. Where In-Person Meetings Are Happening Now | Northstar Meetings Group

Where In-Person Meetings Are Happening Now

Recent events profiled here include a health-care meeting at The Broadmoor in Colorado, a wellness summit at The Breakers in Florida, and a women's leadership gathering at the Desmond Hotel Albany in New York.

Destination management company PRA has hosted five events since the pandemic began. Above, seats are spaced for social distancing at a health-care meeting in Colorado.
Destination management company PRA has hosted five events since the pandemic began. Above, seats are spaced for social distancing at a health-care meeting in Colorado. Photo Credit:PRA

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Updated Dec. 21, 2020.

Paper menus have been replaced with QR codes. Swag bags are now stuffed with hand sanitizer and extra masks. All seats are spaced six feet apart. After coming to a complete halt in mid-March, live events are once again being held around the country and the world, using updates for safety and more. 

"We're so happy to be in-person again," said Amanda Veldman Doyle, director of regional sales for Prestige Global Meeting Source, who attended Northstar Meetings Group's Reconvening for Recovery event at the Mohegan Sun casino and resort in Mystic County, Conn., this fall. "Live meetings are at the core of what we do, and it's great to be able to experience it firsthand so we can tell colleagues and clients what it's like to go to a meeting now — and feel safe doing so."

Pulling off a safe and successful in-person event right now is possible, but it requires a lot of planning, as well as active communication with attendees and ongoing collaboration with vendors.

Following are details on face-to-face events that have taken place over the past few months, helping to establish protocols for in-person meetings as the pandemic continues to affect business and daily life. Recent additions to the list include gatherings in Florida, Colorado, New York and Los Cabos, Mexico.

Connecticut

"We're back. We're officially back!"

Those were the first words spoken onstage at "Reconvening for Recovery: Live," a hybrid event produced by Northstar and Mohegan Sun Oct. 13-14. The in-person event brought together 75 meeting professionals, marking for many their first face-to-face meeting since the pandemic struck in March. In addition, more than 1,000 attendees participated in 3.5 hours of educational sessions on a custom digital-event platform. (The program is available on demand here.) 

This was an ideal venue for putting new health and safety protocols to the test, says Angela Cox, senior director of meetings and events for Northstar Meetings Group. "They have their own health-care providers on property, so we had a doctor on call for us. They also have a manufacturing plant, so they had plexiglass for registration shields and buffet shields." 

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Signs were posted throughout the Mohegan Sun, reminding guests to practice safety protocols while attending Reconvening for Recovery. Photo Credit: Keyth Reynolds, Pixel Perfect

Owned and operated by the Mohegan Tribe, the resort is a sovereign nation, and thus not held to the group-size restrictions imposed by the state. The property was closed in the spring, but reopened to guests on June 1, and began serving groups later that month.

Here, planners can easily meet or exceed all safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources. At this event, all in-person attendees were required to sign a code of conduct, pledging to allow temperature checks, adhere to social-distancing guidelines, wear face masks and other measures.

Thermal scanners were used to check all attendees' temperatures daily, and signs and floor decals were used to direct traffic flow and remind guests to keep their distance. PC Nametag provided wristband technology as an option; the bands buzzed when wearers came within six feet of each other.

"You have to overcommunicate with your attendees," said Cox. "We needed to make sure everybody coming to the event knew they were expected to wear their masks over their nose and mouth, not just on their ears, and that they needed to respect social distancing. Without putting that out in advance, some people weren't going to be comfortable coming to the event. But since they knew what was expected, that helped set their minds at ease.

Guests were seated at 72-inch banquet tables, with a maximum of three people per table. All attendees were provided with tent cards to mark their seats at a table. Couches in lounge areas were set with pillows in the middle to ensure proper distancing between guests. The same safety standards were applied to the food-and-beverage program, which consisted of plated meals and server-attended buffets with plexiglass dividing the staff from the attendees.

