How Venues and Meeting Planners can Facilitate a Safe Return to In-Person Events

While hotels and large venues have been among the hardest-hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, these organizations have also been role models for the safe return to normal operations.

Through decisive actions such as the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Safe Stay initiative, the hospitality industry reacted quickly to adapt to life during COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, hotels across the world have donated millions of hotel nights to healthcare workers, while sporting and entertainment venues have transformed into mass vaccine distribution centers.

Working with global health organizations, hotels and other venues will continue to lead the way in a safe return to in-person events and meetings.

What does the future hold for in-person events?

Post-COVID-19 events won’t look the same as they did in 2019. As more people get vaccinated and government restrictions ease, events will likely continue to have some virtual elements. The pandemic showed businesses that by extending their events beyond the physical limitations of a building, they can reach new audiences. Hybrid events will likely become increasingly popular, enabling larger groups of people to experience events from afar.

In-person attendees can expect to go through health checkpoints before entering venues. Likewise, event organizers may continue to limit attendance, enabling guests to spread out from one another. But while fewer guests may attend in-person, they’ll likely be able to communicate with virtual attendees through various technologies. Some event planners are developing innovative ways to facilitate conversations between virtual and in-person attendees.

How will event spaces look and feel?

Health and safety will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. In addition to implementing thermal scanning at venue entrances, sanitation stations will also become standard. It will be crucial for event planners to help guests feel comfortable and at ease.

When it comes to large group activities like listening to a speaker, seating arrangements may need to change. Guests may not feel comfortable sitting directly in front of other people. Keeping chairs further apart will likely become the norm post-COVID-19.
Traditional food and beverage arrangements like buffets may no longer be popular after COVID-19. Single-serve, pre-packed meals will provide an extra layer of safety and help ensure guests’ peace of mind. It may also become more common for guests to make food selections through an app rather than browse open buffets. Digital menus can provide the same freedom of choice while keeping food options sanitary.

What role does the hospitality industry play?

Throughout the pandemic, the hospitality industry has worked to innovate new ways of keeping guests safe. Deep cleaning has become a necessity during the pandemic, and these practices will likely continue. For example, hotel housekeeping staff have adopted new procedures for demonstrating the cleanliness of rooms, including placing sanitary sashes on doors, beds and toilets.
Moving forward, guests can expect to see fewer disposable amenities like plastic water bottles and coffee cups. Because these items would have to be disposed of regardless of if they were used, it would be wasteful to keep them in rooms. Instead, guests will need to request specific amenities.
Technology will also play an important role in making the guest experience safer. Contactless check-in and check-out processes will reduce direct contact between guests and staff. Brand-specific apps can serve as digital room keys, enabling guests to enter their rooms without touching door handles. These apps will also enable hotels to gain a greater level of insight into amenity usage. For example, guests will be able to reserve gym time, allowing staff to clean equipment between uses.

Who will be involved in the return to in-person events?

Ultimately, event planners, hotels and venues will need to look for guidance from government health agencies to determine the best way to return to normal. It’s unclear whether or not venues will require proof of vaccination for admittance. In addition, venues may be expected to implement contact tracing technology to mitigate the future spread of infectious diseases.
New roles like Hygiene Manager are already becoming common at hotels and venues. This position is responsible for compliance with health regulations as well as the development of internal controls for guest safety. Developing protocols for cleaning, food safety and crowd control will be high on the list of priorities for event venues. With support from industry and government leaders, these businesses will find the right path forward.

JTB USA is committed to supporting meeting and event planners in the safe return to in-person gatherings. To learn more, get in touch with our experts today.