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Coronavirus updates, Feb. 28-March 2

APS cancels Denver conference; Global Business Travel Association poll finds businesses expect disruptions

CoronavirusIllustration created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the surface spikes displayed by coronaviruses.

March 2, 2020

Scientific society cancels annual meeting in Denver

Concerns about the coronavirus have led the American Physical Society to cancel its annual meeting in Denver almost at the last minute, leading to confusion and anger among the thousands of people who had planned to attend the event this week, the news site Science reported Sunday.

APS’s March Meeting was scheduled to kick off today, but the event was canceled roughly 36 hours before it began. The conference was expected to draw some 10,000 people from all over the world, according to Science. Some attendees had already traveled to Denver and were shocked about the late development.

“1000s of people must already be here in Denver, this is major,” tweeted physicist Kees Storm. “No idea what I should do now; already here and all booked for a whole week...”

In a statement, APS said the decision to cancel the event was “based on the latest scientific data being reported, and the fact that a large number of attendees at this meeting are coming from outside the US.”

The group said it planned full refunds of registration fees. However, it acknowledged the situation with hotel bookings was more complicated, “and we ask your forbearance as APS looks into what is possible regarding hotel cancellation fees.”

“We recognize that the timing of this decision has significantly inconvenienced many of you,” APS said. “However, this decision was made out of deep concern for the health and well-being of our registrants, staff, vendors and the Denver community.”

Science reported that registration fees range up to $695 for regular members and $305 for graduate-student members.


Association: Coronavirus could ‘jeopardize’ business travel industry

The spread of the coronavirus could potentially cost the global business travel industry more than $46 billion a month as events are canceled and businesses cut back on employee travel, according to a recent poll by the Global Business Travel Association.

The poll of GBTA members found that a significant number of respondents are expecting significant business disruptions in coming months, although most have no real idea of how long those disruptions could last. Using the results, the association estimates the virus could ultimately cost the business travel industry nearly $560 billion in 2020, or roughly 37% of its forecasted global spending.

“It is clear that the coronavirus is having a significant – and potentially very costly—effect on our members, their companies and on the overall business travel industry,” Scott Solombrino, GBTA’s chief operating officer and executive director, said in a statement. “It is fundamentally affecting the way many companies are now doing business.”

GBTA’s findings:

Canceled meetings: Nearly two-thirds (65%) of GBTA companies report they have canceled at least a “few” meetings or events. Nearly one-fifth of respondents (18%) report canceled “many” events, and one-fourth (25%) have canceled “some” meetings / events.

Postponed meetings: Two-thirds (66%) of respondents have postponed at least a few meetings or events, and nearly one-fifth (17%) report having postponed “many” events. A much smaller percentage of respondents report having moved their events to new locations due to the virus.

Length of business disruptions: 54% of respondents are unsure when they expect travel to resume. About one-third (31%) expect travel to resume in the next three months, but 14% expect the delays to last up to six months.

Impacts on business revenue: A majority of GBTA’s supplier companies report that the coronavirus has had a “significant” (24%) or “moderate” (31%) impact on their company’s revenues, with airlines and hospitality providers among the most affected. Only 14% of respondents report that the virus has had no impact on their revenues.

Travel to Asian countries: Nearly all respondents (95%) report that their companies have canceled or suspended “most” or “all” business trips to China. A majority of respondents have taken similar steps for events in Hong Kong (73%) and Taiwan (54%), and a substantial number of companies (45%) have also canceled or suspended travel to and meetings in other Asian Pacific countries (e.g., Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia).

Travel to European countries: Almost one-fourth (23%) of respondents report their company has canceled or suspended at least some trips to European countries (e.g., Italy, Germany, and France). Only 8% report having canceled or suspended “most” or “all” of their European trips, however.

Change in employee travel policies: Fully 43% of respondents report their company has instituted new trip approval procedures, and 51% say they have modified their travel safety and security features for their travelers.


Feb. 28, 2020

Companies skip U.S. events

Some U.S.-based trade shows and conferences are seeing businesses pull out because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, although relatively few events have been cancelled entirely.

One of the hardest hit U.S.-based events has been the Game Developers Conference, which was scheduled for March 16-20 in San Francisco. Microsoft, Sony, Facebook and video games developer Electronic Arts are among the major tech companies that dropped out of the event, which is organized by London-based events and research company Informa. The show's organizers announced Friday they were postponing the event until summer, although a new date has not been decided, Business Insider reported.

Motorola Solutions announced Thursday that it would skip ISC West, currently scheduled for March 17-20 in Las Vegas. The security industry trade show is produced by Reed Exhibitions, with the Security Industry Association as premier sponsor. Motorola said it would instead host a virtual showcase to show off the company’s products, the news site Security Sales & Integration reported.

The show’s organizers said that while they regret some companies have pulled out, they plan “a successful, safe and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.” 

The upcoming South by Southwest media festival—planned for March 12-22 in Austin—has seen a  “handful” of cancellations but nothing out of the ordinary, a spokesperson told Rolling Stone magazine. The U.S. has not experienced the wave of event cancellations that has gripped some Asian countries and more recently Europe, with the largest U.S. cancellation so far being Facebook’s annual F8 development conference, which was to take place in San Jose, Calif., in May.

The impact of the virus on U.S. events so far has been minimal. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, The Toy Association and International Housewares Association all had Chinese-based attendees and exhibitors miss their recent events because of travel restrictions.