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Health fears hit events

Conferences circuit feeling impact of coronavirus

Marshall Dallas

Marshall Dallas: ‘We are keeping an eye on the situation’

Conference venues and organisers have found themselves feeling the impact of the coronavirus outbreak with a growing number of events being cancelled or re-scheduled.

Companies are refusing to send thousands of delegates to trade shows and other international gatherings in an attempt to contain the deadly virus. Sports and music events are also being called off or postponed.

Conferences and industry events are big business, generating more than $1 trillion in spending each year on meeting venues, catering, hotels and travel, according to the Events Industry Council.

One of Britain’s nine confirmed coronavirus cases attended a Westminster bus conference close to the Houses of Parliament, it was revealed today.

The virus-carrier was reportedly one of 250 delegates at the UK Bus Summit at the QEII Centre on 6 February. 

So far there have been no reported conference cancellations in Scotland or the rest of the UK, but Europe is being affected.

Marshall Dallas, CEO of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, said: “We are keeping an eye on the situation. So far there have been no cancellations.”

The biggest cancellation so far has been the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, which was due to take place at the end of this month. Ericsson was the first to pull out and has been followed by Amazon, BT, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Intel, LG, Orange, Sony, Vodafone and Volvo.

Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and Motorola said that they planned to go, but with so many companies pulling out it left the organisers with little choice but to cancel the show.

John Hoffman, the chief executive of organiser GSMA, said the outbreak had made it “impossible” to hold the event which usually attracts more than 100,000 people, with an estimated 6,000 of them travelling from China.

Swiss watchmaker Swatch’s “Time to Move” summit for the media and retailers in Zurich has been cancelled, although the Geneva International Motor Show is still scheduled to go ahead.

Integrated Systems Europe, an annual gathering of the audiovisual industry, said about 50 Chinese companies withdrew from this week’s meeting in Amsterdam “due to travel restrictions and flight cancellations.” A few non-Chinese companies also backed out.

Organisers advised against handshakes. “A simple verbal greeting or fist bump will do,” they said.

Asia and Australia have seen a number of cancellations. Cisco Live, due to attract 8,500 delegates to Melbourne at the beginning of next month, has been called off.

A message on the event’s website said: “Our customers, partners and employees are our top priority and we strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances. Our thoughts are with those directly impacted by this situation.”

Alzheimer’s Disease International’s annual meeting in Singapore is off, although Asia’s biggest air show is taking place in Singapore this week despite more than 70 exhibitors pulling out, including some of the biggest names in the aerospace industry such as US giant Lockheed Martin and Canada’s Bombardier.

Sporting events are being called off or re-scheduled. Organisers of the 2020 Chinese Grand Prix are hoping the event can go ahead later in the year, while organisers of the Tokyo Olympic Games, opening in July, say they plan to go ahead, despite several of its qualifying fixtures needing to be rescheduled. A competition involving women’s teams from China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand was due to be played in Wuhan, but has now moved to Australia.

Other sports events affected include the Indoor World Athletics Championships due to take place in Nanjing, China, from 13-15 March and now postponed until next year.

The Asian Indoor Athletics Championships which should have been taking place in Hangzhou, China, has been cancelled.

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series will rearrange its rounds in Hong Kong and Singapore for the end of the series in October.

The start of the 2020 golf PGA Tour has been delayed by two months, meaning there will only be 10 tournaments in the season instead of 14.

Music artist Stormzy has rescheduled the Asia leg of his Heavy Is The Head tour.

Cancellations are also having an adverse effect on airlines which have been forced to cancel flights.

Brits ‘shunning’ Chinese

A new global poll by Ipsos MORI shows the extent to which the UK public may change their behaviours because of the threat of the virus, including 14% saying they would avoid contact with people of Chinese origin or appearance.

The threat of Covid-19 could have a significant impact on the UK public’s behaviour, according to an Ipsos survey conducted online from February 7 to 9, 2020 among 8,001 adults aged 16 (18) -74 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Two-thirds of people in the UK say they would consider avoiding travelling to infected countries or areas (65%), while three in ten would avoid large gatherings of people or travelling by air for holidays (both 29%). A quarter say they would avoid shaking hands with others (26%), and one in five say they would avoid travelling by public transport (22%).

The survey also shows the potential longer-term impact of the virus. Over three-quarters of the UK public believe that people will be less likely to travel to China (77%), while three in five think that major international events like the Olympics could be in jeopardy (60%). 

While the UK public are concerned about the long-term impact of the virus, they do have confidence in many of the organisations tasked with dealing with it. Confidence is highest in local health services, health professionals and the World Health Organization (all 71%). 

Full results and our findings on the perceived threat to world, can be found on the Ipsos MORI website.

Ben Page, CEO Ipsos MORI says: “Our research shows that there is a high level of awareness of the outbreak and a belief that we have some way to go before it is contained. High levels of concern are likely to be the driver for the behavior changes people are considering.

It is, however, encouraging that there are also high levels of trust in the health services and professionals in the UK to deal with it effectively.“

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