The mia to launch best practice guidance in response to COVID-19

By Lesley Whyte

The Meetings Industry Association (mia) is calling for fairness and solidarity across the industry to help mitigate the impact of Coronavirus COVID-19 on trade.

Nearly three-quarters of the mia member venues have had events cancelled as a result of fears of Coronavirus COVID-19 and there are serious concerns about the future of the industry should the UK move from its current containment phase to delay, or beyond.

With the World Health Organisation’s recent declaration of a pandemic, venues are even more concerned over cancellations and how to manage them, as well as uncertainty over contracts with suppliers and agents.

The mia will be recommending best practice across the industry on how to drive new business, reduce cancellations and manage postponements. The guidance is designed to help keep everyone in business while making health and wellness a top priority.

The mia is creating the document following a dedicated event – Extraordinary matters: COVID-19 and its effects on your business – at 15 Hatfields on 9 March, where experts in health, crisis management and law provided vital information and guidance to operators to help them understand their legal and social responsibilities following the outbreak.

Attendees were advised to draw up adaptable plans for operations, staffing and communications, while continuing to monitor, and follow official advice.

Rhiannon Evans of Beattie Communications recommended having a fluid plan and keeping up-to-date with all official advice from Public Health England and the NHS on what to do should the outbreak affect an organisation.

“No one is to blame for this crisis, but you could be blamed for not following official advice. It’s a rapidly evolving situation so we need to plan but also be adaptable,” she said.

While there were concerns over cancellations, attendees were given advice on what to do should the workforce be impacted.

Kate Thompson, of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Wales, warned that up to a fifth of employees across all industries, could be off work during the disease’s peak, so venues were advised to create plans for staffing in all eventualities.

Chris Needham-Bennett, managing director of Needhams 1834, suggested venues create a ‘social charter’ outlining what the organisation will do for its people and what would be expected from the workforce if members became ill, or were forced to work from home.

Attendees were reminded to check the small print on event contracts by Claire Mulligan, partner at Kennedy’s Law, and check business continuity insurance to see where they would be covered.

She also reinforced the message that following official advice was the best protection against any potential claims made on any COVID 19-related claims.

She said: “Following advice from Government and Public Health England is the best way to go. You will be covered legally if you follow official advice. Ensure you have a paper trail to back you up.”

The mia’s chief executive, Jane Longhurst, said: “We are a resilient sector and we will survive, but this is a challenge that will stretch us to our limits.

“We are aware of the challenges our members and the wider industry are facing in these extraordinary circumstances, so felt it was essential to bring everyone together to help allay everyone’s own fears and give them the right guidance to navigate their way through this in the best way they can.

“In order to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus COVID-19 on all our businesses, it’s essential that the industry works in solidarity and that fairness comes first, which is why we are creating best practice to help guide the industry in their approach to cancellations and postponements.”

For more information, you can register for regular updates on https://www.mia-uk.org/Coronavirus.