Lisa Jade is the founder and head ginger of GingerBiscuit, a company which contributes to making the world a better place by creatively connecting people and the planet.

It has been said that we went to sleep in one world and woke up in another. The global COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered our lives – it’s a collective, shared trauma, but is it also an opportunity?

Our industry – events and hospitality, extending to tourism – was one of the first to be affected. From current predictions, it will also be one of the last to “start-up” again, due to the nature of our business.

Our business is people and, through people, connection.

“It has been noted in studies that human loneliness is as bad for one’s health as, for example, smoking a box of cigarettes a day or obesity.”

Connection is tantamount to the overall wellbeing and survival of human beings. Extended periods of loneliness and disconnect from our fellow human beings leads to a slow demise and it has been noted in studies that human loneliness is as bad for one’s health as, for example, smoking a box of cigarettes a day or obesity.

This makes me believe that events are critical to humankind, and they will return. But it can no longer be business as usual.

COVID-19 has forever altered our paths and how we will walk them going forward but with every cloud, there is a silver lining, and we have been presented with a golden opportunity as an industry to grow, to change, to innovate and to evolve – even if it has been forced upon us.

“This change will not be easy; but difficult roads often lead to the most beautiful destinations.”

From this pandemic, many are beginning to recognise the need for improved sustainability to be at the core of our businesses. Sustainability in its truest sense takes into consideration the social, environmental and economic impacts of our actions. Sustainable business practices will not only be essential for the health of the planet and the communities we operate in, but also to our very survival as a species.

This change will not be easy; but difficult roads often lead to the most beautiful destinations.

Fortunately – and in case we have forgotten, I am here to remind us – not only are South Africans remarkably resilient and resourceful as a people, but as an industry we are also known for our ability to adapt, innovate and band together during the toughest times… There’s a reason event planning is considered one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in the world.

I am by no means undermining the urgent economic support and relief many need. This is a huge challenge and one that I believe we will have a better chance at overcoming if we act together.

“Collaboration is key in moving forward.”

Collaboration is key in moving forward. Instead of ‘fighting’ against each other and other forces, we need to rather focus our attention on moving forward, united in our efforts.

With the support of various organisations such as the Event Greening Forum and the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI), among others, I do believe that we, as event professionals, have what it takes to make the best of a dire situation.

I call on my fellow event professionals, in any capacity you are able to offer at this stage, to come together and shape not only the future of our industry, but also show our country what it means to give back in times of darkness.

Together, we can.