CERA Week is annually one of the best and most productive weeks for business in the city of Houston. With more than 5,000 leaders from across the global spectrum of the oil and gas industry flooding into town, the hotels are all full, the restaurants are all busy, and the high-end shops at The Galleria and other retail establishments do a land office business.
The conference and others like it reverberate throughout the depth breadth of the local economy, and serves as a sort of stimulus within the oil and gas industry itself, as its associated networking events serve as the germinating point for major deals to be made somewhere down the road. CERA Week also serves as the industry’s premier forum for thought leadership each year. Indeed, it is one of the industry’s largest and most important annual gatherings, a unique event that has no real peer in the United States.
This year, it won’t happen.
On Sunday, leaders at IHS Markit, which organizes the event each year, made what had to be a very painful announcement for them: CERA Week 2020 would be cancelled due to concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, IHS Markit officials made the announcment with “deep regret”:
“Over the last few days concern has mounted rapidly about the COVID-19 coronavirus,” organizers said in a statement. “The World Health Organization raised the threat level on Friday, the U.S. government canceled a summit meeting scheduled in Las Vegas, an increasing number of companies are instituting travel bans and restrictions, border health checks are becoming more restrictive and there is growing concern about large conferences with people coming from different parts of the world.”
For an industry already reeling from the drop in oil prices created by the market panic over the Coronavirus, the cancellation of this major conference comes as another big blow. IHS Markit can hardly be blamed for making this call, especially given the hyperbolic nature of the media reporting around the Coronavirus and the potential liability risks that would be involved if the conference were to go forward.
But the cancellation of CERA Week will inevitably raise questions about the viability of other major international events scheduled to be held in Houston later this year. Chief among those would be the annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), which takes place during the first full week of May each year.
In terms of sheer numbers, the OTC stands as the industry’s largest gathering, annually bringing together upwards of 60,000 people from more than 100 countries. Organized and hosted by 13 of the industry’s major professional organizations, it is without question one of the most important weeks of the year for the Houston business community.
Fortunately, OTC remains two full months away, and we can hope that the spread of the Coronavirus – which appears to have plateaued over the past 10 days or so – and all the fright rhetoric surrounding it will have calmed down by then, allowing it and other major conferences to move ahead. Given current market conditions, neither the oil and gas industry nor the city of Houston wants to sustain any more big hits.