We are in the midst of something that most of us have never experienced in our lifetime. A pandemic! A major global pandemic! The Coronavirus has changed our lives forever not to mention the lasting mark it will leave on the hospitality industry.

Many people have been planning weddings, parties, large conferences, meetings, graduations, proms, and several other events. Some of these events were planned a few years in advance and now that the itineraries have been finalized, menus selected, entertainment paid, décor customized – COVID-19 has swept in and bought everything to a screeching halt! Sadly the pandemic affected families, communities, jobs, our entire country, and countries around the globe. Federal and state governments have declared disasters, schools were closed, quarantines, social contact limits imposed, social distancing advised, and all within a matter of days. So how do you respond when your client starts asking “…so what about my event?”

That’s the million-dollar question when you don’t have a contingency plan. Let’s see…if consumers stay home and don’t patronize businesses to include the event venues, then the venues become financially unstable. Then venues reduce staff, close their doors, and then ultimately there are no event venues. In just a few weeks, major hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton announced layoffs and furloughs. Oh and did I mention how this unparalleled pandemic has impacted caterers, entertainers, and event planners??? The Northstar Meeting Group’s conducted a recent survey of meeting planners impacted by the coronavirus revealed that 75% of meeting planners have either canceled, moved, or rescheduled their meetings.  That’s a huge deal! There’s even a petition by the event industry for Federal aid because of the unprecedented number of event cancellations. Private events are also feeling the hit and most will have to be postponed or canceled. My client’s 60th milestone celebration was scheduled for April and has now been moved to August. Not to mention that the two weddings I have scheduled for this year may be impacted! I spoke with a caterer who told me that the restrictions and new guidelines have hit them in a major way. One of my event décor colleagues told me that her calendar was booked solid for March and April, everyone has cancelled, and now it’s crickets. A travel agent told me that her bookings have slowed down drastically! These are just a few industry stories of hundreds and we are all experiencing the exact same thing. I do believe there is hope and that we will eventually bounce back to allow us to regroup, refocus, and get our industry back on track.

So why does this matter? It matters because disasters like COVID-19 are beyond our control. It also matters because how we used to plan events has been forever changed. Having an emergency response plan is now mandatory and will become the new norm. If you’re in the hospitality or events industry and don’t have an emergency response plan, you need to get one. It won’t prevent a disaster, but it will at least provide some contingency planning to consider.

Chique Wind Up…

Overall, it’s a challenging time for all of us. Practice safety first. Follow all state and federal mandates and recommendations. Keep the faith and know that this too shall pass. As we find ways to recover, use this time to mentally reset, catch up on some well-deserved rest, or do some of the things you’ve been putting off (in the house of course).

As for our events, create a routine emergency response plan. This unforeseen and devastating situation is a great teaching tool to expand our thinking about the “what ifs”. The next time (hopefully there won’t be a next time), we may be a little better prepared.

Have thoughts about this topic? Please share them. I’d like to hear from you.

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