The COVID-19 crisis is unusual. It is extraordinary, heartbreaking, unsettling and worrisome. It is also an opportunity for the meetings and travel industry to show the world why we are duty-bound to our core mission.
During this time we have attended more virtual meetings than ever before. I have been so impressed with organizations like Association Forum, PCMA, MPI and more who have swiftly adapted to correspond, present vital information and continue to do what is most important -- bring us together.
We are very fortunate as a community to have virtual meetings. They allow us to extend what is necessary while reinforcing why we need to get together once again. Many have reconnected with colleagues and perhaps made new friends.
But there is something I continue to hear that weighs on me. Our industry cannot continue to use the term “New Normal.”
Some “New Normal” references date back to WWI but most recently the phrase was coined by Roger McNamee, a “tech investor” in 2003. It then was highly used as an economic term referring to conditions following the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the subsequent global recession. Call it jargon, buzzwords or phraseology, “New Normal” implies something that was abnormal is now commonplace.
In that context, an acceptable “New Normal” would be long-term restrictions implemented on institutions protecting consumers from predatory lenders. For our industry, unacceptable “New Normal” examples would include masks at meetings, a maximum of 25 people allowed onto a trade show floor and boarding an aircraft six feet apart while wiping down carry-on bags. If these behaviors are accepted as forever-practices, our industry will never recover.
This is not directed at anyone in particular and I have certainly used the phrase “New Normal” myself. What we need, however, is a bridge to the future. Instead of new norms, we need temporary measures that will lead us back to meetings, conventions, sports – living! Call it The Big Stopgap.
The promotion of facts rather than fear is what will allow us to reclaim what has been temporarily lost. As a reminder, this industry over the last 20 years has persevered through Zika, 9/11, the West Nile Virus, H1N1, Ebola and a litany of terrible natural disasters. COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge but we are a powerful, resilient group of professionals. Optimism, together with the promotion of true statistics, safety and normalcy, is our best choice.
Take care of yourselves and your families, knowing I hope to see you very soon. I want to shake your hand or give you a hug. We need the “Old Normal.”
Douglas J. Dvorak is Director of Sales - Midwest Region for Visit Fort Worth
Opinions are his own.