The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday recommended that all gatherings of more than 50 people be cancelled or postponed for the next eight weeks, in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The recommendation covers events like parades, concerts, festivals, conferences, sporting events, weddings and more. A number of states have also closed restaurants, bars and other gathering places.
Prior to the CDC recommendation, nearly all major sporting events, including the NCAA Tournament, and scores of conferences were already put on hold. With the smaller, more specific scale of 50 or more people, thousands more gatherings organized by planners across the nation are headed toward cancellation or postponement.
The recommendation, vital to halting the spread of the coronavirus, is poised to take a major toll on an already reeling industry. Still, companies and organizations, including the Meetings Mean Business coalition, say they will abide by the CDC’s recommendation.
“As industry leaders who are driven by a responsibility to our clients, customers and employees, this is certainly not a directive we were hoping to see. However, it is one we intend to follow,” the coalition said in a press release. “We understand the months–even years–of work that precede major meetings and we recognize the incredible benefits that these gatherings bring to people, businesses and the economy.”
As calendars are cleared, thousands of dollars in labor, vendor, venue and catering costs will be lost. For perspective, within the travel industry alone, spending is projected to plunge by $355 billion for the year, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The CEOs of top hotels met with White House officials on Tuesday to ask for economic assistance within the hospitality industry, as hotels say they will have to layoff some 4 million employees to make up for lost bookings.
“The impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including September 11th and the great recession of 2008 combined,” says Chip Rogers, American Hotel and Lodging Association president and CEO.
To mitigate those losses, planners are circulating and signing a petition that asks for a federal aid package to help support the meetings and events industry. Congress and the Trump Administration are currently at work on an $850 billion stimulus package targeted at helping workers and the airlines, along with other sectors of the economy.
As cancellations and postponements pile up, so does swag and other unused items made specifically for events. Organizations such as Good360 are trying to make sure such items don’t go to waste.
Good360 is now accepting event-specific gear including clothing, office supplies, kitchen items, water bottles, bags, sunglasses, flashlights, umbrellas and more, and donating it to trusted nonprofits. Instead of simply throwing these items in the trash and sending them to the landfill, they’ll be used by people and organizations in need during these trying times.
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