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Are you afraid to travel? Conferences, tradeshows seek to reassure attendees

Coronavirus concerns could hurt attendance as companies, professionals curtail travel


March 2, 2020
By Todd Humber


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Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Getty Images

Employers and employees alike are getting cold feet about the prospect of business travel with the current risks around the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Some employers have curtailed travel, others have banned it outright. Some employees are fearful about getting on a plane or walking through packed conference centres, while others are frustrated about the tidal wave of news headlines for a virus that is still relatively rare.

“Unfortunately, some news media is sensationalizing it for their own political agenda,” wrote one frustrated show manager in an email to exhibitors. “Obviously, no virus should be taken lightly and that’s why we focus on the comments and advice from the medical community and as of this moment we feel confident moving forward.”

One of the biggest conferences in North America is set to open next week, and it provides an interesting glimpse into how tradeshow organizers are coping — and mitigating — the risks to business and to employees because of COVID-19.

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What CONEXPO is doing

CONEXPO, which it set to attract 130,000 plus attendees in Las Vegas from March 10-14, set up a special page on its conference website to discuss coronavirus.

“We understand concerns about COVID-19/Coronavirus are top of mind, and we want to be as transparent as possible and share information about what we are doing to prepare for the CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE shows in Las Vegas,” the organizers said.

They are in contact with the Southern Nevada Health District — which has assured them that there are no known cases in the area.

“In addition, all 11 Las Vegas airports have screening protocols in place,” it said. “We have been in contact with McCarran Airport and they have informed us that no flights from China are allowed to land at McCarren and they are following protocols set by Trump administration.”

Some attendees, exhibitors cancelling

CONEXPO acknowledged that it has had China-based registrants cancel because of travel restrictions, as well as a small number of registrants from Italy and Korea.

“We anticipate some additional impact from international registrations in the affected countries,” the organizers said, while pointing out that advance registration is far ahead of what they had in 2017.

There have been cancellations for exhibits, but they have been limited to China-based companies without operations in the United States, it said. It pointed out that these cancellations will have a limited impact on the show, as it accounts for less than two per cent of exhibit space and one per cent of registrations. The show has a waiting list, so this freed up space will be offered to companies on it.

Stay home if you’re sick

The organizers also encouraged all attendees to “make responsible decisions and stay home” if they are sick.

It also pointed out additional steps being taken at the conference to provide what it called “heightened” levels of cleanliness, including:

  • Working with the Las Vegas Convention Center to ensure additional hand sanitizers will be provided throughout the shows, including Festival Grounds and Westgate.
  • Providing hand sanitizers in all registration areas, media rooms, information stands, the international trade center, meeting/education spaces, workforce and VIP areas, including several areas on the show grounds.
  • Providing additional hand sanitizers and cleaning protocols in all monorail stations.
  • Adding staff to increase cleaning of all common areas using strong disinfectant to clean those areas used more frequently, especially tables, keyboards/screens, door handles, etc.
  • Working with Centerplate concessions to ensure following of all protocols followed by the health department.