As 2021 draws to a close, all of us at the AAS Secretariat are looking forward to seeing our members again at the March 24-27 AAS 2022 Annual Conference in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Our entire staff, especially the conference team, has been planning assiduously for this event—our first in-person gathering since the beginning of the COVID-19 era.
Planning an AAS Annual Conference always involves innumerable decisions, considerations, and logistical plans of action. The pandemic has complicated this work, but it has also, in a way, simplified it. Above all, our staff is making every choice about this conference guided by one single principle: always selecting the option that seems most likely to safeguard the health of all conference participants and staff.
We know that with uneven global vaccination rates, the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, and frequently changing regulations on travel, many of you regard the 2022 conference with uncertainty. We have designed this conference with two options for participation—in-person or virtual—to ensure that all Asianists can select the mode best suited to their locations and situations. The pre-registration deadline for program participants is extended to January 12, and participants can change their presentation format (in-person or virtual) until March 3, for flexibility. In keeping with our duty to care and responsibility as host, we will require proof of full vaccination from all in-person conference attendees, exhibitors, staff, and vendors who join us in Honolulu. Members of the AAS conference staff have met regularly with their counterparts at the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, the Convention Center, and the conference hotels to discuss best practices and current guidelines. Our priority is to ensure that all AAS 2022 participants enjoy a conference experience that is safe, collegial, and productive.
With only three months remaining until the 2022 Annual Conference begins, our preparations are kicking into high gear—the event is truly beginning to feel “real.” We know the same is true for many of you, as the time has come to book hotel rooms, reserve plane tickets, and register for either the in-person or virtual conference. Some of you deciding whether or not to attend in Honolulu might wonder: “Is the conference really going to happen?”
We have already anticipated an unfortunate surge in COVID-19 cases due to the holiday travel season this month, and the new omicron variant has exacerbated that expected increase. Although we cannot predict what the pandemic situation will look like in late March, our answer is yes, we fully expect to hold the AAS 2022 in-person conference on-site in Honolulu. Two years ago, we were able to cancel the 2020 Boston conference without suffering significant financial penalties due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the onset of a global pandemic. The situation now is quite different, and if we were to cancel our conference contracts without the ability to invoke force majeure, the penalties we would incur from the conference hotel, convention center, and other vendors would amount to well over $1 million. That is a blow the AAS budget simply cannot afford to take. With full vaccination, masking, and other safety measures, we are confident that the event will be as safe as possible for all who choose to attend.
As always, we will continue to monitor the situation and put the health and safety of our community first. We will also continue to provide you with updates and information as the conference nears.
We hope to see you, either in-person or virtually, at the AAS 2022 Annual Conference in March, and we wish all members of the Asian Studies community a happy and healthy holiday season.