Colorado

Destination management company PRA has hosted a handful events since the pandemic began. Among them was a two-day hybrid summit for a Colorado-based health-care company. The August event, held at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, included 60 in-person attendees and nearly 350 virtual guests. 

Daily temperature checks were conducted at the event, and guests received stickers to show they did not have a fever.
Daily temperature checks were conducted at the event, and guests received stickers to show they did not have a fever. Photo Credit: PRA

On-site participants were required to wear masks and undergo daily temperature checks. Guests were then given stickers, which changed each day, to show that they had been checked. Tables were spaced six feet apart with four chairs per table, and attendees were given name cards to mark their seats. 

Food-and-beverage options included boxed lunches and snack buffets with individually wrapped items. Silverware was preset. Linens were handled with gloves, and only used for one meal.

Each room had a dedicated entrance and exit to control traffic flow. All event spaces, including the décor and furniture, were disinfected nightly. Additional safety protocols put in place at the resort can be viewed here. PRA also has created a guidelines ensure that all vendors maintain the highest levels of safety. 

"One of the things that we set out to do very early on is look at the recommendations from the CDC and industry organizations, and put together a supplier-standards document," said Aspen Krajewski, regional senior producer, during a panel at Northstar Meetings Group's recent Small Meetings & Distinctive Venues digital event. "Part of our procedure now is to have all suppliers sign off on this agreed set of standards… We can execute events. It's just going to look and feel different than we're used to, but it is possible."

The gathering was such a success that the client decided to host a follow-up event a few weeks later. The second meeting, which was planned in less than two weeks, was also held at The Broadmoor. It included 75 in-person attendees and 280 virtual guests, with similar safety protocols.

"Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions between clients and the constructive conversations that take place when assembled together," said Jack Damioli, president and CEO of The Broadmoor. "When groups gather safely, that's where the true business happens. We've had the pleasure of working with PRA Colorado Springs on recent client programs on site. The PRA team did an amazing job adhering to current health protocols and safety measures in place in collaboration with The Broadmoor staff. In fact, it was so successful we have experienced repeat clients on site, conducting follow-up programs."

Florida

In late November, 115 people gathered at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., for the 2020 Global Wellness Summit. An additional 500 people attended virtually. The event was originally scheduled to be held in Tel Aviv, Israel, but had to be moved due to travel restrictions. 

The Global Wellness Institute aimed to go above and beyond when it came to safety. The Breakers, where the event was held, is GBAC Star certified in coronavirus cleaning and prevention. The hotel has also created an extensive set of health and safety protocols, as part of its "B Safe" initiative. In addition, Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the U.S, served as medical advisor to the summit. 

"When we decided that we really did want to try to do this, he was our first call to see what he thought," said Nancy Davis, executive director of the Global Wellness Institute. "It might have been that he said, 'Don't do it.' But from the beginning, he was a person who said, 'You really have to try to do this. It's really important that that we do this.'" 

According to Davis, it was particularly important to the Global Wellness Institute that the summit be held live if it were possible to do so safely, given the organization's focus on wellness and the growing amount of research that shows a link between social isolation and poor mental health.

To ensure the highest levels of safety, Covid-19 tests were required upon arrival. All test results came back negative, but medical professionals were on site each day just in case a participant became ill. Guests also had their temperatures checked daily, and masks were required at all times. The speakers even had to wear masks onstage. 

The "Healthe Entry" portal was used to remove airborne and surface microbes as attendees entered the ballroom.
The "Healthe Entry" portal was used to remove airborne and surface microbes as attendees entered the ballroom. Photo Credit: Global Wellness Institute

The Global Wellness Institute partnered with several companies to bring new, cutting-edge Covid-19 technology to the event. A UVC-sanitation portal provided by lighting-solutions company Healthe was placed outside the ballroom, and the portal used UVC light to remove airborne and surface microbes as attendees passed through it. In addition, wellness-technology company Delos provided air-purification units for all meetings spaces.

