UPDATE May 2021: I’m seeing a lot of traffic for this post recently and thought I’d give an update. Well, it looks like I was wrong; this pandemic hasn’t been over and we are still unfortunately dealing with it. However, it looks like things are starting to slowly get back to normal. Most of what I said is still valid today!
In the convention and cosplay world, 2020 and part of 2021 already has been a disaster! Due to the pandemic, conventions across the world are being cancelled. In fact, the one con I was looking forward to this year…just announced they have cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. That con was Anime Central.
Although I was pretty sad to hear the cancellation news, I wasn’t too surprised given the circumstances we are in. It’s good that many conventions are taking safety precautions to stop this virus from spreading.
I’m sure if you live somewhere in the Western world, you’ve already experienced a con near you that got cancelled due to the coronavirus. I have a feeling this pandemic won’t be over until at least the summer. But more importantly, there’s the possibility that Anime conventions won’t be the same again.
While it’s for sure that they will be back once this virus is over, will they be the same? Let’s find out.
What could happen after the virus is over (worst case scenario)
From the looks of it right now, the virus will be an issue until the spring. In many countries, the number of cases is only going up; it could be a while until we see the efforts of flattening the curve. But let’s say the virus continues past the summer and even for all of 2020. Let’s look at some of the immediate impact that would have:
Restrictions on large crowd gatherings.
This would be first and foremost for conventions – if and when we can start holding conventions again. Until we contain this virus and our governments deem it safe to hold events again, there won’t be any conventions anytime soon.
But even when the virus is finally controlled, one possible consequence is how we handle large gatherings such as events and conventions in the future. Even if the virus is completely contained or eliminated, I’m sure most of us will still be paranoid and anxious about being close together, especially with a large amount of people. Even before the pandemic started, we all know about con plague and how many of us catch and feel sick after a convention weekend. As we’ve seen with this virus, all it takes is a few infected individuals to spread it to many others. Would we see restrictions on panel rooms? What about the exhibition hall or dealer’s room, where many congoers gather to buy stuff?
And once the pandemic is over, will we ever be able to hold large conventions ever again? What if your government decides to enact laws that restrict or ban large gatherings in order to stop a similar pandemic from happening again? Assuming the worst case scenario (which would definitely be this), then 2019 and early 2020 will be the last time we get to enjoy large conventions like Youmacon and Otakuthon. That would be incredibly sad and disappointing, but totally understandable given how crazy this coronavirus has been.
UPDATE MAY 2021: As most of us witnessed back in 2020, we slowly returned to normal when things were slowing down in the summer (e.g. indoor dining reopening, capacity limits increased, gyms reopening). But things got bad again and we had to lockdown. So it seems like for the time being, there will be enhanced safety measures and limited capacity if conventions do return in the near future.
If ColossalCon takes place this year, it’ll show us how cons will look like post-pandemic. The organizers have already introduced enhanced safety measures such as limiting badge sales, reduced panel room capacity, mask-wearing and removing console gaming in the gaming room. Check out their list here.
For most of us right now, we cannot travel outside of the country due to temporary border restrictions. But will the restrictions continue after the pandemic is over? If so, then that means us Canadians can’t travel down south to American cons and vice versa! And perhaps in Europe, the border-free policies will no longer be in effect.
I feel like once the pandemic is over, we will continue to see restrictions to travel to reduce the spread of a second wave. This could have a huge impact on large conventions that depend on international attendees and guests. Perhaps some of those large cons that rely on big-name Japanese guests will be negatively impacted. If border restrictions become permanent in North America, it would greatly limit the amount of attendees that can make it to a con, greatly affecting the growth of large cons and becoming too unsustainable. We would have to rely on local attendees and guests, which I suppose may not be a bad thing. It would take a long time before our government relaxes the travel restrictions.
UPDATE May 2021: Travel restrictions are still in the air. I’m sure once the pandemic is finally over, we’ll hear more about travel rules/restrictions such as removing or keeping the mandated quarantine upon arrival, COVID-19 testing, vaccine passports, etc.
