As the meetings and live events industry slowly begin to open, corporations are creating protocols to maintain safety among staff, clients, and vendors. We spoke with several American Meetings Network, Prime Supplier Members – organizations at the forefront of the Meetings and Events Industry – about the steps that they are taking to welcome business back.
Caesars Forum, Las Vegas, Nevada
Ceasars Entertainment is known for some of the most prestigious gaming brands including Caesars Palace® and Harrah’s®. With over 55 resorts across the US, the 80-year-old brand is young at heart, continually innovating its luxury accommodations.
Caesars Entertainment has created a saftey protocol for their multiple properties, although they can vary based on local authorities. This protocol includes:
- Health Screening for employees returning to work
- Employee training on new guest interaction protocol
- Employee training on how to prevent the spread of disease
- Employee training on proper use of PPE and mandatory hygiene and sanitation guidelines
- Implementation of hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations in the convention centers, meeting spaces, and meal areas
- Frequent cleaning procedures in public areas, especially in high touch areas
- Beverage stations will be staffed rather than self-serve
- Food service will be plated or boxed and pre-packaged food offerings are available
- Entry doors are opened to prevent guest contact with surface
- Registration and seating will be set up to allow for social distancing
- Longer break and meal periods will be in place to allow for additional sanitization
- CDC guideline signage will be prominent in all appropriate areas including restrooms
- Vendors must also comply with all Caesars’ protocols for health and safety
Atlanta Airport District, Atlanta, Georgia
Ten miles from Downtown Atlanta, the Atlanta Airport District is keeping their website up-to-date with the constantly changing information for residents, visitors, businesses, and hospitality partners. Their COVID Resource page lists important information on restaurant offerings, business openings and health and safety guidelines including:
- Airport guidelines
- Public transit safety
- Event safety at the Georgia International Convention Center
- Area hotel safety guidelines
- Travel guidelines from the Georgia Department of Health
- And more
The ATL Airport District has also been building marketing collateral showing guests wearing masks, checking in, and participating in activities. This helps create expectations that normalize safety procedures while allowing business to resume. Marketing has shifted from making sales to communicating safety.
“Everyone wants to re-open and everyone is proceeding with caution because safety is the biggest priority.”
Kristin Schneider, ATL Airport District Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director of Sales
San Mateo County / Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, California
The San Francisco Bay Area has long been known as a popular tourist destination and has pledged to be “Reopened & Ready” for visitors and residents alike. Moving through reopening means staying informed and in compliance with local authorities in order to prevent the spread of disease.
San Mateo County and Palo Alto hotels, businesses, restaurants and attractions are following safety and sanitation standards that include:
- Making hand sanitizer readily available
- Using face coverings
- Practicing social distancing
- Proving staff with COVID related training
- Reducing high touch practices
- Using CDC cleaning and sanitation protocols
Businesses and individuals alike are asked to take the pledge to following these guidelines to keep each other safe to allow for continual reopening of the city. A dedicated web page has been designed for housing updated information on changes, including openings, reclosures and county information and guidelines.
Brazilian Court, Palm Beach, Florida
Staying on top of CDC and local guidance is part of every plan, and Brazilian Court is no exception. Increased frequency of cleaning and sanitization is also another best practice adopted by the historic Spanish Colonial luxury property.
Training associates in following CDC guidelines has been paramount. Focusing on COVID-19 awareness, proper hygiene, and personal protective equipment, and giving guidance to stay home if sick has been prioritized.
In addition, the following guidelines are in place to meeting local laws and guidelines:
- No social groups larger than 10 people is being monitored and enforced
- Masks must be worn in public areas
- A Palm Beach curfew is in effect from 10PM – 6AM, meaning residents and visitors are to stay inside during those times
- Indoor dining is open for 50% capacity and distanced seating
- Hotel restaurant reservations are required for lunch and dinner and no contact delivery is offered upon request
- Retail shopping is open and allowing 50% capacity
- Appointments are required for hair and nail salons and barber shops
- The hotel pool and fitness room are open for guest use, with social distancing in place
- Guests are asked to not ride elevators with other guests, who are not in their party
Each city is truly dedicated to re-open as quickly as safely possible to restore tourism, fun and economy back to the places they love. We remain cautiously optimistic and are pleased to see so many suppliers preparing to return to live, in-person interactions and establish a new normal for health and safety.
