More than 180 industry volunteers have collaborated on a set of standards to help organizations navigate travel and meetings during the pandemic. The 56-page report, called S.O.S.–Standards of Safety in Business Travel, covers safety standards for lodging, meetings, air travel, rail travel, and ground transportation.
The guidelines, developed over a two-month period starting in late April, are organized around three risk conditions: 1) when a global pandemic has been declared by the World Health Organization, 2) when a destination is “moving in or out of a pandemic,” and 3) when there’s no global pandemic. The different standards can also align with an organization or individual’s risk tolerance.
The Travel and Meetings Standards (TAMS) Taskforce behind the report was founded by Susan Lichtenstein (left), managing partner at DigiTravel Consulting, in reaction to the industry’s questions and concerns over how to return to face-to-face meetings. Lichtenstein says that after remarking that “somebody” needed to start a taskforce, she decided to create one herself. She began with a post on LinkedIn that, within 24-hours had well over 10,000 reactions, and she knew she was onto something.
Committees and subcommittees of buyers, suppliers, and consultants went to work, putting in “hundreds and hundreds” of hours, Lichtenstein says, noting that it was a diverse, passionate mix of volunteers representing a wide range of experience and industry sectors (and no companies were duplicated). She was wowed by the commitment of the volunteers. “If you make a path for people to talk to each other, they will come,” she said, especially when it’s “a path where they can roll up their sleeves, work, and give their best self to a common goal to make something better. It amazed me how quickly that came together.”
Shimon Avish, vice president, consulting at DigiTravel Consulting, and Jim Stanton, regional vice president at HelmsBriscoe, led the meetings committee, producing eight pages of the S.O.S. guide, with three-level standards for
• testing and access
• physical distancing
• food service
• participant responsibilities
• organizer and planner responsibilities
• package delivery
Lodging standards are tackled in a separate section of the report. Meeting committee members include Kate Demarest, CMM, director global event marketing, Dell; Karin Milliman, director, digital & market event services, PwC; Cindy Van Der Elst, global leader meeting & event solutions, Kimberly Clark; Madlyn Caliri, director, global procurement marketing, meetings and events; RELX; Shawn Parker, executive director, corporate, Hilton Worldwide; Erica Gordon Hyman, director, global sales, MGM Resorts International; Tyler Pierce, MICE sales manager at United Airlines; and Matt Swanson, growth team lead at TroopTravel.
The TAMS Taskforce will deliver a 40-page Part Two of the report next week, called Return to the Road, which looks at how to effectively communicate and implement safety standards, working with company executives, suppliers, and travelers.
Last week, after the release of the standards, TAMS formed a LinkedIn group to continue the work of bringing buyers and suppliers together to discuss standards and protocols to help keep corporate and meetings travelers safe and healthy during the pandemic and beyond. The group already had 1,048 members at press time.