Last year, in something of a coup for New York City, investor Anthony Scaramucci left Las Vegas to hold his SALT conferenc in a new venue at the Javits Center.
He plans to return to the venue in September, his company shared with Crain’s.
Likewise, the New York International Auto Show, which was canceled two years in a row, is on for April, with a new feature—an entire level dedicated to electric vehicles with two and three wheels as well as the typical four.
At LegalWeek, the turnout has surpassed Carter’s expectations.
“After two years of waiting, we’re fortunate that we have both an enthusiastic appetite among attendees to get back to in-person events, as well as public health and safety guidance showing we can do so safely,” he said.
For this year, he expects that sponsor and exhibitor revenue will match the numbers from ALM’s February 2020 numbers, with registration fees getting to about 80% of 2020 levels.
LegalWeek is at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue, where many guests also stay. The event’s impact isn’t limited to the hotel, however. In addition to the official schedule, there are lunches, dinners and parties at venues around the city, Carter said.
Over at the Plaza, bookings are gradually building into a strong spring, said Mike Warren, director of catering for CPS Events at The Plaza. While weddings have been strong since reopening, nonprofit events have since joined the comeback, he said. Corporate is last, but Warren said he has begun to get queries from companies planning a range of events, from multiday conferences to local investor days to companies hosting partner dinners. The fall is already super busy, he said, with the level of inquiries ticking up week by week for gatherings as far off as 2023.
Some of the long-awaited events could be sumptuous, he said.
“Companies have said, ‘We have budget because we haven’t done this in so long, we want to do something special.’”
Drags on the comeback
This isn’t the first wave of optimism about a business travel comeback; the tenor was similar last year, as restrictions eased during the spring and summer. Some planned events persevered in the face of viral waves and increasingly strict local rules, but many scheduled meetings were canceled as fear of a wave came in the summer and a surge hit in December.
“Every time there is a shock to the system, people cancel,” Dandapani said. The 24-hour cancellation policy at hotels means that robust bookings can quickly evaporate. “We are a leading indicator for cancellations,” he said. “But not necessarily for the upturn.”
Flight arrivals are still lower, but rising. In December 9.5 million passengers arrived at city-area airports, compared with 11.9 million in December 2019. Among other factors, that reflects some missing routes and schedules, which have to ramp up again before some portion of potential business travelers can get here easily.
In March, for example, there will be more flights to and from Japan plus two daily nonstops from area airports to Singapore–highlights of a growing list.
Some corporations have kept a ban on business travel, to try to prevent employees from getting sick. Still other would-be business visitors have avoided New York because of Covid rules such as the vaccine mandate, Dandapani said, coupled with the U.S. requirement that international arrivals show a negative Covid-19 test taken within 24 hours. He noted that European countries no longer ask for this.
More casual business meetings, such as an executive in another city checking in on a team here, are lagging in concert with the city’s slow return to in-person office work, Dandapani said.
“We need offices to reopen,” he said. “That leads to business meetings and hotel stays.” The city did have its highest subway ridership of the pandemic on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported, an indicator that the return could be underway.
Javits operators think the convention center will see more events booked when safety protocols are rescinded, said Tony Sclafani, senior vice president and chief communications officer.
As of next week, the city will no longer require indoor venues to check for proof of vaccination. It it is not yet clear when vaccine checks will end at certain businesses, such as Broadway theaters.
At Coterie, organizers have seen the slow build. Although the recent event was somewhat quiet, it represented an increase in attendance compared to its September market.
“Maybe we cannot compare to pre-pandemic times, but we are still getting back on track like the rest of the world,” said Kelly Helfman, president of Informa Markets Fashion, which runs Coterie. “Some things are out of our control.” All that, she said, did have an effect on the number of buyers and brands at the show. Shalant added that she had heard some buyers hesitate about coming because of concerns about crime.
Shalant, who designs occasion wear, set up in a larger space at Coterie than she had booked in September, assuming that the February show would be busy just like some recent trade shows in Atlanta and Dallas. Those shows bustled with deal-making as retailers crowded brands’ booths in a visible sign of the regional variability in the U.S. economic recovery.
“Business in Dallas is enormous,” she said. “They are partying, and they need clothes.”