Coronavirus live updates: The Business of Events Senior Leadership Forum postponed

All the latest industry news and coronavirus live updates – as it happens…

Monday 16 March

  • The Business of Events Senior Leadership Forum has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

After consulting with the government, partners and stakeholders, the organisers have taken the decision to postpone the Forum until the situation surrounding COVID-19 becomes clearer.

  • A petition calling on the UK government to provide economic assistance to businesses and staff employed in the events industry affected by the coronavirus outbreak passed more than 100,000 signatures in three days.

Passing the 100,000 signature milestone means that the petition will be considered for discussion in parliament. The government is yet to respond to the petition, which was launched by event photographer Matt Rakowski.

  • Delegates at the ICCA UK & Ireland Chapter Annual Conference 2020 demonstrated resilience in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, sharing knowledge and experience and focusing on long-term success.

The event, which took place at ICC Wales against a backdrop of increased challenges due to the outbreak, provided an opportunity and outlet for positive discussion and forward-looking debate among the attendees.

  • Mass events are set to be banned across the UK from next weekend, the government has announced.

Downing Street has signalled it is getting ready to stop large public gatherings in a bid to alleviate pressure on the emergency services during the coronavirus outbreak.

The size of event affected and the timing of the ban has yet to be decided. It is expected to come into force from next weekend.

The government is also expected to include compensation for organisations forced to cancel events in emergency legislation due to be passed next week.

The move is a significant turnaround from the government’s previously announced approach to the outbreak. Prime minister Boris Johnson stopped short of banning large events on Thursday when the UK moved to the delay stage of its action plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday the director general of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed the need for a range of measures to limit the spread of the virus: “Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all.”

Hours later the government signalled it would move to ban large events.

Friday 13 March

  • Large events and mass gatherings of people in England and Wales can still go ahead under the latest measures introduced by prime minister Boris Johnson to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

The steps to tackle what Johnson called the “worst public health crisis for a generation”, included ending school trips abroad, stopping older and vulnerable people taking cruises and advising anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus to self-isolate.

The measures are less stringent than those of other countries, including north of the border in Scotland, where first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that all gatherings of more than 500 people would be banned from next week.

Johnson admitted that the measures could cause “severe disruption” to everyday life for months.

He said: “It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, added that between 5,000 and 10,000 people in the UK are thought to have the virus now.

Two deaths on Thursday brought the death toll in the UK to 10.


  • Denmark has become the first country to compensate organisers for damage suffered due to the cancellation of large events because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The European Commission has approved a €12 million package to compensate organisers over the cancellation of events with more than 1,000 participants.


  • A new petition is calling on the UK government to provide economic assistance to businesses and staff employed in the events industry affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The petition was launched by event photographer Matt Rakowski. He said: “The events industry is facing its biggest ever challenge as the effects of Covid-19 are hitting us all in an unprecedented manner. I’m calling on the UK government to provide economic support to businesses and individuals in our time of need.”


  • With the industry’s wellbeing set to be tested to the limit over the next few months, we’ve been looking at coping mechanisms that might be useful.

Laura Capell-Abra of Stress Matters has shared her tips on what event professionals can do to safeguard their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.


  • Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) chief executive Marshall Dallas said he believes the industry will recover from the coronavirus outbreak over time.

Speaking at the launch of a new £350m hotel and school project for the venue, he said: “We acknowledge that our industry is going through challenging times. We also believe that the situation will recover over time. We have a robust and talented industry which is used to operating in difficult circumstances. Today’s announcement is about an infrastructure project for the future.”


  • Clearer communication on coronavirus measures would help limit the effect of the outbreak on the events industry, according to Chris Parnham, founder and managing director of Absolute Corporate Events.

Parnham said short term measures being adopted by destinations to deal with the effects of the outbreak are having an adverse effect on the longer term planning of events.


  • Forum Events has issued a statement reassuring its attendees that its events are still happening and safe to attend.

