An organization can plan as much as possible but there will still be a large list of unknowns, industry professionals discussed during a webinar hosted by Neumann University of Pennsylvania.
“You don’t know what the rules are going to be when this is done,” said Ryan Wolfe, sports sales leader at the Delaware Tourism Office. “The world we’re going to live in is something we’ve never dealt with before.”
Ashley Dabb, senior manager for communications at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, said being able to hold events is more than just bringing in tourism dollars to a region because of the local economic impact that is driven through employment.
“Keeping those folks employed is very important,” she said during the “Sport Tourism & Travel in a Post-COVID-19 World” webinar. “Getting these events restarted is something we’re focused on when appropriate. It’s also about the folks that are working daily to keep the operation running and right now, those folks are sitting and waiting.”
While people wait for the event industry to resume, one thing highlighted by Andy Carl, co-founder and director of business development for TEAM Solutions, is the preparation that venues will have to do before having competitors and fans stream through the entrance gates. “We’re in an industry of mass gatherings and people will be particularly careful and ask a lot of questions about things in place at the venues and hotels going forward to ensure the safety and health of people going forward,” Carl said, referring to cleaning and social distancing guidelines. “I think it’s going to be a major talking point for the foreseeable future.”
To that point, Dabb made reference to issues that venues will face in the future: “Can we hold events where the max capacity is 100 but we open it virtually up to people viewing the tournament from their home,” she said. “How does that impact the guest experience? Obviously watching at home versus being there is a different experience.”
Cancellations in the spring for events and organizations that want to reschedule for the fall also means scheduling becomes a dilemma for many venues, said Maryland Sports Commission Executive Director Terry Hasseltine.
“It’s going to be a unique challenge for us to tackle, purely cancellation and rebooking,” he said. “We’ll have to figure out what to do as this continues on. It’ll take communication, articulation of what can and can’t be done and figuring out win-win situations that give everybody a chance to participate and put their activity on.”
Besides the issue of rebooking events also comes what venues will be charging for them given that no venue would be able to guarantee full houses at events immediately, Hasseltine said.
“We’re going to be the new front line when we get beyond this pandemic and when the time comes to restart the economy,” Hasseltine said. “What that new norm looks like, none of us know. But sports will play a huge part of that fabric.”