Other safety precautions included sanitizing microphones and chairs between speakers, and meetings rooms were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected during each break. While seating was appropriately distanced, attendees had the option to use elliptical machines and recumbent bikes during education sessions to give their immune system a boost.

The Mr. Olympia fitness competition drew more than 3,000 people to the Orange County Convention Center.
The Mr. Olympia fitness competition drew more than 3,000 people to the Orange County Convention Center. Photo Credit: Orange County Convention Center

In Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center has hosted 54 events since March. Its first exhibition was the Together Again Expo, held on July 24, attended by 1,405 people in person and 8,225 people online. Over the Dec. 18-20 weekend, two events took place concurrently, the Central Florida International Auto Show, to which more than 10,000 people were expected, and the Mr. Olympia competition, which welcomed 3,000 attendees. More details on recent events and other venues that are open in Orlando can be found here.

Georgia

In late August, the Georgia Society of Association Executives held its 2020 Annual Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Savannah. A total of 113 people attended the two-day event.

"We worked with the Hyatt staff to walk through everything the attendee would experience and make changes to our room sets, food-and-beverage service, registration and how the sponsors and exhibitors were set up," said Wendy Kavanagh, CAE, president of GSAE. The planning team completed a site tour two months prior to the event and made a number of adjustments to ensure the gathering was as safe as possible.

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Meeting room capacities were lowered and chairs were spaced six feet apart at GSAE's 2020 Annual Meeting. Photo Credit: Gary Coleman Photography

"We went from putting 50 people in a room to putting 20 people in a room. We actually switched ballrooms to make sure that we were using one that was accessible via elevators, stairs, as well as escalators to keep crowding to a minimum, and to avoid any kind of bottlenecks," she noted.

Extensive pre-event communications told attendees what to expect. Among the resources provided in the weeks leading up to the meeting were Covid-19 guidelines from the CDC, safety procedures from both the GSAE and the Hyatt Regency Savannah, and articles on how to wear a mask properly and navigate social spaces safely. A video from the Hyatt team walked guests through the entire hotel experience, including what to expect at check-in and checkout, parking areas and F&B outlets.

Upon arrival, all attendees received a safety kit with masks, disinfecting wipes and a no-touch door opener. Temperature checks were offered daily and masks were required at all times, except while eating and drinking. The event app included a Covid-19 assessment that guests had to complete each morning.

"You can't learn if you're un­comfortable or you don't feel safe," said Kavanagh. "I think we did a really good job of preparing people for what to expect. Most of our attendees had not traveled up until this time. Few of them had ventured outside of their communities."

Meeting rooms were set to less than 25 percent capacity, with thorough room-cleaning between sessions. All A/V equipment was disinfected between speakers. In order to minimize crowding, identical food and coffee stations were set up in each meeting room, with service lines color-coded by corresponding table linens. Each station was staffed by masked and gloved attendants behind plexiglass. Prepackaged items were served for a grab-and-go lunch.

Speakers were GSAE's biggest challenge. Of the event's nearly 30 presenters, eight had to be replaced due to travel restrictions or potential exposure prior to the event. But Kavanagh said the team had "backup plans to backup plans," with a number of standbys ready to go. No cases of Covid-19 were reported at the event and in an anonymous survey conducted two weeks afterward, no one reported they experienced Covid-19 symptoms or tested positive.

GSAE is compiling a toolkit outlining how the organization safely executed the event, including a site-visit checklist, sample communications, and must-have health and safety policies. The organization plans to hold another meeting and awards show as an in-person or hybrid affair in December. 

Hawaii

The Social Distancing Soiree was held outdoors, with shelving units installed between tables to ensure social distancing.
The Social Distancing Soiree was held outdoors, with shelving units installed between tables to ensure social distancing. Photo Credit: MC&A

MC&A, a global destination management company, hosted its first event since the pandemic began, an outdoor event that was held in early July at the Sugar Beach Estate on Maui. The Social Spacing Soiree was designed to recognize Maui's first responders, including medics, doctors, surgeons, nurses and EMTs. 

