The full effects of COVID-19 on Arkansas businesses and organizations across industry sectors have not been determined yet, but they are expected to be substantial. Many have limited their operations, and some even had push back contracted events due to the pandemic.
The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) hosted 160 events at the Statehouse Convention Center in 2019, whereas there have only been 25 events as of June 2020. The 220,000 square-foot building with meeting spaces usually welcomes tens of thousands of guests each year in downtown Little Rock, but COVID-19 has led to more event cancellations.
According to LRCVB president and CEO Gretchen Hall, most of the events hosted at the Statehouse Convention Center have contracts with a force majeure clause. The clause is often referred to as an “act of God” clause because it can potentially delay performance, suspend obligations or even terminate a contract under extraordinary events that are not reasonably foreseeable.
Although the pandemic itself was not explicitly covered by the force majeure clause in the contracted events at the center, the government restrictions have made it difficult for event organizers to continue making venue arrangements.
“Since March 12, we have had 130 event cancellations, which is a loss in direct rental revenue of $1.3 million. The loss in revenue from associated travel expenditures is even higher,” Hall told Arkansas Money & Politics. “The typical level of spending in terms of travel expenditures in Pulaski County alone is $1.8 billion.”
The LRCVB has partnered with 24 hotels to guarantee zero attrition and zero cancellation fees. Groups with up to 75 individuals will be offered peak rooms when booked by September 30, 2020, and used by January 30, 2021.
“This is a special promotion the LRCVB has launched in effort to generate interest and make it known that the LRCVB staff is dedicated to making sure that each event is successful under the public health guidelines,” Hall said. “We are removing the strain of potential cancellation charges while offering affordable meeting spaces and hotel rooms that are safe for all.”