Travel And Tour World: What are the challenges we are facing now for the travel and event industry?
Claude Blanc: There’s no denying that 2020 has been, and indeed continues to be, a very challenging year for the travel and event industry. However, the recent positive news about potential vaccines has left many of us feeling significantly more confident about what 2021 and beyond holds.
Domestic tourism, or ‘staycations’, will help drive some of the recovery, however we are likely to be living with ongoing travel and quarantine restrictions in many countries around the world, together with some reluctance on the part of consumers to resume air travel and tourism. The challenge will be restoring traveller confidence to support the safe return of international tourism, which will in turn support jobs and businesses in the sector, and all the inter-related businesses which rely on the travel and tourism industry.
In terms of events, our research shows that there’s still a huge appetite to meet face-to-face, when it is safe to do so. The greater adoption of virtual and hybrid events is likely to have a long-term impact on the sector. It’s accelerated some of the technology around virtual and hybrid events, and for many now the challenge will be driving physical attendance at events while still ensuring hybrid options.
On a practical level, COVID-19 has of course brought about changes to the way that meetings and events are designed, with smaller event sizes and venues with outdoor space becoming more commonplace as we all strive to find ways to adapt to the new reality.
Travel And Tour World: What are the future plans IBTM has taken to boost the industry and the path to recovery?
Claude Blanc: Early on in lockdown, we quickly recognised the need to provide a platform for our customers, partners and the wider events industry to help them stay connected. A couple of weeks after lockdown began, we launched IBTM Connect, an online resource hub for business events professionals to share knowledge and practical guidance. It has proved incredibly popular with event professionals around the globe and therefore it is something we are planning to take forward into next year.
We’re all really looking forward to what promises to be a hugely enjoyable and productive three days when IBTM World Virtual begins on the 8th December. It will be fantastic to get together as an industry and share our experiences of the last year, and we know that many exhibitors are planning to share the adjustments they have made in terms of physical distancing and health and safety measures, to assist Hosted Buyers in planning their future events.
The knowledge programme at IBTM World Virtual is packed with outstanding content, reflecting the key themes relevant to event professionals as our industry rebuilds and recovers post pandemic, including sessions focusing on leadership through change, technology and sustainability.
Then in June next year we have the rescheduled IBTM Asia Pacific, which will take place from 8 – 9 June 2021 in Singapore, at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. The team is hard at work planning an exciting itinerary that will ensure customers can benefit from an itinerary that combines high quality one-to-one business meetings with inspiring educational content that will provide the insights and knowledge delegates need to rebuild and recover post pandemic
As a business we are constantly evaluating and evolving our events in what is an incredibly fast-paced industry. We’ll continue to do the same post COVID-19 to ensure our events continue to deliver for our partners and customers.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us about the new opportunities for the upheaval of travel and meetings industry.
Claude Blanc: It’s difficult to predict where this virus will take us, but we’ve already seen that the event and travel industries are incredibly nimble and creative, with the qualities needed to enable them to adapt to the challenges ahead.
In the short-term, some adjustments will be necessary to ensure that we can continue to meet safely, and face to face events are likely to be supplemented by some form of virtual or online content in the future. Ultimately, we believe the acceleration of this type of event and the associated technologies will have a positive impact on the industry, allowing broader attendance of events, amongst other benefits.
In terms of travel, in the short-term people may prefer to travel to destinations which are closer to home, and which don’t require air travel. However, we believe there will be a real appetite to resume travelling again, when it is safe to do so. Ongoing restrictions and potentially an element of nervousness on the part of consumers may mean we’re not back to normal straight away, but the advent of the vaccine and quick turnaround testing together with pent up appetite to get away are all good news for the travel industry.