Planners, destinations, venues and hotels are having to review cancellation policies in the wake of the coronavirus as many of the world’s leading events grind to a halt.
The developments follow concerns raised that events often go ahead without insurance against 'notifiable diseases', which could lead to crippling costs for many.
The Meetings Industry Association (MIA) has launched new guidance for the sector to help contract negotiations and to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on trade.
And one of London’s famous West End theatres, the Old Vic has emailed customers asking them to contemplate donating the cost of the ticket rather than requesting a refund to a major production.
The warning that a full refund would be “financially devastating” came after its major production and Beckett revival Endgame - starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming - closed two weeks earlier than scheduled, the Guardian reported.
The MIA report, called ‘Extraordinary matters: Contract Guidance’, offers best practice provides information on reducing the impact of cancellations and managing postponements.
Jane Longhurst, chief executive of MIA, said: “Nearly three-quarters of our member venues have had events cancelled as a result of fears of COVID-19 and there are serious concerns about the future of the industry, since the UK moved from its current containment phase to delay. Further restrictions are predicted.
“In order to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on all our businesses, it’s essential that the industry works in solidarity and that fairness comes first, which is why we created this document to help guide the industry in their approach to cancellations and postponements.
"We want to keep events alive and continue to encourage organisers to book events for the future. This is very much an evolving paper and we will continue to update our recommendations as the situation develops.”
Meanwhile, in a letter to members, Arne Sorenso, Marriott's international president and CEO, said that given the impact of COVID-19 on “how we work, socialise and travel” the hotel chain has adapted its cancellation policy to the evolving nature of the pandemic.
The policy update would offer customers “the most flexibility we can offer during these challenging times,” Sorenso added.
“Generally speaking, for guests with existing individual reservations, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, we will allow changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours before arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by April 30, 2020.
“For guests making new individual reservations between today and 30 April 2020, we will allow those reservations to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before a guest's scheduled arrival date.”
Venue finding tech firm Tagvenue has also issued a statement on cancellations.
“It has become clear that the events, entertainment and venue hiring industries are facing an unprecedented challenge with the outbreak of coronavirus across the world," it said.
"We have been following the situation closely and are monitoring news updates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the local state health departments in the markets of our operations. The health and wellbeing of our employees, clients and partners are of our utmost priority."
The company has implemented a number of measures to help mitigate the impact of coronavirus:
- Cancellation policy is now an obligatory field in all venue profiles on its platform
- Venues are actively being asked to provide an updated cancellation policy
- Four cancellation policy options from flexible to moderate, strict and customised
- Refund option dependent on the number of days remaining till the event
- The company said it has not recorded a drop in venue booking demand yet, but corporate events business has seen a limited impact.
The statement continued: “However, we do see events being postponed to autumn 2020 or Q1 next year.
"The average cancellation rate in the last 7 days has increased to 6.7% across all markets and to 6% in London vs. an average of 2.1% and 2.3% in the same period last year, respectively.”
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