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John Reitman

By John Reitman

What will GIS look like after Covid-19? Time will tell


The real news regarding the Golf Industry Show is not that the 2021 conference will take place as a virtual experience. What will be significant is what the show looks like whenever it resumes as an in-person event.

After all, the show must go on.

No one should have been surprised when the GCSAA announced on Aug. 12 that next year's show would take place as an online event. It really was the only choice facing the association as trade shows and conferences around the world went down like flights on an airport departure board during a blizzard. The question never was "if" an announcement was forthcoming regarding GIS, but "when."

081420gis2.jpgExhibiting at the trade show is an expensive proposition for companies that spend boatloads of money to fund education for turfgrass professionals in exchange for a few minutes of facetime with customers and the goodwill that comes with supporting your association. No doubt there are many looking for an excuse to pull out of the show for good, and Covid-19 might have provided it.

Time will tell.

Years ago, the former head of marketing for a company that exhibits at GIS confided that the only thing preventing him from pulling out support and ceasing to exhibit was that he figured others would join in the exodus and he did not want his legacy to be "that guy who helped killed the Golf Industry Show."

It is completely plausible to believe that several vendors will look at the cost associated with exhibiting and weigh it against the return on their investment and the economic hardship associated with the virus that likely will last for years, and opt out of GIS.

It also is reasonable to believe that many employers of superintendents might take such events out of future budgets, especially when they see how you somehow were able to provide great conditions and firm, fast greens without attending GIS in person.

If you went to this year's Golf Industry Show in Orlando, I hope you enjoyed it, because some might never have a chance to go again, at least for a very long time.

In-person attendance at GIS for the past several years has been in the range of 11,000-13,000 people. Will that many return to San Diego in 2022, or Orlando in 2023, or whenever and wherever an in-person version of the show resumes? Will that many return ever? Will budgets allow it? Or, will the in-person show become like so many things we've learned to live without since March - expendable?

When the show returns as an in-person event - and it will - it will be different. It probably will be smaller. Booth space, which has been shrinking noticeably for the past few years, too will continue to decline. Perhaps an in-person version of the show no longer is an annual event, but instead is held every other year.

Time will tell.

The virus has become one of those snapshots in time - like the recession of 2008 - at which we can point and say "this is when things changed." The virus has provided us with a chance to prioritize, and that is a good thing.

Rewind the clock to mid-March when this madness began. The country's psyche was unraveling at a rapid pace. Governors began issuing stay-at-home mandates. Remember when staying home for two weeks except for trips to the grocery seemed like an impossibility? Who then could have imagined getting along without the spectacle of March Madness, a 162-game baseball season, dining out, trips to the mall or a vacation at the beach?

Covid-19 has been a relentless foe that we have come to realize is everywhere all at once, waiting to strike anyone who lets down their guard. Millions have it worldwide, hundreds of thousands have died from it or complications associated with it. This invisible enemy has crushed economies around the world, and people in every corner of the planet are suffering from stress and mental health issues brought on by economic uncertainty. As many as 30 million Americans still are out of work due to the virus, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and states are struggling to keep up with jobless claims.

The virus also has afforded us a chance to re-examine what is important - and what is not. Things we took for granted, like meals and activities with the family, have taken on increased importance. Events and activities we once thought we could not live without, no longer seem so important. 

Covid-19 will not last forever, although sometimes it feel as if it will. And when it is behind us, things will not be as they once were. The world is forever changed. How will these changes affect GIS?

Time will tell.

Edited by John Reitman

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