Prevue reached out to Stephanie Harris, president of the Incentive Research Foundation, for her insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global incentive industry and what the new normal will look like.
Here is what Harris had to say about the new normal:
Andrea Doyle (AD): How will Coronavirus COVID-19 change the MICE Industry?
Stephanie Harris (SH): Coronavirus COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the industry and will have a lasting impact. One area of interest is the likely demand for health questions or rapid screenings during registration and how that will intersect with overarching privacy and confidentiality concerns.
We’re all becoming more adept and more creative around the use of virtual platforms during this pandemic. However, not every event lends itself to virtual. Planners and meeting owners will need to be more informed about the elements of meetings that can be accomplished via virtual formats vs. those that really require in-person interaction to be successful. Incentives, for example, are an event type that do not translate into virtual.
(AD): What will the new normal look like?
(SH): I hope the new normal for in-person events will, over time, look very much like the old normal. A necessary increase in the use of hybrid solutions is likely in the short term to accommodate people who need to be part of an event or meeting but may fall into a high-risk group or feel uncomfortable attending in person. Not all meeting elements can be effective in a virtual environment as we’re all learning through this crisis, so we will need to be thoughtful about the elements that are translated into virtual experiences.
(AD): When do you predict all meetings and incentives will come back?
(SH): I’m not able to predict when they’ll be back, however, I’m hopeful that we’ll see activity starting to return later this year and can begin to resume some sense of ‘normal.’
(AD): Will the physical attributes of a meeting change?
(SH): Allocation of space between seats seems to be an approach airlines are taking in the short-term, which makes sense but is not likely sustainable. In the end, events are high-touch occurrences meant to bring people together. We need to look at all aspects of events – registration, meal experiences, general sessions and more to understand how we deliver effective interactions in a world where there may be more hesitation or caution initially.
(AD): Will disinfecting of meeting rooms and conference centers increase?
(SH): Hotels, conference centers, airlines and more will all need to rethink their cleaning and disinfecting policies and procedures. Airlines seem to be ahead of the curve on that, but I believe others will re-open with those procedures in place to reassure attendees and help minimize any chance of spread.