Fifty first responders were invited to the event, along with a few of MC&A's clients and industry partners. Masks were required for all guests and temperature checks were conducted upon arrival. Hand-sanitizing stations were posted at the entrance and throughout the venue. Shelving units broke up the space and enforced social distancing. In addition, plexiglass dividers were used at the food stations and the linenless tables were cleaned regularly. An aerialist provided entertainment from a distance. 

According to Jamie Gold, director of sales for MC&A, the company hired additional staff who were dedicated solely to ensuring everyone was following the safety guidelines at the event. All staff members and guests reported they were healthy two weeks after the event. A video of the Social Spacing Soiree can be found here

"It was important to show our clients how a real event with people can actually work, operate and look moving forward," said Gold. "It certainly wasn't easy, and even in doing all of this, we still took a big risk. With first responders as our guests, we thought what better way to truly put this, and ourselves, to the test. If anyone would call us out for not following guidelines, it would be them."

About a month after the gathering, capacity restrictions for events in the state were once again lowered to 10 people. Click here for the latest updates.

Indiana

In a span of 40 days this summer, Indianapolis hosted 18 events that drew a total of 40,000 attendees. Of these events, 13 were corporate meetings and five were sporting events.

The state's gathering restrictions currently limit events to 250 people or less, but planners are finding creative solutions that allow larger events to go on. For example, a bio-life-sciences corporation was able to hold a three-day, 1,000-person event at the JW Marriott Indianapolis in late July by dividing the group among different meeting rooms throughout the hotel.

"They needed to keep to 250 people or less, and have their health and safety plans inspected, stamped and approved by the Indianapolis Health Department," said Chris Gahl, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Indy, the city's convention and visitors bureau. "By working with the corporate planners and the hotel, we were able to map out how the meeting rooms and general sessions would break out. The groups were kept in separate rooms and the keynotes, although they were in person, were broadcast throughout the individual meeting rooms to keep no more than 250 people in one place."

Safety precautions included a face-mask requirement for all attendees, prepackaged meals and a contactless check-in experience. A similar plan was used to host a medical meeting of 600 attendees in mid-August.

According to Gahl, the city's tourism partners have also signed on to a new "Hoosier Hospitality Promise" to inform guests of the safety protocols in place. The promise includes properly training staff members on cleaning and disinfection practices, conducting health checks of every employee before their shifts and providing hand sanitizer at all entrances.

"All of the downtown hotels and restaurants and everyone associated with the tourism industry has taken that hospitality promise to first and foremost protect the health of our visitors and residents," said Gahl. "It is not a superficial promise. It is the fact that they will truly enforce masks, which are a municipal mandate, and conduct health and safety practices recommended by the CDC." 

Louisiana

Helping to return in-person events to the Big Easy, the Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans hosted a regional meeting for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in late August.

The group originally had planned to bring together its members for one national meeting in Las Vegas. But restrictions, which at the time limited that city's gatherings to 50 people, necessitated a change in plans, so the organization held smaller regional meetings at 24 locations across the country.

For the two-day event at the Roosevelt, 110 attendees arrived from central southern states for a dinner reception on Aug. 21. This was followed the next day by a lunch meeting that connected attendees at the hotel by videoconference with participants at the other 23 locations for a larger hybrid national gathering. In total, nearly 1,500 people from around the country participated. 

"We were constantly monitoring the restrictions and any changes that were coming through at the city, state or even federal level," said Denise Ferrier Mavor, senior account executive at MC&A, the destination management company that planned the dinner reception. "We were in constant communication with the client as well as the hotel and, of course, our vendor partners to make sure everyone was in sync."

The meeting rooms were sanitized and sealed prior to the event, and even décor elements were cleaned before attendees arrived. All guests were required to wear masks, and seating was limited to three people per 72-inch round table. 

