The ‘New Normal’ in the DMC World

By Dan Tavrytzky, Managing Director, the DMC Network

As with the rest of the world, we as a Destination Management Company (DMC) are coming to terms with what our ‘new normal’ is right now.  Flights have halted. Borders have temporarily closed.  Restaurants, bars, hotels, shops and venues have shut their doors and social gatherings of all kinds have temporarily stopped.  This is not business as usual.

In the beginning, our events were halted within a day or two of operating.  Guests were at home packing, venue builds were in process, staff were onsite, catering was confirmed.  In these cases, we had to work quickly with our client to mitigate the fallout onsite.

“Our very first event to cancel was on a Friday for an event that Sunday, 2 days out – the first tough pill to swallow for everyone!  In times of crisis though, social goodness definitely shines through.  One area where we could make lemonade out of lemons was through the venue.  The food had already been bought and paid for, and with quick thinking we were able to donate all of the food from the event to Rescuing Leftover Cuisine Massachusetts, a local homeless charity, on the clients behalf.  As a DMC we know the local society (we know the charities that need our help the most) and it aligned with our client’s philanthropic values and allowed them to communicate a good news message to those delegates that were no longer able to attend.  Many events are cancelling further out thus food was not purchased but think outside the box and ask your hotels, restaurants of other ways to use those lost deposits and put them to good use!’’

- Courtney Church, CEO at Corinthian Events, a DMC Network Company

Longer term, we’re having to find new dates for clients' programs – but the resounding message of #postponedontcancel really does seem to be the order of the day.  Suppliers are working with us on change fees and new space options - clients are continuing to commit their programs, albeit later in 2020 and into 2021.

"As an Italian DMC, we were definitely the first in Europe to see the repercussions of CoVid19.  Our cancelations came in fast and strong.  It has been a real learning curve for us to educate ourselves on a virus we had previously known nothing about, while also juggling our new 2020 vision. A positive for us has been the strengthening of our supplier relationships.  While events for April, May and June have all had to come to a halt, the comradery and level of empathy from our suppliers on the ground has been overwhelming.  Local contractors have quickly and easily renegotiated with us, worked around new date options, waived penalties – we have really felt the Italy community come together on this one, and it’s going to help us tremendously in the future."

- Heather Williams, CEO, TERRAVENTS Italy, a DMC Network Company.

Our DMC Network partners in San Antonio are also seeing the benefit to their local connection through community spirit:

"With the temporary closure of events here in San Antonio, it had a trickle effect to our blood drives.  Our 64, 000 seat stadium, the Alamodome,  is now hosting a three day blood drive to help generate reserves for the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.  Several of our CE Group warriors have been down to support the cause – it’s challenging times like these where we so often see the best of our local spirit."

- Janet Holliday, President and CEO of The CE Group, a DMC Network Company

One of the other silver linings that we have experienced over the last couple of weeks is how adept we are as a company at working remotely.  Being a global DMC, our partners are operating in over 100 destinations around the world.  While this reach can have it’s challenges (time differences, physical presence etc) , what we’ve found is that our current situation of working together remotely has been a relatively straightforward update.  While we are used to (and looking forward to getting back to!) our in-person meetings, travelling for sales calls and being onsite operating events; we have realized that as a community, we have the systems in place to collaborate virtually very easily.  This has helped us to hit the ground running, better support our clients, and more easily communicate with our partners.  We’re taking time to fine tune our business strategies and educate ourselves on the latest best practices.  In what would normally be a period of intense out-of-office travel, the silver lining has been to use this time to work on projects and fine tune internal processes.

As an industry, we bring people together  from all over the world for magical events, and we do it exceptionally well.  As incentive travel professionals, we know how to create an experience that will touch a delegate in a way that travel on their own would not.   And while we are all still working out what this ‘new normal’ looks like in each of our cities around the world, one thing’s for sure -  this industry isn’t going anywhere, and we will weather this storm and be stronger and more resilient when we get to the other side.