How Covid-19 Is Affecting Your Events

Updates that will change your 2020  outlook.


  • Conferences being canceled
  • Economic relief updates for the travel industry
  • Event alternatives
  • What to consider when canceling your own event
  • Airline and Hotel policy changes and refund tips
How covid-19 is affecting your events

What we cover here

  1. Hope for your corporate events
  2. Can I still host an event in the US?
  3. Countries unaffected by Coronavirus
  4. Economic relief for the event industry?
  5. Hotel and airline refund/credit options
  6. Events that have been confirmed, delayed or canceled due to Covid-19.
  7. Countries closing borders
  8. Event alternatives
  9. What to consider if altering or canceling your event
  10. You may consider a 3rd party now more than ever

Hope for your corporate events

There is no doubt that people and businesses are bracing for impact as concerns of Covid-19 grow.

While events are being canceled in the short term, don't presume that the outbreak will continue its acceleration through the summer months. 

Before you postpone, alter, or cancel your events in Q3 and Q4 consider this: Influenza and cold viruses tend to peak in winter months, and then decline with warmer weather.

As this NPR article points out, this is for a couple of reasons:

  • People tend to cluster together in colder months
  • Viruses similar to Covid-19 rely on colder weather to be easily transmittable - The virus' ability to survive outside of the body is shortened during warm weather

While we do not have the history to tell us how effective warmer weather will be in preventing the spread of the Coronavirus, there is plenty of hope.

Also, keep in mind that improved hygiene measures, testing in various areas, and quarantining practices will help reduce the spread of the virus.

Can I still host an event in the US?

March 14, 2020, Update: Authorities are universally asking us to practice social distancing. Because of this, we are no longer saying events are viable, even locally. Social distancing, per the CDC, is avoiding contact within 6-10 feet of one another.


If and when event opportunities DO open up, consider these health measures:

  • Airports, hotels, and transportation will increase the potential risk, as millions of people touch and travel through the same spots. If you are considering an event, the less travel required the less risky it is - Stay domestic. 
  • At-risk groups include anyone over the age of 50, pregnant, or children below the age of 10. Limit your target audience. See this graph:
    Covid-19 mortality by age
  • Infection rates can be much higher in other countries. Be cognizant of hosting events, even just locally, in other countries. This graph illustrates the number of cases by country so you can prioritize. (Source: u/TunaCandy)
    Countries affected by covid-19 event management

Click to download

  • Take preventative measures very seriously. You can drastically reduce any potential rate of transmission with an effective cleaning protocol.
    Hire a professional company to regularly sanitize. Additionally, communicate with the local authorities and medical professionals to get their buy-in - At this time, many local authorities are approving events because they do not have a "risky environment".
  • Provide disclaimer notices prior to your event attendees and staff. Let everyone know how seriously you are taking the circumstances. Communicate the additional measures you are taking to ensure everyone's safety.
  • The larger the event, the riskier it is - So limit the size. As of March 13, Australia has recommended canceling all events with more than 500 people.

Countries unaffected by Coronavirus

If you are planning your next incentive trip for 2021, an ideal list to start with would be locations without any cases of the Coronavirus.

There are a few hot Caribbean destinations that fall in this list, give it a look!

Coronavirus-free Countries

Economic relief for the event industry?

March 24 update: While there have been multiple proposed bills nothing has been passed...yet. The cruise industry and other sub-Travel industries are expected to be bailed out. Also, Loans will be available to small businesses to weather the storm.

March 18 update: The Trump administration is preparing a relief package that might contain $300B for small businesses, in addition to $850B for American citizens with jobs.

March 11 update: The proposed economic relief from President Trump does not include direct support to the travel industry...yet.

However, one of the proposed measures that will potentially affect you is the total elimination of payroll tax through the end of the year. Again, this is only a proposal at this time. 

Many countries are providing economic relief packages to industries affected by Covid-19 and related containment efforts.

Italy is providing tax credits for any business that has seen revenue decline for more than a quarter.

As of early March, President Trump announced that they were presenting an economic relief package that among many things, would include economic support to the travel industry. 

Initial speculation was that this would apply only to airlines and hotels.

Subscribe to stay up to date.

Hotel and airline refund/credit options

March 27 2020 Update: Per The Points Guy, look at this suggestion for maximizing your refunds.

points guy recommendation on traveling

March 18 2020 Update: Like dominos, most airlines and hotels are offering full refunds or credits for cancellations.

March 15 2020 Update: Omni and Marriott are waiving all cancellation fees.

March 13 2020 Update: IHG waives all cancellation fees through April 30

What started with JetBlue has many airlines falling in-line with temporary policy changes on refunds or credits.

Unless the airline or hotel is outright offering a refund, you need to put on your negotiating hat and see just how much you can save your business.


  • If you know your event is canceled, do not wait to cancel airfare and/or hotel room block in hopes of a more favorable policy change from airlines or hotels. While there is a chance this could happen, you risk cutting into your cancellation windows and receiving much less.
  • Be strong with suppliers. Do not take "no" for an answer. If you cannot get a concession or "exception" from customer service, then climb the ladder.
  • Climbing the ladder. While being respectful, tell the airline or hotel that simply accepting a credit (or lack thereof) is simply not an option. You cannot accept this, and understand they cannot give permission, but there is someone who can. Explain that all you need is to be pointed in the direction of where to find this person. It could be their boss, or a department within Corporate that holds the key. Get to that person.
    For Southwest Airlines, it took climbing the ladder 2x, and ultimately being transferred to a different department whereby they granted us a much more lucrative credit than the first 2 Southwest representatives offered.
  • Understand you may not get a full refund. For every airline and hotel, you should be able to get a concession or exception above and beyond what was initially offered. However, you should know your limit.

