Call it a leading business indicator.
Once again, some of Wall Street’s richest financiers and other luminaries are attending a Milken Institute Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel this week – a year after COVID-19 forced them to virtually attend from their desks. But like much else in the pandemic era, it’s not quite what it was before.
A vaccine is required to enter; The number of participants is limited to half of the usual 5,000; a virtual option is available; and in the tony hotel, the look should be more mask-like than a collection of power, given the face-covering mandates.
Still, tourism officials say the return of the live event to Beverly Hills is an encouraging sign, despite the unexpected complications caused by the Delta coronavirus variant.
“Delta threw a little curveball for everyone, but I think people are starting to stick their toes in the water,” said Julie Wagner, executive director of the Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau. “The group business is coming back.”
The four-day conference begins on Sunday with a series of invitation-only events and then officially begins on Monday morning with remarks on the state of the world economy and prospects for a full recovery from Scott Minerd, chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners; Julie Gerberding, executive vice president of Merck, who has a COVID-19 virus drug before the Food and Drug Administration; and John Gerzema, managing director of Harris Poll.
As with previous conferences, the topic is topical: “Charting a New Course” examines how “the upheavals and innovations of the recent past can be redesigned for a prosperous future”.
In more than 180 sessions, topics such as fintech to increase social mobility, the various effects of climate change, food sustainability, affordable housing and the fight against future super bacteria will be dealt with. Around 600 speakers are planned.
Vaccine requirements aside, the COVID-19 protocols require participants to wear CDC-approved masks indoors except when speaking on panels or eating or drinking in designated areas. You must also present a negative PCR or antigen test obtained within 72 hours of attending the conference and wear visual identification showing vaccine and test status. Doctors and medical staff will be on site.
“We spent a lot of time and energy – consulting with experts – creating an environment that would comply with local and state guidelines and provide safety for our attendees, speakers and staff,” said Chad Clinton, director of media relations for the institute in an email. “We have deliberately limited the number of participants as part of the security protocols to about half as high as in previous years and reached the maximum number we wanted.”
The Beverly Hills affair follows a month after a similar event at the Javits Convention Center in New York. The SALT conference, which was linked to Anthony Scaramucci’s SkyBridge Capital, had previously taken place in Las Vegas. Last month, around 2,500 attendees came to New York and 1,500 virtual, which was a combined record according to the conference. Although vaccinations were required, masks were not always required, although many networking events were held in a rooftop pavilion.
Jennifer Prosek, New York managing partner at Public Relations firm Prosek, will be attending Milken, where her company will host an outdoor cocktail party at the Mosaic Hotel Beverly Hills. Prosek knows of people who have gone to Milken in the past who are not attending this year, but said their decision to attend the SALT conference as a panelist reassured them.
“It was [thousands] at the javits center what i have to say scared me a bit. I actually moderated a panel there, but it was such a good experience, ”she said. “So the good news is that ours [Milken event] has always been outside. That’s the beauty of LA, isn’t it? It’s by the pool. “
The return of the conventions to Southern California is welcome news for the tourism industry, though the business still isn’t what it was.
Doane Liu, executive director of the Department of Convention and Tourism Development for the city of Los Angeles, said the Los Angeles Convention Center is hosting three large conferences this month, each with thousands of attendees, a large number of pre-pandemic events.
However, the attendance is one-third to one-half of the usual conferences aimed at senior doctors, throat specialists, Linux software engineers, and industry leaders in mobile technology.
“We are very happy to see the people in the building again. It’s a good indicator that things are getting better, but what isn’t going back to normal is the number of participants, ”he said.
It’s hard to tell when it will normalize, considering how many people don’t want to fly or attend large gatherings. A good sign: the decision of the Biden administration to open the US border to vaccinated international visitors from November 8th.
Next year, the Los Angeles Convention Center is slated to once again host the popular E3 video game conference and its largest convention, the Anime Expo, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors, Liu said.
However, there will be obstacles. Liu said he had heard of staffing issues affecting providers of electricians, lighting technicians, grocery vendors, and other conference-critical services.
The Milken Conference usually takes place in the spring, but last year it was postponed and practically held in October. Clinton said the plan for next year is to hold the event again in the spring.