Venice Carnival cut short as Coronavirus experts warn of global ‘tipping point’

Annual festival adds to a long list of pulled events while a global agency talks of cancellations, postponements and a move to virtual meetings.

Venice Carnival was cut short.
Venice Carnival was cut short.

Cancellations, postponements and virtual meetings have become the watchwords of the industry's reaction to the Coronavirus outbreak as another global agency confirmed its response to the health crisis. 

It comes amid news that Italian officials have cut short the Venice Carnival as the country tries to control what has become one of the worst outbreaks of the Coronavirus in Europe.

Amid a spike in confirmed cases, Italy introduced drastic measures such as imposing fines on anyone caught entering or leaving outbreak areas, according to reports, while Austria suspended train services over the Alps to Italy for about four hours late on Sunday.

Italy imposed strict quarantine restrictions in two northern regions near Milan and Venice, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, China postponed its most important political assembly, while Qatar Airways said it will quarantine passengers from Iran and South Korea who have symptoms of the virus. 

A number of global agencies have spoken to C&IT about the response to the outbreak, with many cancelling or postponing some events.

Speaking to C&IT, Bruce Morgan COO of BCD said: "So far we have naturally experienced cancellations in some of our APAC markets (governmentally mandated), and we have also seen some precautionary postponements throughout the region based on audience type/location.

“The extended holiday period that has been introduced locally in China is also helping to initially mitigate further postponements. We are busy counselling clients both on options for later date operations, as well as alternate ways to achieve their business objectives under the circumstances.”

Morgan said that virtual meetings, with compelling content and different ways of connecting, were a valid alternative, adding that “we are seeing interest within the markets to embrace new thinking on this front".

He said that “in the end clients still need to connect” with external and external audiences and it is the job of an agency to help them explore all options. 

Italy took drastic containment steps over the coronavirus

Overall travel managers and event managers are "watching the situation carefully” Morgan added.

“While we provide the maximum amount of education, a customer needs to assess the value of the trip or event versus the risk of it.

“Recommendations from health organisations and government authorities will continue to give guidance on next steps. BCD M&E is prepared to execute a client’s policies and will support should customers look for alternative locations or operational timelines." 

Last week, other global agencies told C&IT they have had to change destinations, postpone and defer events until next year, echoing steps across the industry with a “wait and see” approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier, Kurt Miller, George P. Johnson (GPJ) senior vice president of strategy & planning, said that he had received an early warning that brands had started pulling out of the Mobile World Congress.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia told The Guardian that: “The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic ends seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours.”

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