having to postpone or cancel an event, all of which cause difficulties and/or financial loss.

Meetings Today provides tips for meeting planners on how to think about the coronavirus in terms of their events, considering details such as location, the demographics of attendees and more. MPI has provided a list of ways to meet virtually, should you determine that’s the best way to proceed.  

Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA, the Professional Convention Management Association, said in a statement that his organization would be releasing information shortly to help planners. “In February 2020, we announced our commitment to provide essential crisis management and risk assessment resources to support our global audience as the COVID-19 outbreak evolves. Those efforts are ongoing and later this week we will provide an update on our crisis management and recovery efforts.” 

As you continue to plan meetings and events, keep up to date on the coronavirus by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for news and resources.

Even during a worldwide pandemic, the hospitality industry is working to make people feel at ease. Though many hotels can only open their doors to health care workers and first responders, they’re reaching out to their local communities with bright messages in clever, socially-distanced ways. Through the heart-shaped lighting of windows at night, hotels are serving as beacons of hope in cities across the country. 


Daily life has been significantly altered by COVID-19, no matter the industry. Many are working from home, while children stay inside for online schooling. Meetings and events have been hit especially hard, since the essence of the industry is face-to-face interactions. While we continue to self-isolate, plenty of organizations have been offering webinars with insights on how to handle the pandemic—watching webinars is a great way to use that extra time you might have used for your commute to learn something useful.


As the spread of the novel coronavirus continues to put immense pressure on the U.S. health care system and the people who keep it running, the American Hotel and Lodging Association is working to connect hotels with health workers who are struggling to find housing.