For hotels, we have seen a partial credit, even during the penalty windows. For example, if the hotel contract states you are in a penalty window of $100,000, they may offer you $25k back as a credit at a future stay, leaving your total penalty at only $75k.

While this is great, you can likely get more.

Events that have been confirmed, delayed or canceled due to Covid-19.

March 13, 2020 Update: Australia has "recommended" a stop to all events and gatherings of 500 or more people. Does not appear to be official yet.

March 12, 2020 Update: Princess Cruises suspends all operations for 60 days; Viking cancels all cruises. (Incentive travel implications)

March 11, 2020 Update: IMEX Frankfurt is canceled.

Almost 10 million attendees have been affected by event cancellations thus far.

While this number represents events as a whole, the number of corporate events is rising as well.

The first events to postpone or cancel were predominately large (tens of thousands of attendees) and international, we're now seeing several smaller, regional, events being canceled or postponed.

  • The World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C.—canceled, virtual conference only
  • Google I/O developer event in California—canceled
  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s global health conference in Orlando, Florida—canceled
  • Adobe Summit in-person conference in Las Vegas—canceled, moved to online event
  • Aruba Networks Atmosphere 2020 conference in Las Vegas—canceled
  • HIMSS health and tech conference in Orlando, Florida—canceled
  • The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona—canceled
  • Workday internal sales conference in San Francisco—canceled, online only
  • ASEAN Summit in Las Vegas—postponed
  • Shopify annual developer conference ‘Unite’ in Toronto, Canada—canceled
  • Cisco Live in Melbourne, Australia—canceled
  • DEF CON China in Beijing—postponed
  • Dell World in Las Vegas—canceled, online only
  • EmTech Asia in Singapore—postponed
  • Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Jose—canceled
  • F5 Agility 2020 in Orlando, Florida—canceled, online only
  • Facebook Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco—canceled
  • Game Developers Conference in San Francisco—postponed to summer 2020
  • Google Cloud Next in San Francisco—canceled, online only
  • Google I/O in Mountain View, California—canceled
  • Google News Initiative Summit in Sunnyvale, California—canceled
  • Semicon conventions in Korea and China—canceled
  • Microsoft WSLConf in Redmond, Washington—canceled, online only
  • Microsoft MVP Global Summit in Redmond, Washington—canceled, online only
  • Paris Blockchain Week Summit—canceled
  • SAS Global Forum in Washington, D.C.—canceled
  • Vision Expo East in New York City - canceled

In addition to the updated event cancellation feed in the sidebar, you can view a comprehensive list of corporate events that are confirmed, postponed, or canceled due to the Coronavirus here.

Countries closing borders

March 18, 2020 Update: It is safe to assume that travel to ANY country at this time is risky and should be avoided. Even domestic travel is heavily frowned upon. Because of this, we will not update the list of countries closing borders.

March 12, 2020 Update: Denmark is partially shut down for 2 weeks (schools, universities, public employment)

March 11, 2020 Update: Trump closes borders to all of Europe except for Britain, for 30 days.


March 11, 2020 Update: Italy remains the only country to completely close its borders for non-vital travel until April 4th.

While Mike Pence said on Wednesday that we would not be closing our borders, the US is already restricting travel from China.

Additionally, Bhutan, Isreal, Vietnam, India, Malta, and Iran have travel restrictions in place against specific countries.

Event alternatives

Events serve an important role in Marketing and your Business as a whole.

It can be devastating to lose the potential direct and indirect revenue that an event provides.

To mitigate the losses, consider alternatives such as these:

  • Limiting your event to a local audience
  • Rescheduling your event to later in the year
  • Transition to a virtual event

These are viable options to replace or adapt your existing event schedule.

To read more about transitioning to virtual events in 2020, click below, and also sign up for the EventMB webinar called "Pivot to Virtual".

Consider Virtual Events

What to consider if altering or canceling your event

When considering if you'll cancel an event, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my event international, regional, or local?
  • Will I have attendees from out of the country?
  • Are there any Covid-19 cases already in the area?
  • What is the recommendation from the local authority, health professionals, or CVB?
  • What is the duration of my event?
  • Is this event something I can replicate in the future or is it specific to current events? (Product launch, etc.)

OR, if your event can be altered by taking extra precautions, it will be worth looking into versus an out-right cancellation. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I limit my audience to a local or regional demographic?
  • Can I ensure anyone over 50 years old, or pregnant does not attend?
  • Can I reduce the duration of my event?
  • What additional safety measures can I take in working with the hotel or venues?

You may consider a 3rd party now more than ever

While there is an 11% projected growth for event managers through 2026, it will inevitably slide down in 2020 as the need for physical events decreases, businesses will continue to host and attend local events that require limited travel.

Companies initially set on hiring corporate event managers in 2020 for a busy event schedule might be better off hiring 3rd parties that can "fill the gap" for your sporadic events.

It is easier to cut ties with a contractor as you don't have an on-going salary, benefits, and training to tend to.

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Latest global event cancellations