Confronting the Coronavirus: On the Ground in China

Author: Michelle Russell       


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets with doctors in Wuhan, China, on Jan. 27 during an official visit to “inspect and guide” the coronavirus outbreak response work, according to a post from the State Council Information Office of China Twitter feed. (Courtesy China SCIO)

Convene reached out to Ping Liu, CEO of China Star Ltd., a Chinese destination management company and professional congress organizer, to learn how her company is handling the coronavirus crisis and working with clients.

Please tell us about the status of events scheduled for the near future in China.

We have had incentive groups and events canceled because of the emergency. According to the regulations recently issued by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, travel companies have to suspend their operation for tourist groups and relevant events. In China, DMCs and most of the PCOs are under the leadership and guidance of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. A couple of our incentive groups [scheduled] to come to China in April decided to change the destination. Quite a few events, including incentive groups and corporate events, decided to postpone to the second half of the year or even to the next year.

We are trying our best to protect our benefit of our clients and refund as much as possible any deposit or prepayment.

Have other planners contacted you about their concerns regarding planned upcoming travel to China in the near future? How are you working with them with so much uncertainty about when the virus will be under control?

Yes. We are communicating with clients all the time. I agree that they should cancel their events in the first half of the year in China. I still believe that the virus will be under control in two or three months. However, I don’t want our clients to run any risks. So I would like to encourage them to postpone their events.

Are there any creative alternatives you foresee for those events that have been impacted?

I don’t think that there will be any creative alternatives except those events which can be realized online. Every corner of China is defended at this moment and there will [be] no space for any events to take place. However, this short pain is for the long gain. The overriding job for the Chinese government and Chinese people is to get rid of coronavirus and stop the spreading. All the domestic events, including meetings, conferences, recreational activities, receptions, parties, etc., are suspended. There are also no dinners together with friends and relatives to avoid the gathering of people.

Since I came back from Vancouver [attending SITE Global Conference, Jan. 24–27], I have been alone without meeting anyone. I even refuse to meet my sister living in the same community. Experts encourage people not to interact when coming back from a trip. China has too big a population. We all agree that extremely strict preventive measures are to be taken to get the virus controlled as soon as possible. So as long as the events have people interact with each other, there will be no alternatives.

For China Star, we will try our best to add values in our service for any of the events coming back to China after the disaster. We will give them a once-in-a-lifetime experience with our creativity.

What message would you like to convey to our audience of event organizers primarily based in North America?

China and North America have different social and political systems. Sometimes Americans might not fully understand the so-called Chinese characteristics, such as building up a hospital within seven days. Whatever the Chinese government wants to do, it can make it [happen]. Chinese people obey the orders from the government in all actions whenever confronting disasters. Chinese people are “tough get going.” These days, if you were in China, you would hear people saying “unity is strength,” “unite as one,” and even “fight to the last drop of our blood,” to express their determination to conquer the virus. These people include the professionals in the MICE industry.

I hope that our friends in North America can trust us. We definitely will get rid of the coronavirus and make a more beautiful and healthier environment for their events in China. I hope our North American friends will come back to China with their events as soon as possible.

Ping Liu has written a post titled “Confronting the Coronavirus; No Panic, but Confidence!,” about her experience returning to Beijing following the SITE Global Conference in Vancouver, Jan. 24–27.

What Events Professionals Need to Know About COVID-19

PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the outbreak and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared.

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