Less vendors and exhibitors around
As mentioned in my previous post, vendors are already facing some tough times with this pandemic because their business has been disrupted. Who knows if they’ll make it through once this is over? This could be offset if future conventions lower their table fees. But I think if the virus were to last a long time, then we could see less vendors at cons than usual.
Less attendees due to recession
Many of my friends are out of a job at the moment and what’s concerning is if the virus will end up causing a huge recession or economic depression altogether. If so, then a lot of people are going to be out of a job. Conventions can be expensive and if you have to choose between making ends meet or attending an expensive con, you’ll likely choose putting food on the table.
Either that, or people start realizing that they spend too much money on cons (e.g. on traveling, on cosplays) and don’t want to attend as many cons anymore. When my trip to Chicago and Acen was cancelled, I saw how much money I saved because of it. At one point, I did ask if it was worth traveling internationally just to attend a con, especially in tough economic times. That being said, I don’t think this will happen and I’ll explain why later in the post.
Some positives once this is over (best case scenario)
That being said, there may be some positives once we are able to contain this pandemic. Yes, border restrictions and new rules on large gatherings would definitely impact cons. But we could also see some good things coming out, such as:
Better hygienic practices at cons
We can all agree con funk is unpleasant to deal with. With this coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been told to wash our hands and practice good hygiene. And I believe when conventions return, there will be a greater emphasis on personal hygiene, simply because we don’t want to get sick or be beside smelly people. Focusing on hygiene is never a bad thing! Just like how the cosplay is not consent movement took off, this could be a moment where con funk be drastically reduced or eliminated altogether. Not cause we’re being mean or anything, but we genuinely care about hygiene and cleanliness after such a crazy pandemic.
It’s also worth noting that physical contact at cons may be a thing of the past. Us cosplayers and weebs love to hug and hi-five each other when we meet at cons. But because of the coronavirus, we may be hesitant to do such things now.
Congoers attending conventions with a vengeance
If we pretty much go back to the way things were and we have no restrictions on anything, AND the virus doesn’t last around long…then not only will conventions be returning soon. They will come back with a vengeance! Weebs will be HUNGRY for the next convention after sitting at home all these weeks (and possibly months).
And I mentioned earlier while a recession could slow down attendance numbers, that likely won’t affect things too much. Why? Knowing us cosplayers, people will go into debt to cosplay AND attend large conventions despite their financial status. I personally advise not to do this but Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real thing and cosplayers won’t want to miss out a fun convention that their friends are attending, even if it means going into debt.
So while there is the real possibility that convention attendances may go down if there is an economic recession, I also believe there will be a huge demand for conventions. Cosplayers don’t like staying indoors for weeks/months in quarantine; they want to cosplay and attend cons, even if they’re poor and have no money for cons!
UPDATE May 2021: I do know a lot of people who are going to wait it out a year or two until things truly calm down, before they decide to attend a con again. But I also know a bunch of cosplayers who are ITCHING to attend a con when they return. I do remember seeing a large convention sell out of their hotel rooms on day 1 last year…even though the convention never ended up happening. Great recession or not, there’s going to be attendees when cons return…for better or worse!
New cons popping up?
If there are restrictions on attendance cap, perhaps that will mean smaller conventions happening during the year (e.g. Anime North spring and Fall). However, this probably won’t happen because it is insanely difficult to operate a convention, so doing it even more than once a year is not feasible for many organizers.
Cheaper con hotels post-pandemic (for a short term)
Both the travel and tourism industry are taking a huge financial hit from this pandemic, which is not surprising given no one wants to travel at this time. I’m sure once all of this is over, we can expect to see hotels offer special discounts to encourage people to start traveling again. At the same time, I also believe the hotels will go back to their usual rates once travel demand picks up again. So those special rates will only be around for a short time. And right now, but who wants to travel at this moment?
Other positives about this pandemic?
Believe it or not, there have been some good outcomes due to this pandemic. Having no conventions has given us time to reflect on what’s really important in life – health and friends/family. On top of that, online communities have been more connected and we’ve learned to appreciate our good health more than ever. I really like this article that pinpoints all these glass half-full positives about the pandemic.
What do you think will happen to conventions once the coronavirus pandemic is over? Let me know in the comments!