The shows must go on – but will those in the tourism industry turn out in force for quickly approaching expositions traditionally seen as being useful for their work?
Well, judging by the responses from several tourism industry personnel, some upcoming shows that plan to have delegates physically present will indeed attract people who realize that the coronavirus pandemic is in retreat in much of the world but is yet far from disappearing.
But several of those people say their attendance is contingent on proper safety protocols being in place.
Javier Monje, Riu Hotels & Resorts sales director in the Mexican Caribbean, says annual Mexican tourism show Tianguis will see a RIU presence.
Tianguis is slated to be held in the Yucatan city of Merida in November, a time frame that organizers expect will give those planning to attend plenty of time to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
Tianguis was cancelled last year because of the pandemic. This year’s show will be an in-person event, with organizers promising strict safety protocols
“In principle, of course we would go,” Monje, whose company has a large presence on both Mexican coasts and in the interior city of Guardelajara, told Travel Courier. “Tianguis is the most important fair in Mexico and we take the opportunity to meet with our main commercial partners. I wouldn’t be nervous at all. On the one hand I am sure that like the rest of the country’s industry, the organizers would take all the sanitary measures to guarantee the safety of the attendees and on the other hand the evolution of vaccinations in Mexico is progressing at a good pace.”
Jan LaPointe, who carries the flag for Cancun’s Haven Resorts & Spas in this country and who has attended Tianguis many times, said she welcomes safety measures that will be in place during that show.
“Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I still have concerns about the virus, especially the variants,” she said. “I trust that the majority of those attending in-person events will also be vaccinated. I’m sure they’ll consider taking peoples’ temperatures upon entry to the convention floor, and I’m certain our friends and colleagues will also be more cognizant about taking precautions to ensure the safety of others.
“Being in an area where 70% of the 17+ YO population is now vaccinated, we still see people comfortable with wearing masks in crowded areas. I think that masks will be a common carry-over – in airports and on planes, on crowded convention floors, concerts and indoor malls for example. I’m all for it.
“We’ll get there – and hopefully in four to five months we’ll be much further along in getting the entire globe vaccinated and feeling safe again to go out and explore the world. We’re counting on it.”
Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise Travel in Toronto is looking forward to returning to Tianguis, which she has attended numerous times.
“I will be fully vaccinated next week so that, of course, I finally feel safe and secure in making these travel arrangements,” she said in mid-June. “Having said that, I will still be taking some basic precautions since it’s not clear if all participants will be required to be fully vaccinated. My masks will definitely be travelling with me and, although it will be tempting to hug all my many friends at this event, I’ll keep my hugging impulses under control. My hand sanitizer will still be with me throughout the entire time and will be used frequently. I really think that having become so used to taking these precautions for the past many months, they will be precautions that I’ll be taking for some time.
“I am happy to say that I have spoken with many other Canadian agents that will also have confirmed their attendance at Tianguis Turistico and I take this as a really optimistic sign that travel is well and truly making a safe comeback.
“It’s time! Let’s get travelling in 2022, if not late 2021.”
Meanwhile, Jerry Grymek of LMA Communications, which represents several American destinations and Dominica in this country welcomes the return of in-person shows, but recognizes precautions must be taken.
“Having attended a number of tourism shows pre-pandemic, I personally am excited for shows to return, however with more caution,” he said. “Some of the larger shows such as (American travel show) IPW draw a larger audience, so with that comes the concern about safety protocols. I am confident that there will be strict safety measures in place, however this may be a test to see how the industry reacts to the event.”
IPW is slated to be held in Las Vegas in September. The show is inviting people to be on hand and will also be done virtually for those unable to actually be there or who are uneasy about attending an in-person event at that time. Organizers are promising the likes of one-way aisles, social distancing, face-covering requirements and sanitizing stations. Grymek said there may be Canadians who will still be leery about being on hand in Las Vegas for the event, despite safety protocols.
“I believe that the industry will be split in terms of their comfort level,” he said. “In the U.S., where the vaccination rollout has been more aggressive and widespread, the industry is more comfortable with traveling and meeting for events or future trade shows while Canadians still await to be fully vaccinated. I am interested to see how the shows work out going forward in this post-pandemic world.”
Sana Keller, president of Pulse Communications and Travel Marketing Inc., which among other things handles publicity for the city of San Antonio and TL Network, is aware that shows that now plan to have attendees on site will have a different look.
“Trade shows will look and feel a bit different in the age of COVID-19, but I am comfortable travelling to a trade show as long as all safety protocols are in place with airline carriers, at the trade show, host hotel and destination, and if our Canadian borders are open without returning resident quarantine restrictions for Canadians in place,” she said.
“I think that additional measures should be put in place to ensure that attendees have been fully vaccinated and ensuring that attendees will comply with safety protocols, such as wearing a mask, continued social distancing and daily temperature checks at the events being attended. Trade shows attract individuals from many countries around the world and it is imperative that all guests feel safe and protected and that the environment that they will be in is safe.”
Keller realizes some people will be reluctant to actually attend events for the foreseeable future.
“I passionately believe, as industry professionals, we have to exhibit confidence in the entire travel industry and actively support it if we want others to do the same,” she said.
“We are just at the brink of coming out of lockdown in Canada and have gotten very used to virtual events. However the human interaction is still missed by the travel and tourism industry in general. There is nothing like an in-person experience that trade shows offer when you’re trying to do business, network or exchange new ideas. I don’t think that everyone will be comfortable travelling in 2021 but 2022 should be a better year for Canadians if we remain on the same trajectory as we are headed now and an overwhelming number of Canadians are fully vaccinated, and infection cases are minimal or have subsided.”
Meanwhile, Christine James, vice-president Canada of TL Network, said she’s “absolutely” comfortable attending shows now with other people.
James, who has received both vaccinations, noted TL Network is moving forward with its EDGE Conference at Universal, Orlando in October and with its Canadian Fall Regionals across the country in November. “This is in addition to other international events we will be hosting. I’m also planning on taking a vacation outside the country before year end,” she added.
James said that the events TLN is “absolutely ensuring that all safety measures are taken and all protocols are followed” at its upcoming events. “With the support of our membership, we are also requiring that anyone attending our EDGE Conference be fully vaccinated. Of course, we have no control over other industry events but I have to believe that anyone hosting an event will strive to ensure that they are successful by taking the appropriate measures.”
James added that feedback TLN has received to date from its membership leads it to believe that the majority will feel comfortable in attending industry events as long as the appropriate safety measures are taken and the protocols are followed. “Especially given that the vaccine rollout in Canada has ramped up and more Canadians are receiving their second dose on a daily basis. This has been proven in the U.S., where there have been a number of in-person events hosted successfully without any reports of breakouts.”