The Meeting Industry's Recovery from COVID-19 & Health Security

March 23, 2020

The Meeting Industry's Recovery from COVID-19 & Health Security


When discussing Covid-19 and the meeting industry, Sherrif Karamat,CEO of PCMA, said we “cannot take a wait-and-see approach in this global crisis. There is simply too much at stake for our industry…..We must take a proactive role.”

Karamat goes on to say, “Our job will then be to help restore global confidence and assure business events stakeholders that the virus no longer presents a threat.”

MPI’s President & CEO, Paul Van Deventer, was very clear that the meeting industry “will be at the front lines to spur global economic growth and stability as the current crisis ends and we shift our attention towards recovery.”

However, exactly how is the meeting industry going to reassure stakeholders and promote stability? Yes, by all accounts, this crisis will diminish in the coming months, and organizations will start holding meetings again. However, how long will it take for meeting activity to come close to pre Covid-19 numbers? This virus is not going away anytime soon. Further outbreaks may continue to occur for the next year as the virus spreads through the entire global population. And even if the virus magically disappeared today, the persistent fear of this illness will linger like a bad hangover on the meeting industry for quite some time.


So what is the answer? The most impactful way to rapidly repair the damage and ensure the health of the meeting industry is to be 100% committed to promoting “Health Security” at meetings and events. Why? Because this crisis is due to only one thing -  health insecurity. And unless we are steadfast in developing our own plan to protect the health and safety of attendees, we will not achieve our desired results. 

We can not rely solely on the public health system to do this for us. We have to take accountability to not only protect our industry and ourselves, but also to protect the world. The meeting industry has the capacity to be part of the solution. However, to be very clear, our industry is also part of the problem.  The meeting industry is perfectly designed for the spread of pandemic viruses through business travel and coordination of meetings which brings millions of people together to connect. Of course, this is not our intention. Nonetheless, it is reality.

We must challenge ourselves to create solutions that will not only accelerate the recovery of this industry, but also support the recovery from this pandemic and ensure that the meeting industry will be part of the solution for future pandemics that are sure to come. And pandemics that could be much more deadly than H1N1 or Covid-19.

My three decades of experience in pandemic preparedness and protecting the health of attendees at meetings and events around the world has uniquely positioned me to support the meeting industry with this challenge.  

Over the coming weeks, I will be publishing a series of articles for meeting professionals outlining a guide to supporting Health Security at meetings and events. By no means will this guide be all inclusive, though, it will spur thinking, ideas, and much needed conversations. Some of these topics will include: Planners Guide to Protecting The Health of Their Attendees, The Future Impact of Covid-19 on the Meeting Industry, How to Access Destination Health Risks?, The Meeting Industry’s Role in Preventing Future Pandemics.

I believe our mission as an industry needs to focus, not only on supporting the health security of our clients and their attendees, but also on promoting global public health security. According to the World Health Organization, global public health security is defined as the activities required to minimize the danger and impact of acute public health events that endanger the collective health of populations living across geographical regions and international boundaries.  Our industry has a responsibility to keep people safe. It is our Duty of Care. Let’s demonstrate how collectively, in coordination with international public health actions, we can build a safer future for humanity and protect the meeting industry at the same time.

Jonathan Spero, M.D.

CEO, InHouse Physicians