I assume you know what’s going on these days. The coronavirus hit the stock market, sending numbers tumbling on Monday, as I am writing this.
People are afraid this is going to get worse -- epically worse. These concerns are what’s sending fears through markets, as the global economy is entirely dependent on every country doing their part to pull their weight.
For me, this was primarily a news story with minimal personal impact, but then the company I work at was forced to cancel a large event in Australia because of fears for people’s safety while traveling. Then, Mobile World Congress, a big event for the digiterati, shut down.
These two events made the problem feel even more real. Mobile World Congress was looking like a shell of what it typically is, so show organizers canceled, partly out of fear of a poorly attended event plus concerns for people’s safety.
In my lifetime, we’ve seen SARS and bird flus and now this, but I’ve never seen large global events shut down as a result. This was a first.
I find myself asking “What would Dustin Hoffman do?”
This may make no sense to most of you -- unless you’re familiar with the 1995 film “Outbreak,” in which a mysterious virus takes hold and travels from Africa to California, threatening millions and millions of people. Dustin Hoffman plays a heroic doctor who helps solve the problem in about two hours -- or else this would have been a VERY long movie. Needless to say, the coronavirus is not a ‘90s movie.
In all seriousness, this is a very concerning situation. What will happen to other large industry events in the U.S.? What about the upfronts? What will happen to Cannes Lions? What are industry people thinking about travel these days?
In full disclosure, I work on Webex. Obviously, I can tell people are doing more video calls -- volume is most certainly increasing. What other kinds of behaviors are going to change? How does the travel industry get affected by these concerns?
The markets are fearful of the impact on tech and commercial business because so much of the integral pieces for these businesses are created in China and Asia, but there’s far more to think through.
Travel is going to slow down. Airlines, hotels and even secondary travel like Airbnb will feel the effects. The event business is going to take a massive hit, since people don’t want to travel nor do they want to be in large groups of people. This is a real concern, as all of this could signal a decline in overall revenues for many businesses over the next quarter, which could trigger a recessionary slip in the economy.
This all coming in an election year compounds the concerns.
Needless to say, it’s going to be a very interesting next couple of months as containment of the coronavirus becomes nonexistent and the global economy is forced to respond. Here’s to working from home, limiting travel, and trying to get by through alternative means of engagement with people!
I wish this were a ‘90s movie and easy to fix. Unfortunately, it’s not looking like that.