As Major Festivals Drop Pandemic Protocols, the Event Industry Faces New Opportunity

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As Major Festivals Drop Pandemic Protocols, the Event Industry Faces New Opportunity

Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals made a statement this week by dropping their COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements for 2022. The change comes after both events were completely cancelled for the past two years due to the pandemic, and as state and local governments across the country consider rolling back pandemic-era mandates like masking.

Stagecoach announced on Feb. 15 that there will be “no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Stagecoach 2022, in accordance with local guidelines.” The festival takes place April 29 through May 1. Coachella shared a similar message, also adding that the event, April 15-24, will be presented “in accordance with applicable public health conditions as of the date of the event, and they may change at any time.” Both properties are owned by Goldenvoice.


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Festivals were among some of the first large-scale events to return to in-person, and while Coachella and Stagecoach are now among the first to loosen their pandemic protocols, health experts say much of the industry is still taking a conservative approach, especially within the b-to-b event space.

Dr. Jonathan Spero, ceo of InHouse Physicians, which offers health security services for corporate meetings and events, says that his team is now handling up to 50 domestic or international gatherings per month. He says Fortune 500 companies are spending upwards of $865,000 for COVID-19 vaccine verification and testing (including for pre-departure, arrival, on-site and departure) measures.

“Typically, what I am seeing now is a pretty significant commitment to health security,” says Spero. “They were willing to spend that money when there was no budget for it, and now there is a budget for it. Getting people on flights and in one place creates all sorts of increased risks that they’re trying to mitigate. Now so many more people are getting infected, and it has really created an argument for increased health security.”


“I’d like to see everyone all get together and talk about what health security measures need to be in place long term to protect our industry.”

-Dr. Jonathan Spero, ceo, InHouse Physicians


Travel, especially internationally, poses a risk of infection. Still, the majority of attendees traveling to shows like CES that Spero works with now feel comfortable taking the risk to attend a meeting as long as health security measures are in place. From vaccine verification to testing at various points in the event experience, the higher the number of precautions in one area (vaccination mandates), the more others (testing) can loosen, he says.

Spero is concerned that all safety measures and pandemic protocols will disappear and event planners will return to pre-pandemic operations, forgetting that, prior to COVID-19, the event industry faced SARS.

“That would be a mistake for the events industry. I’d like to see everyone all get together and talk about what health security measures need to be in place long term to protect our industry,” he says. “We’ve had two pandemics in 11 years, and we likely will have another one. It’s a way of life, and if the industry stays in reactive mode, they will get decimated again, and it doesn’t have to be that way. The conversation needs to be an opportunity for the meeting industry to have a seat at the table with chief executives, and they haven’t yet taken advantage of that opportunity.”

Dr. Matt Friedman, medical director of CrowdRx, which also offers on-site medical services for events, says that his schedule for 2022 is slightly busier than before the pandemic. He says that at this stage of the pandemic, risk needs to be assessed on an individual level, not based on the general public. Most events are still requiring vaccinations, he adds, and a small minority are now requiring boosters. However, looking forward, depending on the individual risk assessment of an event’s specific clientele, he anticipates more vaccine requirements to be dropped.

“We are still recommending that it’s better for everyone to require vaccinations as an entry criterion at large-scale events. However, when the prevalence of disease drops below a certain threshold, the marginal benefit of requiring vaccinations will be negligible. We are not at that point yet though,” Friedman says.

Photo credit: iStock/Nastco

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