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On a regular basis, while consuming ‘the news’, so often it is presented to make us believe that there isn’t a square inch on this planet that is safe. FEAR, as we know, sells and now with the possible pandemic forming, it is a possible life and death situation. It has our attention. That being said, it’s important to separate the FEAR: false evidence appearing real from the TRUTH.

Last week, our CFO was in San Francisco at the RSA conference with 40,000 high tech delegates who specialize in security. For weeks leading up to the start date, we monitored their website because just days before the Barcelona Mobile World Congress (MWC) did cancel their entire event.  Even though San Francisco is geographically closer than Barcelona to Asia, the RSA conference made the pivotal decision to proceed. Cancelling an event as we know is complicated and expensive. During my research for this blog, the insurance industry is estimating over $100 million in liability due to event cancellations to date. 

When making a cataclysmic decision on whether or not to proceed with the event or cancel, there are a number of considerations with delegate safety being paramount. 

Here are some truths:

  • The MWC event that cancelled had 6000-7000 delegates expected from China
  • The World Health Organization currently has deemed North America a ‘low risk’  
  • Men over 50, who are smokers have been the most susceptible so far in China
  • The serious illnesses occur in 16% of cases
  • The warmer temperatures during spring and summer will see the virus spread slow down

For those who do insure their conference, they will know that the ‘pandemic’ rider is a very expensive option. The Force Majeure clause is going to be the place to focus on in the coming months however with the pivot point of the two words: ‘illegal or impossible’. When conferences in 2002 were trying to cancel in Montreal due to the SARS issue in Toronto, the World Health Organization only identified Toronto as the centre to avoid travel, so Montreal was considered safe and the force majeure would not have been able to be invoked. 

The challenge is the unknown. As planners, we are not comfortable with the unknown. One certainty is that the ‘elbow bump’ will become the social etiquette greeting in the coming months as we all monitor how this unfolds.       

Timely yours,

Here are some links that we are currently monitoring:

  • John Hopkins Centre shows the virus spread on this global map
  • World Health Organization 
  • Centre for Disease Control: Tips for employers   
  • Thank you Leslie Boomer, our former Business Coordinator for this link from National Geographic that identifies that the window seat is the safest place to be on a plane – to stay healthy.  
  • And this link that outlines the liability risks to cancelling events.  
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