Coronavirus upended the trillion-dollar events business. Here’s how it can come back

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The global events industry generates more than $1 trillion in economic activity. Needless to say, it has been decimated by the coronavirus. After the lockdowns end and our health authorities tell us it’s safe to gather in groups, we need a plan to ease people back into real events. Virtual events won’t cut it in the long term — not just for participants but also for our economy.

The typically busy spring lineup of galas, receptions, multiday conferences, and fundraisers has been wiped out. Democratic convention planners last week announced they would delay until August, but questions abound about how exactly that would work and still keep people safe. Campaigns, advocacy groups, and charities, meanwhile, are scrambling to adapt and think about what the fall will look like — and whether they’ll have a fall at all.

The stakes are high. In the United States alone, the event planning business generates $325 billion of direct spending and helps support more than 5.9 million jobs with $249 billion of labor income. These jobs support the planners, audio-visual technicians, caterers, venues, cooks, waiters, and everyone else who helps produce the events we all enjoy.

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