Mr Happy and Mr Grumpy battle for control in the Lockdown Bureau

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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Another Saturday morning in the Interim Lockdown Bureau that is beginning to feel a bit like the Forever Lockdown Bureau. A 4am start offers the chance to catch up on the backlog; catching up on sleep will have to wait for the afternoon siesta.

Ghost town: I popped into Moodie Davitt HQ earlier this week to pick up some post. The scene that greeted me illustrated how much had changed since I bid farewell to the office on March 22 and left ‘Wilson’ (below) in charge.

Can you believe we’re almost halfway through 2020, a year that promised so much hope, but which has instead delivered so much misery? I’m in daily touch with so many who have lost their jobs and try as I might to help place them in new ones, opportunities are as scarce as the voice of reason in the White House.

Mr Happy might become Mr Grumpy if the Lockdown Bureau remains open for too much longer

Our voice might have remained prominent during the crisis, but our company has not been immune to the commercial devastation. Our core revenue base – trade advertising and conference income – has been hit hard but a combination of partner loyalty, careful cost management, sound cash reserves and the ability to pivot rapidly has served us well and so, almost mid-term in this annus horribilis, I am extremely optimistic about our future.

Pivot? Yes, as sharply as a Dan Carter (the great All Blacks flyhalf) sidestep, we’ve shifted focus to a Virtual Expo and even created a Virtual Expo company dedicated entirely to non-travel-related markets. Together with Alex Cook and his brilliant team at FILTR in Singapore, and thanks to over 5,000 man and woman hours, we’ve taken the basic concept of a virtual expo and turned it into a finely curated end product. It is one that has attracted the support of some of the world’s biggest and (rightly) most demanding brands, with many more to be announced soon.

I read yesterday in a sales pitch by another media house, TRB (which, to its credit, has also tried to innovate with a digital event), that “all industry events” had been cancelled until 2021, and that brands have been hitherto “starved” of the opportunity this year to meet and network with clients and other prospects and partners.

Fortunately, no-one seems to have told our many Expo partners that, as our announcements to date and in coming days will confirm. As one of those exhibitors told me yesterday upon receipt of our rival’s email flyer, “Martin, this will be the first time so many of us have exhibited at a ‘cancelled’ Expo. Now that’s what I call virtual!”

More seriously, our event has prompted much discussion in our industry. What is the future of physical trade shows, such as those run by us with ACI (The Trinity Forum); TFWA’s events in Cannes and Singapore; The Summit of the Americas and so on? What are our intentions? Peter Marshall pressed me pretty hard on those questions in a recent interview on his TRUnblocked Blog, attracting something like 21,000 page views across all media – his-all-time record – and subsequent events have only confirmed the opinions I offered then.

Physical events will, of course, come back, but not as they were. They need to be adapted in light of the commercial trauma caused by COVID-19 and the cost- and time efficiency of their virtual counterparts. I suspect the answer for the latter lies in the word complement rather than replace.

Peter Marshall turns the interviewing tables on me. Click here to read the interview.

Our intentions reflect that balance. This week we’ll be making an announcement that signals an important add-on to our current approach. And no, contrary to the claims of some, we’re neither seeking world domination nor the end of trade association shows. I may know how to pivot but I also know how to survive, and when and how to work with others. Our long-running and very successful Trinity Forum alliance with ACI and ACI Asia-Pacific is a prime example of how well we collaborate.

In the meantime, it’s back to the day (and night) job. This morning after a 4-hour morning shift, I took time out to watch the return of Super Rugby on New Zealand television. How encouraging, and thrilling, to watch live sport back on TV, watched by a sell-out audience at the ground and millions more around the world on television.

Super rugby back on TV, a welcome reminder that it’s only 1,225 days until the All Blacks reclaim the Rugby World Cup in 2023

New Zealand is, thanks to the brilliant leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government, and great responsibility by the people, free of COVID-19. Its test is to stay that way once it reopens its borders to overseas visitors, beginning, almost certainly, with a trans-Tasman ‘bubble’ with Australia.

Those bubbles, or ‘green lanes’ as the Singaporean and Thai authorities call them, offer the best hope of a return to some kind of near-term normalcy in the travel and aviation world. They can’t come soon enough, for the Lockdown Bureau is a different kind of bubble, one from which Mr Happy craves escape, and into which Mr Grumpy craves entry.

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