Woman removing her face mask during COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

The event industry was cautiously optimistic about a revival this summer – and then the CDC shocked everyone

For event profs, May 13th may become something of an industry holiday. That’s the day where the Center for Disease Control, in a move that stunned millions, announced their significant rollback on masking restrictions for both outdoor and indoor events (among most other public spaces). The media reaction summed up the country’s mood. From joy from everyday Americans at an imminent return to normalcy, to confusion for small business owners who had been expecting mask mandates for the foreseeable future, to frustration from public health experts, no one was expecting the move.

Now, a week later, people have had time to digest the news. While some are still criticizing the way the announcement was released, the reaction from the events industry has been clear. Hope for a brighter future seems closer than ever. Need some proof?

  • In Chicago, the annual Lollapalooza music festival announced plans to return to full capacity in August. The festival will bring over 100,000 music fans (and desperately needed hotel bookings, restaurant reservations, and tourist spending) to downtown.
  • NCAA sporting championships that were delayed to the spring (and months ago were only tentatively expected to happen) have rolled back capacity restrictions. Likewise, pro arenas which have been empty since last March are rapidly filling with screaming fans.
  • Restaurant reservations have rebounded to nearly pre-pandemic levels across the country.
  • The European Union opened its borders to vaccinated travelers unconditionally, in hopes of saving the essential summer tourist season.

Indeed, every day brings new signs that normalcy is returning. But is the “new normal” going to offer long-awaited relief for event profs? Here are a few things that the CDC announcement means for the event industry.

That swell of backlogged events? Here it comes

Just a few weeks ago, we predicted here at RSVPify that with a year’s worth of postponed and canceled events, event profs should expect a busy summer as people booked up outdoor venues to reschedule. Along with those delayed events, a wave of new events seemed likely. But that prediction was made in a pre-CDC announcement world.

Now, with indoor venues remarkably free of many masking restrictions, the surge seems even greater than we anticipated. While insurance and logistical concerns are still likely, the CDC has provided significant liability coverage for venue hosts to open the doors for weddingsBar and Bat Mitzvahscorporate eventsgraduations, and more. If you are a venue host, get ready for a surge of calls and emails.

Great news for event industry vendors that cater to traditionally indoor events

Florists, decorators, traditional caterers – not all vendors were going to be saved by the return of predominantly outdoor events. Likewise, smaller venues with limited ability for social distancing were still looking at a long wait to return to normalcy. Not anymore.

Removal of attendance caps and masking requirements means that the white wedding is a go again. For event vendors who have struggled since the loss of in-person events 15 months ago, the CDC’s announcement was a godsend. Event industry vendors should be spending any remaining reserves or PPP money on advertising and social media outreach now. There’s never been a more critical time to remind potential event planners and hosts what you can do for them!

What was once a critical summer events season isn’t quite as critical anymore

Again, just a few weeks ago, it looked like event profs would need to have a banner summer to bank resources for when the weather got cold. Just as people found social life severely limited when the fall and winter COVID surges hit this year, the event outlook seemed significantly constrained in cold weather locations around the country.

Once again, the CDC has changed the story. With numbers on a measurable decline, and many states touting over 50% of adults vaccinated, the fall and winter seem just as promising for event hosts. While making the most of summer is still a good business strategy, event profs should no longer fear a cold quiet winter. We sense a lot of delayed holiday parties and business events this year.

US Coronavirus vaccine tracker

Speaking of corporate events – one note of caution

The one area where the CDC announcement may not shift things is the corporate event industry. With business travel still down significantly from pre-pandemic highs, and many companies fundamentally changing the way they manage employees and allow remote work, the corporate event sector may experience the most lasting changes after the pandemic. Sure, holiday parties are probably still going to happen. But do we expect corporations to spend as much flying employees across the country for them? Will conventions still be as frequent? Only time will tell.

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