Meeting Mentor Magazine

March 2024

Coronavirus and Event Insurance: Answers to Your Burning Questions

The fallout from the spread of the novel coronavirus, including travel bans and restrictions on group gatherings in some areas, is making a lot of event organizers feel the need to brush up on their knowledge about what is involved in canceling a meeting or event, especially from the legal and insurance ends.

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events recently hosted a webinar  — now available on demand, free to members and nonmembers — to help answer some of tradeshow organizers’ most pressing questions and concerns.

Mark Bogdansky, vice president, meetings and events, Auto Care Association, first ran down some of the coronavirus resources available on the IAEE website and beyond, then turned it over to Jack Buttine, president, Buttine Exhibition and Event Insurance. Barbara Dunn, partner, Barnes & Thornburg LLP and MeetingMentor’s legal columnist, also provided a wealth of contract-related information.

Inside Event Cancellation Insurance
Buttine began with a caveat that every event insurance policy is unique to that particular event and the show organizer, so be sure to take what he said to your insurance broker to see how it could apply to your individual situation and policy.

Is communicable disease coverage still available, and if so, will it cover coronavirus?
Despite all the gloom and doom, communicable disease coverage is still available, he said. However, any policy taken out since the novel coronavirus was discovered in December 2019 will not cover the coronavirus. It also will not cover other already known diseases, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

If we bought a policy with a communicable disease provision a year ago, would coronavirus be covered?
“The short answer is yes,” he said. Since a policy can’t exclude a disease no one knew about yet, it most likely would cover coronavirus.

What triggers communicable disease coverage?
Fear of contagion may keep people from traveling to your event, but it is not going to trigger your event insurance’s communicable disease coverage, said Buttine. What will be covered is if people can’t attend because of a prohibition on travel, such as that currently in place for would-be attendees and exhibitors coming from China and South Korea, he said. It also could be triggered by an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other governmental authority that prohibits attendees, exhibitors and others from attending the event.

How is it priced?
While the market changes continuously, generally speaking, the closer you are to the time of the show, the lower the pricing, he said. That’s because the risk to the underwriter is lower the closer you are to the event. “For a show that’s happening in May, right now the rate is 1% of the estimated gross revenue of the show.”

Why should I add communicable disease to my event insurance policies if it’s not going to cover coronavirus?
It’s a question of how risky the unknown unknown, that thing you don’t know about, may be. Last year, this coronavirus was the unknown unknown. Next year it could be something new entirely — and that would be covered. “If it’s available, if it’s affordable, it’s worth considering,” said Buttine.

 If the facility were to close and cancel your event due to a communicable disease, would you still need communicable disease insurance to have your event covered?
This is actually a very common question, he said, and the answer is, “yes.” The insurance buzzword to look for is proximate cause, said Buttine. If the proximate cause of the facility losing its license is communicable disease, it would not be a covered claim unless you had communicable disease insurance.

When do you recommend getting cancellation insurance?
“As soon as you close the doors on your 2020 event, insure your 2021 event because you’re already incurring expenses,” he said. If it’s affordable, insure for two years.

Should we include insurance information in our messaging to attendees about the potential for cancellation due to coronavirus?
It’s vital to get some messaging out that you are monitoring the situation and will be reviewing your position accordingly, he said. “Don’t let rumors get in front of you.” However, he added, remember that the relationship attendees, exhibitors and sponsors have is with the show organizer — not the organizer’s insurance company. “You should not say, ‘We’re waiting on our insurer’s response and when we know we’ll let you know,” said Buttine. “No one cares about your deal with the insurance company.”





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