What’s next for the hospitality sector

Virtual meeting
November 18, 2020 / Posted by Cheryl Brunwin / in 25th Year / 1019 Views

The hospitality sector is one of the hardest hit by the Coronavirus, C2S talked to members from the hospitality sector on how the last 6 months have been for them and what next looks like!’

First Choice Conference & Events is a Cheltenham-based, corporate event management agency working nationally & globally. Six months ago we were sourcing venues, accommodation, production and entertainment together with managing events for our corporate clients. We were looking at a record year with a very healthy order book of business beyond 2020. COVID-19 changed all that.

Suddenly all our business for 2020, melted away. This was not the way we had expected to celebrate our 25th Anniversary year! With all short term future business put on hold, our team were working from home now, making sure our clients were supported. We were determined that all the time, energy, planning and financial investment would not go to waste. As a team we worked hard to get to grips with new ways of working, using Microsoft 365 teams and sharing the Onenote to keep abreast of all changes and conversations. Daily team Zoom calls, account management Zoom meetings and of course the weekly Zoom quizzes on Friday afternoon, helped to keep the morale high, in the face of the pandemic. We were determined to remain resolute, hoping this was just going to be a temporary situation. Versatility and adaption to virtual conferences, exhibitions and team building events became the ‘new normal’.

Since August, the meeting sector could re-open for meetings up to 30 and the hospitality industry rose to the challenge. As a conference and event organisers, we concentrated on understanding the rules and regulations of creating a COVID 19 safe environment for meetings and helped to communicate this information to our clients through blogs, conversations and social media. Reassuring them that through in depth risk assessments, policies and procedure had been put in place. All enquired business received a policy from each potential venue, detailing the processes and the expectations of the clients, whilst on site. With Government guidelines venues became certified COVID-safe.

The furlough scheme helped us to retain jobs until venues re-opened and restrictions on corporate gatherings were lifted. On October 1st, we were expecting groups of up to 300 would be able to meet, but we all now know, the new Government restrictions have now burdened us with a serious setback. As an industry we need to work hard to convince the Government to change their policy or to provide more support for business which can hardly trade. We are hugely disappointed, our clients are still there, the business is still there, we are eager and able to supply a professional & safe service. All we need is the green light. After 25 years of business, years of winning industry awards for excellent service, and surviving the last 6 months, it will take diversification, adaptability and huge determination to get through this incredibly difficult trading situation.

If the last 6 months is anything to go by, the growth of virtual technologies will continue to gain momentum. We have successfully managed many of our client’s global virtual events during lockdown. The virtual world is multi-faceted and can provide products such as speed networking, exhibitor stands, breakout rooms, social elements and entertainment. Currently, virtual Christmas Parties are hugely popular as clients are starting to think about how to keep the morale of their remote workers high over the festive season. To explain one of the formats, it’s a mash up of TV’s most hilarious gameshow style rounds, hosted by a professional comedian, creating an interactive BIG fun online team experience. Party boxes with mystery goodies are delivered to each team member, with everything they need to take part in the games. It’s a great laugh and defiantly one to consider.

Ultimately though, communication is key in any business and there will always be a need to bring people together for engagement, in learning and in sharing experience and there is nothing like communicating with people face to face with the connection that this brings. So there is no doubt, that live events will be coming back, it is just a question of timing.