It was a Friday night and it had been a long week. I was just starting to unwind when my iPhone’s email notifications starting coming full blast.
And then the mindless show on TV was interrupted by horrific images of blown up Paris buildings; streets littered with debris; people scrambling for safety. And I sat there, trying to explain to my children why yet another act of terrorism destroyed lives, trying to assure them the world isn’t a dangerous place.
For days, the images of carnage shaped my thoughts. As I ran errands around town, I hoped that copycat incidents wouldn’t happen on my home turf. As for travel…I couldn’t even fathom the repercussions.
I’m guessing many of you experienced the same awful Friday night and since then have been rethinking international travel plans. Or what about your events? Are you prepared to handle acts of terrorism?
In the wake of the Paris attacks – and other acts of terrorism throughout the years – event professionals have grown increasingly concerned about safety, according to the latest Meetings Outlook by Meeting Professionals International.
The winter edition of the report found 44 percent of survey respondents think the meetings and events industry will change due to the increased threat of terrorism.
And this includes educational programming.
For example, MPI’s Carolinas Chapter plans to bolster its risk management education programs by bringing in law enforcement officials and leaders from the Red Cross to discuss how to best handle disaster.
The organization isn’t alone.
More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) echo MPI Carolinas’ plans, making sweeping changes to how they run meetings. Measures include working with police on evacuation plans and offering employee training on rapid response.
In addition, 15 percent of survey respondents plan to add security for the events – especially those organizations that host international conferences. Some are employing security agencies for counsel and preparation.
As for corporate travel plans? Increasing costs and security concerns mean fewer people will attend events. Instead of sending the whole staff, many companies will simply choose to send leadership, especially if an event is overseas.
The visa process will change, as will destinations of choice, MPI says.
The ripple effect: cost.
Nearly 40 percent of respondents believe room rates will rise. Food and beverage rates are predicted to increase 4.6 percent and air travel rates 4.2 percent. And so, organizations are spending much more cautiously.
“It’s not just having people at the registration desk but having a bit of heightened security on site,” said Bob Walker of the MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter. “It’s having a larger security detail that is checking badges and making sure people who are in various areas of a hotel or convention hall have the credentials to be there.”
Increased protocol for security also means changing employee demographics, the report found. Why? The industry needs new professionals who have a better understanding of the current landscape, balanced by more seasoned professionals whose experience is invaluable to the newbies.
“For many meeting professionals, the challenge in coming months will be to balance concerns about lower spending power with the need to take advantage of current opportunities,” MPI says. “It’s not an easy one to tackle, but clearly, it’s an increasingly important one to master.”
The above is a lot to digest and the findings may seem a bit dismal. So to summarize:
- 48 percent of respondents expect the cost of meetings to rise due to the need for increased security
- 35 percent think room rates will rise by 6 percent or more throughout the next year
- 31 percent say the number of full-time employees is increasing
- 33 percent report online collaborative, interactive learning is important
What do you think? Have terrorism and/or safety concerns changed your event operations? Tell us about it.