A statement said: “The advice from the DHSC has been that there is no need to cancel events in the UK. Our forums and summits are classed as small scale events of approx. 150 attendees, and it is our sole priority to sustain business confidence in the events industry as a whole. We will be implementing the recommended steps to ensure that all our forums, summits and events take place safely and successfully.”


Thursday 12 March

IMEX Frankfurt cancelled

Comment from organisers:

It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the cancellation of this year’s IMEX in Frankfurt (due to take place 12-14 May).

We know that this will come as an enormous disappointment, not only to the exhibitors, buyers and industry professionals who were due to attend the show, but also to the global business events community.

This is not a decision we have taken lightly and there are two overriding concerns that have caused us to make this decision at this time.

First is the uncertainty caused by the fact that the German health minister has recently called for the ban on events with over 1,000 people which some German states have already endorsed, including the state of Hesse where Frankfurt is located. This announcement makes the probability of factors outside our control forcing us to cancel the show at the last minute much higher.

Second, our primary concern is always the responsibility we feel towards our exhibitors and partners, who fund the show – not only by purchasing stand space but also in the considerable additional investment they make in everything from the build of stunning stands to the hosting of buyer events.

Whilst only a short time ago we felt optimistic that May was far enough away to confidently proceed with our plans, as it stands today [11 March] we cannot guarantee the one thing that our exhibitors trust us above all else to deliver – namely a large-scale, high quality hosted buyer programme.

In an ideal world we would wait and see. But we are in the real world and we cannot, in all good conscience, ask our exhibitors to continue to invest money against which they may not get a return.

Both of these factors – uncertainty around whether IMEX will be allowed to proceed, as well as doubts as to the number of buyers who will be able to attend – have led us to the conclusion that we now have no option but to cancel IMEX in Frankfurt.

A decision based on facts

We want to make it very clear that we have made this decision based purely on the facts as we know them today and, importantly for the whole IMEX team, based on the responsibility and genuine care we feel for all our clients and the global business events community.

IMEX is our family business and the business events community is the only community we serve.

We have tried today to take the best decision for the industry and we are so thankful for the support that has already been shown to us. Quite rightly many of you see yourselves as friends and members of the extended IMEX family.  This is precisely why we’ve thought long and hard in the past few days, consulting in depth with partners and stakeholders across the industry before making this announcement. Our strapline “We Are All Connected” has never felt more true, nor more important.

Committed to serving the industry

Despite the disappointment and impact we know you will feel, we want you to know that we’re fully committed to serving this industry that we love. We’re already working hard in the background to deliver value and service above and beyond the trade show you were looking forward to and will announce these plans in the near future.

We intend to keep morale high and, together with leaders around the world, to focus on collective efforts to rebuild confidence and advocate for the power of business events to aid economic recovery once this situation is over.

The IMEX team will also be working hard to deliver a successful IMEX America (15-17 September) with plans to recognise the 10th Anniversary of the show already in full swing. We hope that the business events world will join us in Las Vegas to celebrate our great industry.

Once again, we thank the whole industry for the support that has been shown to us and we are here to support others in the industry as we all work through these difficult times.

Ray Bloom, Chairman, IMEX Group

Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group


  • Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people in Scotland.

She also said that the UK had moved from the “contain” phase into the delay phase of the outbreak following a Cobra meeting in London.


In an email to exhibitors, organisers said: “The AVS Board had a conference call yesterday in relation to the event and the current COVID-19 outbreak, and took the decision unanimously to postpone the event until later in 2020.”

The new date for the showcase is yet to be confirmed.


  • Donald Trump has banned Europeans from travelling to the US.

The US president has suspended all travel to the US from Europe in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The ban only applies to the EU’s Schengen travel zone, meaning UK and Ireland travellers are not affected.


  • Japan has been warned to prepare for the cancellation of the Olympics.

A senior Japanese MP has warned that the country must prepare itself for the possibility that the Olympic Games, set to open in Tokyo on 24 July, might have to be called off.


  • The world’s biggest gaming event has been cancelled over fears surrounding the spread of coronavirus

E3 had been set to take place from 9-11 June in LA.


