'Adopt a wait and see attitude': Event agencies brace for virus impact

Several events have been either cancelled or postponed due to the precautions taken with regard to the coronavirus, particularly in crowded places. Just today, the Tokyo Organising Committee CEO Toshiro Muto said that the virus outbreak could throw "cold water over the growing momentum of the 2020 Games”, according to media reports. The Japanese government, along with the Tokyo Organising Committee are attempting to “minimise” any potential impact on the overall games this year.

In Singapore, event organisers are facing a similar dilemma as fear and concern spread amongst the nation. The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) postponed its annual travel fair initially scheduled for the month of February to May. Other notable events such as the Singapore Exchange's (SGX) annual Active Traders Fair and the Reit Association of Singapore (Reitas) have taken to cancelling the events altogether. Industry players that Marketing spoke to said that more and more they are receiving directions from clients to cancel their events.

Gary Neo who leads event agency INX Events & Productions said that the company is seeing cancellations and postponing of events set to run in February and March 2020. But simultaneously, inquiries are rolling in for event activation schedules beyond the month of April. "This is quite positive for us in the midst of the uncertainties," he said.

In terms of monetary impact, Neo said the company has been taking active steps as it expected events to potentially be halted as news of the virus emerged. As such negotiating for cancellations have already been underway with clauses put in place. Nonetheless 50% of the business revenue will be impacted, he explained.

"We cannot be sure that every client will honour the cancellation/postponement terms, or exercise fair compensation for the work done. So, there is no concrete plan in place right now to bolster the business, as the coronavirus is affecting everyone. We can only adopt a 'wait and see' attitude," he added. INX Events & Productions has worked with brands such as Singapore Airlines, Muji, Under Armour and others.

Meanwhile, Lighthouse Events regional events director Yeo Wei Qi said business should rightfully pick up after the Chinese New Year holidays, but there has been a general lull in the number of confirmed events.

"The cancellation and/or postponement of events for us is not a huge number. However, we have noticed that there are lesser inquiries or requests for proposals coming in," she said. Yeo also said that Lighthouse Events' external business tends to get busier in the second half of the year, hence the current situation is not particularly that big of an impact to the overall business. Lighthouse Events currently works with external clients such as Unilever, Manulife, Dyson and Bank of Singapore among others. It also operates as Marketing's internal event agency partner.

Joanne Wong, head of marketing, Livescape Group had a different take on the current virus outbreak situation. She has to date felt "no impact" resulting from the outbreak and business for her continues as per usual. She added that Livescape Group has not faced clients calling or postponing events. But the company is closely monitoring the situation and will abide by guidelines and advisories issued by the government.

According to Wong, the Livescape Group delivers experiences across a spectrum of scales such as roadshows, corporate events, launches, private parties for clients such as Disney, YouTube, Red Bull, AirAsia and others. “While an escalation in the situation may have a temporary effect on mass participation events, this represents only one part of our portfolio of events. As such, we do not see the need to take drastic business precautions just yet,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has also just released a set of guidelines to organisers of large-scale events. According to the statement, individuals who are unwell should not attend, and should avoid public spaces and contact with others. The government body also urged those who are feeling unwell to seek medical attention.

Organisations and event organisers are encouraged to take following measures to mitigate the potential risk of disease transmission during events:

  • Individuals placed on leave of absence (LOA) should not attend events, individuals with recent travel history to mainland China, in particular Hubei province, should not attend.
  • Prominently display notices at entrances to an event, and during pre- or onsite registration, to remind participants not to attend the events if they are unwell, placed on LOA, or have recent travel history to mainland China, in particular Hubei province, within the last 14 days.
  • Deny entry to staff or participants who are unwell and have recent travel history to mainland China, in particular Hubei province, within the last 14 days.
  • Ensure that event venues are ventilated and are adequately equipped with hygiene facilities eg. washrooms.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning of commonly used areas, such as toilets, registration and payment counters, and dining areas.
  • Individuals who are well do not need to wear masks.
  • Individuals should remain vigilant and practise good personal hygiene, such as washing their hands regularly at all times.

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