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Coronavirus shutters credit union industry's biggest summer conferences

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In early March, Credit Union Journal asked "Can credit union conferences survive the coronavirus?" It appears the answer is no.

The industry's 2020 conference landscape changed dramatically on Monday as both major national trade groups axed their summer shows over concerns related to the global pandemic.

Late Monday, the Credit Union National Association and the World Council of Credit Unions announced the cancellation of the two groups’ joint 2020 conference, which was slated to start in Los Angeles on July 19.

The two groups last hosted their annual event together in Denver in 2015.

A statement from the trade organizations said the decision was made “in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Los Angeles Visitors Bureau.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has placed the entire state under a lockdown order to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, but an end date has not yet been established.

While some events scuttled by the coronavirus have been rescheduled, this event will not be. WOCCU’s 2021 conference is set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland, starting on July 11, 2021.

The National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions made a similar move Monday, canceling its 53rd Annual Conference and Solutions Expo, scheduled for late July in Vancouver, Canada. NAFCU's annual business meeting is still planned for June at its Arlington, Va., headquarters, and will also be conducted virtually.

The group’s annual Congressional Caucus is still scheduled for September in Washington.

State-level events also being cut

Groups from across the industry have called off or rescheduled events due to concerns regarding travel, spread of the virus and more, including vendors such as PSCU and CO-OP Financial Services, along with other organizations like the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors and the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations.

While the CUNA, WOCCU and NAFCU events are the highest-profile credit union summer shows, a host of smaller events traditionally take place as well, including conferences from multiple state leagues. Some of those have also already begun to be cancelled or rescheduled. Among those is the Michigan Credit Union League’s Annual Convention & Exposition. Originally scheduled for June in Grand Rapids, it has been pushed back to mid-September and relocated to Traverse City.

The League of Southeastern Credit Unions’ summer show, slated for mid-June in Orlando, Fla., has also been canceled, while the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas’ Annual Summit has been moved from early May to October.

Aside from the opportunities for networking, setting advocacy priorities and more, one event-planning expert suggested earlier this year that conference cancellations could have a significant impact on revenue streams for trade groups of all sizes.

“Either way, if you have it or you don’t, at this point you’re probably going to be impacted on the revenue side,” said Sally Mainprize, owner of Iron Peacock Events, a Texas-based event-planning consultancy, told CU Journal in early March. “The decision to go means you’ve probably already sunk a lot of cost in the event that you won’t be able to get back. … On the other hand, if you’re going to an event that is externally focused on clients or new business, there’s a chance that the audience or participants in the event may be much lower because they’ve chosen not to go or their companies have stopped their travel for the current period until we see what’s going to happen with the virus.”

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