With Covid on the rise again, here's what event planners need to know

With a growing number of Covid cases across Asia, two planners offer advice on hosting events.

Fernando Lonergan of BCD Meetings & Events APAC and Stephen Davis of MCI Singapore share event planning best practices as Covid continues to evolve.
Fernando Lonergan of BCD Meetings & Events APAC and Stephen Davis of MCI Singapore share event planning best practices as Covid continues to evolve. Photo Credit: GettyImages/NicoElNino

Covid levels are again on the increase in Asia, fuelled by the spread of more contagious subvariants of the Omicron virus.

Just this week alone, South Korea’s daily Covid-19 cases passed the 100,000 mark for the first time since late April and there’s been a record number of infections in Tokyo, while New Zealand is battling a new wave of the Omicron strain. Singapore also reported a surge in cases over the last month.

With Covid making a comeback across Asia, what best practices should event planners be undertaking? BCD Meetings & Events' Fernando Lonergan, and MCI's Stephen Davis share their tips.

Fernando Lonergan, senior director, Australia & regional sales & solutions, BCD Meetings & Events, Asia Pacific

Covid continues to be dynamic and as such, event planners have to be meticulous with regards to current local regulations. This is more important than ever as we deal with very different responses to rising numbers, depending on the countries’ governments. Event planners also need to monitor changing airline regulations and schedule changes as they deal with labour shortages.

As fluid as the pandemic is, companies have very different strategies to manage this situation.

There is a clear sense to get back to face-to-face engagements after two years of virtual engagement; this thinking is supported in markets like Hong Kong - international travel is still banned but domestic events are now taking place and Australia is hosting face-to-face for both domestic and international event programmes.

Clients are not mandating staff attendance at events but allowing employees to make their own choice and we are seeing nearly everyone take up that opportunity to meet in person.

Destinations such as Singapore and Australia are hosting business event educational trips to reassure the meetings sector that these markets are open and ready to host events, providing additional reassurance that we can live with the virus if we make smart decisions to mitigate unnecessary risks around events.

Event managers continue to be prudent around Covid protocols whilst complying with the local regulations. Whilst these new strains are potentially more infectious, government restrictions set the tone for what is expected.

We don’t feel clients are asking for more reassurance but having hand sanitiser stations, individual meals where possible, generous spacing between seats and providing masks for those who may wish to wear one, continue to remain top of mind.

Where possible, hosting networking sessions in outdoor venues such as hotel pool decks, rooftop bars, gardens and lawns is a good option to help ensure attendees feel safe.
Fernando Lonergan, senior director, Australia & regional sales & solutions, BCD Meetings & Events, Asia Pacific
Fernando Lonergan, senior director, Australia & regional sales & solutions, BCD Meetings & Events, Asia Pacific

We continue to see the hybrid option utilised across the region, giving those attendees, who don’t want to participate in person, the ability to join key sessions virtually.

Contingency planning has become the norm to respond to Covid and having a clear ‘Covid Event Response Plan’ is critical to ensure the clients and the event planning teams understand how the event response will be managed. These plans take into account a higher concentration of cancellations in the final week prior to the event (on average up from 10% no show/cancellation to approximately 15-20%), working with hotel partners on more flexible attrition clauses., noting this change in cancellation behaviour pattern, and ensuring guests can isolate in their hotel room for the required isolation period. It’s also about providing rapid antigen tests on onsite so guests can test if they feel any symptoms.

More importantly, it reinforces the message that it is okay to test, and that you will be supported if you test positive, protecting the whole group.

Stephen Davis, MCI Singapore, client success manager

RSVPs for attendance at physical events may drop significantly a couple of weeks prior to the event day and this may affect minimum guarantee agreements with the venue.

It is important to always include a clause in contract agreements with the venue to avoid any penalties due to minimum guarantee that is affected by Covid situations. Despite the rising number of infections, we are seeing requests for hybrid options rather than fully virtual, as most countries have eased regulations.

With physical events, always plan for a hybrid/virtual option for the client if the current Covid situation seems unstable.
Stephen Davis, MCI Singapore, client success manager
Stephen Davis, MCI Singapore, client success manager

If the event has attendees flying in from overseas, it is best to capture which country they are flying in from during the registration phase, in case local Covid regulations change with regards to self-isolation/quarantine. This allows us as planners to quickly advise the client and delegates in advance to make alternative arrangements to their travel plans. Additionally, this will also help with Covid tracing at the event, should there be a sudden spike amongst the attendees.

Always include Covid safety protocols in all event communications so that all attendees are aware of what is required to attend the event safely and smoothly.

Ensure attendees are masked up when necessary and that everyone has easy access to hand sanitisers (preferably give them their own ones). Have a box of spare masks, thermometers and test kits handy.

Ensure all event staff are briefed and aware of the protocols if a delegate is feeling unwell. If there is a positive case at the event, authorities should be alerted and managed discreetly, without alarming the rest of the attendees at the event.



Latest News