MICE sector reacts to Zika threat

BCD Meetings & Events has joined MICE organisers and venues revealing their preparations for a possible Zika outbreak.

Earlier this week, Jamaica’s Foreign Office joined a spate of countries revealing a case of the mosquito-born virus, linked to brain abnormalities in unborn babies, has been detected.

It said visitors should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre, particularly if pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Christine Erickson, VP, US conference & event management BCD Meetings & Events told CN: “We are monitoring the situation day-by-day and gathering as much information as we can from credible sources; like the CDC and WHO as well as our own medical supplier we use for onsite travel. We are sharing the facts regarding the virus with our clients and collaborating with them to make decisions based on their unique travel situation. While we have seen women who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant not travel, we have not had any cancellations or relocations at this time. BCD Meetings & Events has been through this type of situation before and, at this point, it is all about communication and onsite preparation. For instance, we are providing the essentials to mitigate mosquito bites onsite.

Joyce DiMascio, chief executive of the Exhibition & Event Association of Australasia told CN that, for the short-term, the Australian business events sector has a low level of risk. “The Australian health authorities are well equipped to manage threats associated with the Zika Virus should the country become exposed to the threat. At this stage Australia is not on the WHO list of countries affected. I’ve put out a note to key members, and will advise if there is any further comment to the above.”

She added that the country has a very good national incident response plan which is activated by the health authorities when required. “I was involved in its development for Sars and Avian influenza. We are not panicking – the health authorities will activate the plan and engage industry at the appropriate time.”

Ranko Filipovic, vice-president, Croatian Meeting Professional Association, added that there has been no effects so far in Croatia or in the neighbourhood.

Messe Frankfurt, meanwhile, told CN that the organisation is in close contact with the health authorities. “According to their most recent statements, there is currently no impact expected for events taking place at the Frankfurt fairgrounds, nor at other Messe Frankfurt event venues worldwide,” said a spokesperson from its Hong Kong office.

“Should there be any change to the current status, Messe Frankfurt will implement the recommendations and guidelines of the World Health Organisation, and of German federal, state and municipal health authorities. This applies to all events organised by Messe Frankfurt. Irrespective thereof, Messe Frankfurt consistently ensures high-quality, comprehensive medical care at all of their events.”

Meanwhile, tour operators including Thomson, First Choice and Thomas Cook are allowing customers due to travel to Zika-infected countries the option to switch to other destinations free of charge.

The virus has mainly affected Brazil and Colombia, but has spread to at least 23 countries in Latin America including the Dominican Republic, Barbados and Mexico and has also reached Cape Verde and Samoa.

The World Health Organisation has declared Zika a public health emergency.

Emily King

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Emily King

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