Are you dipping your toes back into in-person events? I attended IMEX America last month and it was clear that there is an appetite for organizations to hold in-person events again.
If you have programs already on the books for 2022 and beyond, now is the time to consider the impact Covid might have on how those programs operate. Here are four pointers for reviewing your existing contracts:
Re-evaluate your expected attendance numbers. Review your initial projections and consider if they are still accurate. Will your attendees be able to travel to your destination? While international travel is mostly open, disruptions to airline routes and reduced schedules for both international and domestic travel could affect airlift into your destination. Some corporations are still limiting business travel, and the emergence of the Omicron variant might also complicate the recovery.
If you expect your numbers to change, consider how it will affect your room block pick-up, meeting space usage, and F&B minimums. Communicate with your host-property reps when you have insight on attendance, then keep them updated.
Verify that the hotel can perform as contracted. Labor shortages and supply-chain issues are real, and some services you expected when you signed the contract might not be available. Have a candid conversation with your hotel rep about staffing levels and potential impacts for operating your program. For example, workforce shortages may make it impossible to execute the plated meal for 250 you originally had in mind. And if you are planning room-drops for gifts, confirm that this can still happen along with any other services that could be curtailed if the hotel is short-staffed.
Also check on the availability of restaurants, retail outlets, pool and spa services, and housekeeping. If these are not fully operational, this can impact your guest experience. Even the restaurants in the neighborhood around the hotel might have limited hours on weekdays because of staffing challenges. And with taxis and rideshare services, some cities are experiencing a shortage. So, your attendees might have a hard time getting transportation.
Review Covid policies and procedures. Check hotel policies and compare them to your organization’s policies and expectations. Many properties have earned the GBAC Star rating, which indicates they have the protocols and best practices in place to prevent transmissible diseases. If the property doesn’t have this accreditation, what are its cleaning protocols in guest rooms, meeting spaces, and public spaces? Check the hotel’s requirements for masks, vaccines, or Covid testing for staff. How might its policy (or lack thereof) impact your event experience? Review your own Covid policy with the hotel. If there are gaps or conflicts, those will need to be addressed, as well as who’s responsible for policy enforcement.
Double check your meeting space needs. You may need more space to allow for onsite Covid protocol management. You might also need to reconfigure your layout to allow for social distancing. We’ve learned a lot about content delivery in the past 20 months. If your agenda has changed, your space plan might also change.
Start these conversations as early as you can so that you and your hotel partners have time to consider alternatives that work for all your stakeholders. And don’t forget to update your communication plan to include any changes so that attendees know exactly what to expect on property.
Therese Jardine is principal and founder of Strategic Event Procurement. Before launching her own company, Jardine spent 18 years with Microsoft, most recently as senior program operations manager, Microsoft Events and Studios.