Published On: Fri, Jun 26th, 2020

Post-Plague Conference Future

Now that Mexico starting to relax their quarantine restrictions, plans for restoring economic activity in town are moving forward.  The abrupt shutdown of international travel is one of the most striking signs of the pandemic. However, there are several pitfalls in reopening international travel. The main problem is that global mobility spread the coronavirus all over the world in the first place, and clearly, nobody wants a wants that.  Again.

Luckily San Miguel de Allende has focused primarily on restoring domestic tourism, plus we don’t have an airport. The benefits of this approach are obvious as tourism money will remain in the country and support the domestic tourism industry that has ground to a halt. Plus domestic tourism, namely the uber-wealthy from Mexico City, has always been our bread and butter.  Foreign tourism, comparatively speaking, was marginal even before the virus.

Conventions are an important segment of the economies for places like the Hotel Real de Minas.

Passing the hotel each week I was intrigued what conference was being held that week and it ran the gamut of engineers from ArgentinaChanel designers from France, pig roast aficionados from Canada and homeschoolers from Peoria.

The only local conference organizer at the hotel is the Writers’ Conference each February and organizer, Susan Page, has decided buck the trend and continue with business as usual.  I was surprised since last year’s attendance was off forcing the offering of half-price tickets in the days prior.  I’m not sure you could give tickets away this coming year to the average participant – female foreigners over 70 traveling alone.

Back to the Hotel Real de Minas, between weekday conferences and weekend guests from Mexico City enjoying the pool with their family the place was always hopping.  I often thought it was the best local business to buy stock in!  Plus those homeschoolers, software engineers, pork eaters, aspiring writers and fashion models often took large tours throughout the city with me.

These conference attendees have moved to long-distance platforms like Zoom which will continue after the plague. Meanwhile speakers at the conferences are normally found for free speaking on YouTube videos.

Every trip to a conference has three components. First, is the conference itself. As the quarantine has shown, meetings and workshops can be done online.

Second, there is off-the-record conversations between participants. Sometimes confidential and meaningful conversations in a lobby are more important to an attendee than the conference itself. However, from a profit margin point-of-view, these conversations are largely irrelevant to the business paying for the conference’s attendees as they’ve less money now to fritter away on professional development.

Finally, the third component of an international conference is work related tourism. To visit a foreign country and change out of the daily routine were important psychological spin-offs of international conferences in building teamwork. More selectivity in live conferences plus post-quarantine travel phobias will reduce global work related tourism.  The team will meet in person on-line instead.

The post-plague “new normal” will make conferences less likely and yet another part of the San Miguel economy to be to be side-lined for the foreseeable future.  Heavy sigh.

Joseph Toone

by Joseph Toone



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