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QR codes allowed attendees to access the food and beverage menus from their phones. Photo Credit: Riverview Photography

Taking the meals touchless, all food and beverages were delivered by servers wearing gloves and masks. QR codes were placed on the tables so attendees could access menus from their phones. 

This was the second event MC&A has helped produce since the pandemic began. In July, they hosted a Social Spacing Soiree for 50 first responders on Maui in Hawaii. The DMC worked on several gatherings in October and has two more planned before year-end.

"Where there's a will, there's a way," said Ferrier Mavor. "It does take some more planning and time to put on an event now, but there's a lot that can be done safely." 

New York

In the Empire State, events are currently restricted to 50 people are less, with smaller meetings happening, particularly in Upstate New York. Author and leadership speaker Sharon Burstein hosted the fifth-annual Leadership Summit America at the Desmond Hotel Albany Oct. 29-30, with strict social-distancing and safety protocols in place. The event usually draws nearly 200 people, but this year's attendance was limited to 40 guests to adhere to the state's gathering limits. All attendees were required to wear masks and sign a waiver. 

Each attendee was given their own 6-foot table for the education sessions. Plated meals were served at 72-inch roundtables with three to four attendees per table. Bottled water was offered, in addition to coffee and tea served in cups with lids. Breakfast foods were individually packaged. 

The event space was disinfected twice a day and microphones were sanitized after each use. The stage was expanded to accommodate social distancing between panelists.

"Everyone is Zoomed out," said Burstein. "People are so appreciative of the effort made to have a live event. And small events can be very successful when you have the right venue, and everyone works together."

Pennsylvania

Quorum, a meetings venue at the University City Science Center in Philadelphia, held a training event for the U.S. Census Bureau on June 25 for 48 people, all of whom were seated at social-distanced tables and were required to wear masks. A staff member was positioned at the entrance to ensure that everyone had proper face coverings and knew where they were going. Arrows on the floor also helped to direct attendee flow, and extra masks were available onsite for anyone who did not bring their own.

High-touch areas of the meeting room were sanitized before, during and after the event. Other safety precautions taken by the venue include installing no-touch door handles and placing social-distancing stickers on the floors.

"The management was very cognizant of our mutual concern for public safety," said Anthony Thornton, field operations manager for the U.S. Census Bureau. "The director of the facility and her staff arranged our requested meeting area in a way that emphasized social distancing. The facility takes cleanliness and sanitation in very high regard and requires all visitors to wear protective masks. The Census staff and attendees were very impressed with the venue's atmosphere." 

Virginia

In-person meetings are also happening in Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg Resorts hosted its first corporate meeting in early June at its Williamsburg Lodge, an Autograph Collection property. The two-day meeting for a senior-management group was attended by 45 guests. 

In order to ensure guest safety, plexiglass barriers were installed at all contact points between guests and staff, including check-in, reception bars and coffee stations. All staff members were required to wear masks and gloves. Attendees were also required to wear face masks. 

Directional arrows are used at the Williamsburg Lodge to keep attendees moving in one direction.
Directional arrows are used at the Williamsburg Lodge to keep attendees moving in one direction. Photo Credit: Williamsburg Lodge, Autograph Collection

Meeting rooms were sanitized daily, including all chairs, tables, pens and microphones. Social-distancing signs were posted throughout the venue, along with floor markers at all queue areas and directional arrows in hallways to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Separate entrance and exit doors were used for the meeting rooms, and one guest was seated per every six-foot table. 

Attendees were served plated meals and were encouraged to go outdoors during breaks, with direct access outside from the dining room. According to Joe Barrow, director of hotel sales for the Colonial Williamsburg Resorts, the venue staff did a thorough walk-through a few days before the event took place to view the meeting space from the attendee perspective and address any potential concerns beforehand. 

Barrow noted that the main issue they encountered was a quick turnaround on the planning, as Virginia had entered phase two of reopening the week prior. This allowed gatherings of up to 50 people to take place and meant the Williamsburg Lodge had just a few days to get everything ready for the 45-person meeting. 