  • Global cases of coronavirus have passed 126,000, with more than 4,600 deaths.


Wednesday 11 March

  • EVENTIT, Scotland’s annual showcase for business event professionals, will go ahead as planned next week despite the coronavirus outbreak.

EVENTIT will open its doors on Thursday 19 March at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, showcasing more than 80 exhibitors and organisers have reassured attendees that cleanliness and hygiene matters will be imperative across the duration of the event, with both the EICC and EVENTIT following the most recent health and safety guidelines.

Judith Wilson, director of EVENTIT, said: “Event professionals across Scotland are understandably anxious about the potential of event cancellations, however as leading event professionals, it’s our job to highlight that Scottish events are very much open for business and going ahead.”

  • The Bank of England has announced an emergency cut in interest rates to 0.25 per cent to boost the economy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The cut brings borrowing costs back down to the lowest level in history.

  • Japan’s Olympics minister has called suggestions that this summer’s Games could be delayed by one or two years because of the coronavirus outbreak “inconceivable”.

“A delay is not under consideration,” said Seiko Hashimoto in a parliamentary committee.

  • A coronavirus conference in New York has been cancelled – because of the coronavirus.

According to Bloomberg, the US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations was due to hold a conference called “Doing Business Under Coronavirus” on Friday (13 March) in New York.

  • IMEX organisers have responded to a request by the German health minister that events of more than 1,000 people be postponed. IMEX Frankfurt is due to take place on May 12-14.

In a statement, organisers said: “We are aware of the recommendation by the German health minister and are looking into it, working closely with our partners in Germany to determine what it means for the state of Hesse where Frankfurt is located.”

  • HelmsBriscoe’s European, Middle Eastern and Africa (EMEA) Regional Meeting took place on Monday 9 March as planned, bringing team members together at the newly refurbished Hilton Belfast.
  • Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress is set to take place as planned in Texas in June, organisers have confirmed.

“Rest assured that Meeting Professionals International remains diligent in ensuring that the safety and security of our attendees, staff and operational personnel remains the top priority,” said MPI.

  • There are now 119,000 cases of coronavirus globally and 4,296 deaths, with more than 55 per cent of the cases reportedly cured.

Tuesday 10 March

    • The Business of Events has confirmed that its rescheduled Senior Leadership Forum will go ahead at The Mermaid London on Tuesday 17 March.

    Despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, and following advice from Government and Public Health England, the event will go ahead, but with some restrictions and enhanced health measures.

    A discussion around the impacts and challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak on the events sector will include representatives from some of the industry’s largest associations and organisations including IBTM, Cvent, PCMA and London & Partners. The conversation will focus on what the industry needs to do to recover from the crisis and what lessons can be learnt to safeguard its future.

    • NorthStar Meetings Group has a running list of major conventions, meetings and trade shows affected by the spread of coronavirus.

    Click here to see the latest updates, both confirmations of industry events that will be held as planned and the trade shows, conventions and conferences that have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19.

    • Knowledge and understanding will be key to helping the events industry deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Simon Hughes, vice-chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership.

    Speaking to the BBC, Hughes said: “The industry is built upon the detail of people who spend a lot of time doing logistics. Their understanding of risk management and their understanding of logistics surrounding major events is what’s really going to help them longer term.”

    • Hampshire-based In2Events is urging the industry to take a pragmatic approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

    “Yes we’ve been affected by this and everyone jumping on the bandwagon,” said Gavin Farley, cofounder and director In2Events. “But when situations like this arise we need to continue to work through them to be stronger when we come out the other side.”

