A Discussion on the Impacts and Opportunities for Venues, Hotels, and Planning Partners
This week we hear from Preethi Babu, a graduate student at the George Washington University, Washington DC, who gives us her take aways from the SITE Week Ideation session on Safety Precautions: Changing Designs and Experiences. This session was hosted by Kevin Edmunds, VP of Meeting and Incentive Sales and AIC Hotel Group and Anne-Marie Rogers, Director of Meetings, Incentives and Events at Direct Travel.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the whole world to a halt. All industries have been hit majorly due to the virus, though the worst affected has been the travel and tourism sector, which includes key suppliers like venues and hotels.
The successes of businesses such as airlines, hotels, and events were brought to their knees in just a few months. Experts in these industries say they are striving to come back. However, these businesses are nothing without their consumers and if these consumers are to be retained, the industry has to assure their safety. As we say PERCEPTION IS REALITY. It is vital to understand the consumer’s wants and needs, and to act accordingly.
A Myriad of Safety Guidelines
The current guidelines of wearing masks, social distancing, etc could become the new normal, but this new norm has a different definition for every individual. As there are few universally accepted standards, everyone is applying different rules, which results in every state having its own procedures. This makes it complicated to stay up-to-date, especially when organising cross border business. As such, tourism industries need to stay well-informed, and agile, to meet continually changing guidelines. It is also essential for these industries to show visual representation of precautionary measures being taken (such as safety videos), as they are responsible for making their clients feel safe, and prove their trustworthiness.
In terms of safety, a lot is expected from the hotel and venue sector. To meet these expectations, a few hotels have temporarily stopped meal serving and housekeeping services in order to reduce human to human contact. Instead, they encourage the attendees to collect their meal from the table and clean their own rooms using the tools provided at the housekeeping stations on each floor. Another precautionary example is the rolling out of breakout sessions during events to minimize the number of individuals present within the allotted space at one time.
Not only venues and hotels, but airlines too, have been doing their part to combat the coronavirus situation. Measures like having the middle seats blocked in order to keep the passengers apart, cleaning the plane every 45 minutes, letting the passengers out row by row, etc are followed. United Airlines, for example, has partnered with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to develop a set of safety standards and has introduced United CleanPlus, in order to enhance the safety of its passengers. Witnessing these safety procedures gives passengers the confidence to travel.
Challenges to Safety
Just when it seems like industries have taken enough measures, they face other challenges. One of the challenges faced by the industry seems to be the denial of the clients to bear the extra costs. When the organization hires a medical officer for COVID-19 testing for the attendees, the extra expenses swells the organization’s budget. What makes it harder is the reluctance of clients to commit to events, but in a pandemic situation, of course no one is to be blamed for fearing, and clients often now include a virus clause in the venue contract. Further problems can arise from difference in opinion/international regulations i.e. a client might be hesitant to enforce attendees to wear a mask but it is mandatory to wear one at the destination.
Finally, aside from all the safety precautions for live events, the MICE industry is also undergoing a severe learning curve in the pivot to virtual and hybrid events, the new ‘buzz’ words of this pandemic.
The MICE industry is faced with a challenging road ahead, full of twists and turns and the need for constant recalibration, especially on the topic of safety precautions. However, the efforts of the industry to keep their people safe is evident. Critical times like these teach us the value of life. So we should encourage humanity, be thankful for what we have, and be kind to everyone around us, as together we navigate this road towards a brighter, safer, and more social future.
Written by Preethi Babu
SITE Week Ideation Session Series:
SITE Week saw SITE Global hosting 46 Ideation Sessions over the course of 2 days, 2 times zones, and catering to over 1500 registrations. The idea was simple – facilitated brain-storming to help us all prepare for the road ahead, collaborating through the sharing of thoughts, insights and perspectives from across the globe, while collaborating and celebrating the togetherness of the larger SITE community. Each session was attended by a scribe, who was tasked with the articulation of his/her thoughts into a thought-provoking and informative article as a summation of their takeaways from the session.