Simon Hughes, chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) appeared on the BBCs Business Briefing, 10 March.

Hughes was interviewed by Sally Bundock about the information available to organisers of events with regards to the coronavirus. They also touched upon staging hybrid events with technology.

You can watch the interview on BBC iPlayer here (starting 4:12), or read the transcription below:

Sally Bundock: Lets now focus on the global events industry, that generates billions of dollars every year. The tech sector alone has cancelled 12 high profile conferences so far this year, amid coronavirus concerns. Its estimated this will cause an economic loss of one billion dollars.

Lets talk to Simon Hughes, vice chair of the BVEP, that works on events in London and elsewhere in the UK. Just put this in perspective for us – how difficult is the situation with coronavirus and the events industry?

Simon Hughes: Its very challenging. Its challenging right around the word, and I think one of the things we’ve seen is people coming together, associations in particular, providing their members with information, case studies and news.

The availability, particularly in the UK, of information from government departments, groups like VisitBritian, and the tourism emergency response group, is really helping people cope with the impact of this virus, which is huge.

SB: We’ve seen very high-profile events cancelled like the Mobile World Congress in Spain earlier this year. Very big sporting events have been cancelled or postponed. What goes through the minds of organisers – how long can they leave it to make that call? It’s a very expensive decision to make, isn’t it?

SH: We have seen a couple of things called off at very short notice – two days before the event. That’s not best practice, and that’s certainly not what our partners will be doing. The decision-making process is, ‘are we going to carry on, are we going to modify, what are the risks, do we co-locate? Can we hybridise events to bring them to people using technology?’

SB: Once the coronavirus threat has decreased, and its no longer high risk to run an event, there’s a big logistical problem in the aftermath, isn’t there?

SH: I think for business events it’s probably easier to move them, or postpone them. I’m worried about the cultural sector, though – things like festivals. We’ve got a really busy schedule, already well set down in the UK, and trying to shift some of those around, both in terms of the audience and the artists, will be a bit of a problem.

But we’ve seen some people just saying ‘we wont do it this month, well do it at the beginning of next year, giving themselves plenty of time, and I think that’s probably a prudent way of doing it.

The industry is built upon detail, and the people who spend a lot of time doing logistics, some of them have been working for years on these large events. Their understanding of risk management, is what’s really going to help them, long term.