In an instant, the COVID-19 crisis has turned the world’s concept of small and large in-person gatherings on its head. Virtual meetings, and webcasts/webinars have become a daily part of life. We are now starting to see several large expos and conferences announcing virtual (and hybrids of live/virtual) iterations of their previously scheduled live events.
AMI CEO, Andy McNeill.
What does all of this mean for meetings industry suppliers? We recently spoke with Andy McNeill, CEO of AMI, to get his take on the future of our industry and learn what MICE suppliers can do to position themselves for success when live meetings and events are able to come back on-line safely.
AMI DIGEST: Are we looking at a “new normal” for the meetings and events industry? Do you see any changes that you believe will be permanent?
AM: Live meetings will never be replaced completely. The opportunity to meet face to face (even if at a safe social distance) is something intrinsic to all industries. That said, AMI has seen a significant increase in clients who are transitioning their events to virtual engagements, and I believe this trend could potentially continue for the next 6-12 months.
AMI DIGEST: What do you feel will justify the return to traveling for meetings and events? What should industry suppliers do to help best support that?
AM: Government and businesses need to work together to open up the world in a safe and sustainable way. It helps no one to have this happen again. However, ultimately, it will be the perception of safety amongst all of us that will shape the reality as it relates to the general public being comfortable attending live conferences, meetings and events. Right now, some things that meetings industry suppliers can do, are provide safety gear, come up with innovative ideas for our clients and most importantly be prepared to adapt quickly to our client’s needs. Right now is also a great time to build your network of meeting planners, procurement professionals and sourcing directors, and perhaps look to become a thought leader to your sphere of influence. When this is all over you will be well-positioned when live events do come back on-line.
AMI DIGEST: Do you expect to see more organizers expanding their virtual event offerings, even for gatherings planned for far into the future?
AM: Yes, I believe event agencies will now always have a hybrid plan in place. They will plan for a certain percentage of attendees, who will not register for a live event, even after they are deemed safe to be held, and offer on-demand. This will allow attendees to access specific content and sessions remotely. We are seeing a significant expansion of the custom virtual environments being created for large conferences and expos. For the long term, this allows the agencies and clients to build larger audiences, and ultimately larger live programs down the road.
AMI: How might we use virtual events to increase engagement and better complement in-person events?
AM: As it relates to virtual engagements, if content is king, engagement is definitely queen. Utilizing polls, gamification, breakout rooms and secondary device polling and surveys are just a few examples of the tools we are seeing clients use for their virtual events. Sending thoughtful gifts ahead of time (we had a client send pajamas for everyone to wear on the call), or sending attendees gift cards for what would normally be an in-person gifting station, are just a few ways that AMI’s clients are handling virtual collaborative meetings and incentive travel programs that have had to be postponed.
AMI DIGEST: The Meetings industry has been hit hard in the past. What lessons have been learned from the past (9/11, SARS, EBOLA etc..) that can be applied to the COVID-19 pandemic?
AM: AMI was founded in 2002, on the heels of 9/11. We weathered the storms (literally) of the 2005 hurricane season (Katrina), and helped our clients navigate the watershed of cancellations, & postponements that were associated with the downturn in 2008. The experience and knowledge we have gained as an organization over the years, taught us to constantly innovate. We have the goal at AMI to have one new idea a week for our clients to weather this storm. Other suppliers should try it out. Imagine the wealth of ideas that would be generated? Finally, it’s important to always keep your eyes on the horizon, knowing “this too shall pass”. For our valued partner suppliers, while none of us know the exact timeline, our industry will return, I believe that when it does, it will come roaring back with a vengeance!
We hope to see everyone at ENGAGE! 2021. Please be safe out there.