As conference hosts grapple with whether to insist that attendees show proof of Covid vaccination to participate in person, some events are requiring even more, with the hope of achieving a near guarantee that nobody will contract Covid on site.
In the last week of September, a business-to-business software conference known as SaaStr Annual drew more than 5,000 people to the San Mateo County Event Center in California. Besides requiring that attendees submit proof of Covid vaccination ahead of the event, the organizers also mandated that each person show proof of a negative Covid test performed with 72 hours of the event or submit to a rapid Covid test when they arrived on site. In addition, masking was mandated at registration (pictured nearby) and strongly encouraged elsewhere throughout the event—even though nearly all of the educational sessions, meals and breaks, trade show (pictured at bottom) and other activities were held in the center’s tented outdoor spaces for the first time ever. For those who chose not to submit to the protocol, a virtual version of the event took place over the same dates.
“When it comes to public health at large-scale events, frequent Covid testing with quick turnaround times is the tool that will get us back to normalcy and breathe life back into the events world,” said Paul Hassan, owner of U.S. Mobile Health Exams, which administered the on-site tests for SaaStr Annual.
More than 5,300 miles east of San Mateo, an early November show in London, England, called Event Tech Live will use similar precautions to host several hundred event planners and technology suppliers over two days. However, ETL participants must show that they received their second vaccination at least 14 days ahead of the event as well as show proof of a negative Covid test administered no more than 48 hours ahead of the event. Participants will also be required to wear masks inside the event hall. Alternatively, a virtual version of the event will take place during and after the in-person show.
While there are concerns that such multi-step Covid-safety protocols could discourage potential attendees from coming to a show, a recent survey by WalletHub showed that this might not be the case. According to the organization’s 2021 Winter Travel Survey, 40 percent of respondents said they would be willing to spend more to fly on an airline that required all travelers to be vaccinated, and the same percentage said they would spend more to stay in a hotel that required all guests to be vaccinated.
“We’ve seen cities have success with vaccine mandates, and applying the idea to travel—at least as a specialized service where certain flights or hotel rooms are reserved for the vaccinated—could prove to be a moneymaker for airlines and hotel chains,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. It just might do the same for business events, too.