Conventions Industry Might Be Returning To Southernmost Illinois In 2021

Conferences and conventions make up a big part of niche entertainment in the United States. Some only occur once a year at one location. Others travel to multiple locations to ensure that as many people can participate as possible. Usually, these events cater to a specific group of people with specific interests. But all together, the industry accounts for about $100 billion in cash flow every year. Not surprisingly, the industry was completely closed for most of 2020 thanks to the novel coronavirus.

Reopening might be easier in even the hardest hit states, such as Florida and Texas. In these warmer climates, it’s easier to keep events outside where sanitizing surfaces and keeping people six feet away from one another is no problem. 

Executive director Mark Tester of the Orange County Convention center in Orlando, Florida said, “I’m very excited to be getting groups back.”

According to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, 64% of cons and conferences have been canceled since March of 2020. Executive Vice President Cathy Breden said on behalf of the organization, “Shows are watching closely to see what each is doing.”

They all want to get back into the game, but not until officials are sure it’s possible to accomplish safely.

Southernmost Illinois isn’t the most popular spot for cons, but our residents don’t mind traveling north if that’s where the action is. McCormick Place in Chicago was supposed to host 12,900 people for a conference by the International Manufacturers Technology Show. The loss in revenue for the eventually cancelled event is estimated at a whopping $24.7 million.

Why was it canceled? Illinois has a reopening plan that occurs in phases, and a specific set of conditions must first be met before an organization can hold a large gathering — whether that gathering is indoors or outdoors.

The plan says, “The conditions that must be met for the implementation of phase 5 feature either the availability of a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus or a highly effective treatment protocol, neither of which are expected to occur in the coming months.”

At least two vaccines are citing the probability of near-complete efficacy in reducing the chance of coronavirus transmission, but only peer review and the scientific process will let us know for sure. And even if those two vaccines are effective, that doesn’t mean they can be mass produced in time for spring events. Most fans of their favorite cons will have to wait a little bit longer for these larger gatherings.

It’s possible that certain smaller, limited events will begin operating by the end of the year, however.

Sun Trust Robinson Humphrey writer Barry Jonas said, “While this could suggest meeting planners are still holding out for a potential return to normalcy post-vaccine, we could see cancellations accelerate as the scheduled event date approaches.” 

But most organizers will be waiting until the last minute to hold an event or cancel. 

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