When the Arab uprisings hit the headlines, an event magazine quoted an industry expert "The Middle East is off the table". I cautioned that blacklisting destinations was not the answer as "unrest can hit anywhere.... at any time."
Since then, stock markets have again spiraled out of control. The debt crisis and job market slump have continued. Over the weekend, using the same strategies as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street reported rallies and demonstrations "in 1,500 cities globally and over 100 U.S. cities from coast to coast."
While the movement is peaceful, in some cities, there has been violence. Protesters are vowing to continue indefinitely, until something changes. It's a reality that event and meeting planners can't afford to ignore.
A knee-jerk reaction with widespread cancellation of events, conferences, and incentive travel is pointless. Unrest is on your doorstep. Companies and event planners need strategies for the new reality...a global climate of protest and unrest.
- Reach out to clients. Identify concerns and brainstorm options before they panic and cancel trips and events.
Remind them that, even if there is unrest in one area, the rest of a destination could be peaceful.
- Involve your Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
They can provide reliable, up-to-date reports, conduct site inspections, and suggest alternatives.
- Engage a local security company to conduct a risk assessment audit.
- Schedule weekday stays at downtown hotels.
Protests are less likely to peak when people are working.
- For weekends, consider alternatives to downtown hotels and resorts.
Many downtown hotels have sister properties in small towns or the suburbs. Subject to availability, some hotel chains will build flexible locations into attrition clauses.
- Be part of the solution.
Greed, huge CEO bonuses when companies are losing money, and the perceived insensitivity of Wall Street and "corporate elites" are the main factors fueling the protests. Explore these themes during retreats, business meetings, and conferences. Identify strategies to help your organization become a better global citizen.
- Give back to the community.
Team events that make a meaningful contribution to the destination should be part of every itinerary.
- Design a flexible, modular agenda.
Time-shift on-site business meetings and off-site team building away from the downtown core if conditions are unfavorable for downtown activities.
- Avoid conspicuous transportation luxury.
Use luxury SUVs or shuttle buses with plain exteriors for movement in the city core.
- In areas of unrest, avoid off-site, downtown evening galas. Alternatives to consider include:
- lunch galas
- elegant afternoon teas, garden parties or picnics
- on-site, evening galas
- equestrian events in the country
Photo Credit: sarabeephoto
Please stop by, add to this list and share your experiences.