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Meeting planners and suppliers are itching to do business again — and with good reason. That was the overriding sentiment during the Interact Back to Booking digital event yesterday, produced by Northstar Meetings Group. The hosted-buyer meeting drew 80 participants from across the U.S. and the world for virtual networking, one-on-one appointments and timely education.
In his welcome to participants, David Blansfield, Northstar's executive vice president and group publisher, pointed to strong signs of a rebound: Covid-19 case numbers are steadily decreasing in the U.S., and countries around the world are easing gathering restrictions. In the U.K., for example, some larger events are expected to resume in mid-May, with restrictions further eased in late June per a recovery roadmap released by the government this week.
A flurry of anecdotal evidence is consistent with the early results of Northstar Meetings Group's latest PULSE Survey, which has been tracking planners' response to the pandemic since March 2020. With nearly 500 responses recorded to date, findings show a significant uptick in the number of planners actively booking new business, Blansfield noted. (The survey remains open for planner responses through March 2.)
Business is definitely picking up, attested participant Carla Bascope, director of group sales for Visit Alexandria in Virginia. "I've seen more leads come through in the last three days than I have seen in the last three weeks," she said, including several from her one-on-one meetings with buyers during Back to Booking. While the pace of business has picked up, she noted, "most are looking at Q4 or Q1 2022."
Education and Entertainment on the Agenda
With Covid-19 and security issues top of mind, the day began with an informative session about mitigating the heightened risks associated with in-person events. In a live Q&A format, Mark Herrera, director of education for the International Association of Venue Managers, addressed questions about on-site Covid testing, civil unrest, suspicious activity and more.
Event-Security Lessons from the Capitol Riot
Mark Herrera discusses how risk assessment is evolving and what the Capitol riot means for venue security on this episode of the Eventful podcast. Listen here
"We used to think international terrorism was what should be focused on," said Herrera. "Not in today's world. It's domestic terrorism. After what happened at the Capitol, that risk is high, and we have to be more vigilant now than ever before." (See related story, Assessing Risk and Preparing for Civil Unrest in 2021.)
The event's premier sponsor, Visit Scotland Business Events, invited partner Mercat Tours Ltd. to transport the group to Edinburgh during the afternoon. "The Scots are very superstitious, and we love gothic horror," explained by Tania Dron, Mercat's creative development manager. A master at storytelling, she captivated participants with three chilling ghost stories — all true, of course.
Northstar's Live Events Resume in April
In addition to planned digital events for 2021, Northstar is getting back to business, too. Incentive Live: 2021 GMID Edition takes place April 7-9 in Tucson, Ariz., with a special agenda to celebrate Global Meetings Industry Day. And Northstar's signature Independent Planner Education Conference (IPEC) will be held in Louisville, Ky., April 21-23. Applications for hosted buyers and suppliers are still be accepted for both events. The full calendar of Northstar Meetings Group's upcoming events can be viewed here.