  • UK travel trade association UKinbound has formally requested financial assistance from the government to help the tourism and hospitality industry to combat the impact of coronavirus.
  • “This is a very stressful and worrying time for the UK tourism industry and travel and tourism worldwide,” Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound said. The association has more than 400 members from across the travel trade.
    • The UK government has warned that people with symptoms as minor as coughs and colds could be asked to self-isolate within the next two weeks.
  • Speaking at a press conference with the prime minister, Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said “we will be having to ask members of the general public to do different things than they would normally do”.In addition, the deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said that the UK will see “many thousands of people” contract coronavirus and that the fatality rate will rise before it drops again in the early stages of the outbreak.Elsewhere in the world:
  • More than 60 million Italians have been placed under lockdown conditions, after quarantine measures were extended to the whole country.
  • The Czech Republic is to ban events hosting more than 100 people as part of efforts to contain the outbreak, its prime minister has said.
  • The Polish government has decided to cancel all mass events due to the outbreak.
  • The global death toll has passed 4,000 and infections are at more than 114,000.
  • Monday 9 March

  • The European Tourism Association (ETOA) has called on governments to take measures to halt the economic impact of the outbreak and restore confidence.
  • Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA said: “How we restore confidence when it is being shattered is a conundrum, but we need to address it now. We are in the midst of this particular crisis, but it will end. Governments need to act on what is happening to their economies: it is as important as what is happening in the area of health.”What is happening to the travel industry, and consequently the entire service economy, is real and happening now.”It is impossible to gauge the overall economic impact, and we are still gathering evidence, but the European tourism inbound industry is contemplating a reduction of business of at least 50% in 2020.”This would require a major upswing in demand later in the year. How we go about getting to that recovery is an urgent priority.”
  • The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has postponed its annual conference so that doctors can concentrate on helping the NHS tackle coronavirus.
  • Medicine 2020, due to take place at The ICC, Birmingham on 23–24 April, has now been moved to January 2021 at the same venue “so that doctors can concentrate on looking after patients with COVID-19 and avoid putting themselves at any increased risk from the virus.”Postponing the conference is aimed at removing any additional risk posed to clinicians who would be needed to manage patients should the situation with coronavirus become more serious.Medicine 2020, the RCP’s flagship conference and the largest event in the RCP’s annual programme, was expecting upwards of 1,000 delegates from across the globe.Professor Andrew Goddard, the RCP’s president, said: “We felt it was important to take decisive action now to offer early certainty to all those involved with this year’s event.“Our aim is always to protect people’s health and it simply wouldn’t be sensible to bring together hundreds of doctors from all over the UK, and other countries too, when they are already stretched, dealing with COVID-19 on top of all the other pressures on the NHS.“We shouldn’t put doctors at unnecessary risk of contracting or spreading the virus so it is a wise precaution to postpone Medicine 2020. Now, as always, I want to protect the wellbeing of the NHS workforce.”The RCP will look forward to welcoming delegates to the conference on the new dates of 7-8 January 2021 at ICC Birmingham.
  • Organisers have pledged that the launch of event creating digital platform eve will take place as planned on Tuesday (10 March).
  • 41 Portland Place is set to host the inaugural event and is operating very strict procedures to ensure that there will be no staff who have recently returned from affected coronavirus areas, or who have been in contact with anyone who has recently returned.MD of eve by CH&CO Katy Thompson said “We have taken extra measures to ensure of the cleanliness of the venue and all the staff onsite haven’t been to any affected areas or been in contact with anyone who may have been infected. On top of that, we will be cleaning often touched surfaces throughout the day and will be offering organic hand sanitisers to guests on entry. We have written to all our guests advising that we will be launching tomorrow and asking them that if they have been to any of the affected areas or been in contact with anyone that has to stay at home.”House of eve will showcase 34 venues with capacities of up to 2,400 that currently sit on the platform in a one-day immersive experience.Organisers can attend House of eve by emailing:
  • Karen Kadin, managing partner at Brands at Work, believes the industry must harness its creativity in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Read her take on why the industry’s creative and imaginative people need to rally together to restore confidence – not just in events, but in creative ways to sustain engagement.
  • Don’t cancel, postpone. That’s the message that euromic executive director Huw Tuckett is urging the industry to adopt in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • In an open letter to the industry, he urged event professionals to communicate with clients to find ways to make programmes happen, rather than just accepting cancellations.