The other issue was the limited staff on site. According to Barrow, the lodge was forced to furlough 95 percent of its employees at the height of the pandemic. The corporate meeting was therefore staffed largely by management and a few hourly employees. But all went smoothly on the day of the event.

The Williamsburg Lodge also hosted a 10-day, in-person meeting for a legal group in mid-July. All 28 attendees were required to wear masks. Other safety precautions included seating one person per six-foot table, creating dedicated exit and entrance doors and hosting the opening and closing receptions outdoors. Housekeeping was adjusted to only come a few times during the stay, although many guests decided to forgo housekeeping entirely. According to Barrow, the venue has a handful of in-person meetings scheduled throughout 2020.

"I think if you do it right and you follow the guidelines and if the attendees are willing to follow the guidelines, then you can have successful meetings," said Barrow. "That's not the only one that we've held. We've held meetings since early June and we're getting better and better at it and much more efficient at it." 

Meanwhile, the Boar's Head Resort in Charlottesville welcomed its first group at the end of June. The hybrid event for medical professionals was held June 24-26 with 13 in-person attendees, most of whom traveled two to three hours from the Washington, D.C., area. An on-site webcast studio enabled additional attendees to join via video.

New health-safety practices implemented for the group included a no-contact check-in option, sanitization of high-contact surface areas and fixtures every two to four hours, touchless hand-sanitizing stations installed around the property and the requirement that all staff members undergo mandatory temperature checks before each shift. In addition, all meeting rooms were fogged daily with disinfectants, and sneeze guards were added to the all the buffets, which were serviced by an attendant. All members of the resort team were required to wear personal protection equipment.

According to Mark White, director of sales at the Boar's Head, the event went so well that the group is already planning to return. The resort also hosted another meeting in early July.

"We were well prepared and did not face any challenges based on our new protocol," said White. "We had very positive feedback based on new standards. All went well, so much so that the group is committed to return for possibly four additional dates."

Washington, D.C.

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition held its 2020 summer board meeting at the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel in the nation's capital on July 28. The one-day event was attended by 35 in-person guests. An additional 50 people joined via Zoom.

"It was important for us to meet in person because we are the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and we advocate for the value of face-to-face meetings," said Nan Marchand Beauvois, who serves as senior vice president of the U.S. Travel Association and oversees the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. "We have about three to four meetings a year and our meeting in March was digital. But we polled our members and over half of them said, 'Yes, we should meet face to face in July.' So it was a group decision and we decided to hold a meeting for those who could travel to D.C., and then have the rest participate on Zoom."

Face masks were required for all in-person attendees. Guests also had to undergo a temperature screening and complete a liability waiver at check-in, where plexiglass screens had been installed for added safety.

MMB-Live-Events
The podium was sanitized and the microphone top was replaced between each speaker.

Three people were seated per roundtable in the meeting room. Each was given their own microphone. For presentations on the main stage, the podium was wiped down and the microphone top was replaced between each speaker. The food and beverage program consisted of healthy, tasteful meals that were prepackaged and safely served to guests from behind a plexiglass barrier. 

"The hotel did a great job onsite to ensure everyone's safety and that people were socially distancing. We even had floor markers, so you could stand as a group of three or four and network at a distance," said Beauvois. "We also did a lot of work up front to make sure our members felt comfortable traveling and that they knew what to expect when they got there."

According to Beauvois, the event exceeded expectations, with positive feedback from both in-person and virtual attendees. 

"What surprised me the most is the level of engagement and how easy it was to engage with not only those in the room, but also those on Zoom," she said. "You want to make sure that those who have called in feel as if they're part of this meeting as well. Because of how we had set the technology up, it was really easy to answer questions from virtual attendees as they came in."

More details on the event can be found here, where Northstar Meetings Group's own vice president and group publisher David Blansfield documented his journey traveling from New York City to Washington, D.C. to attend the meeting. Safety protocols from the event, hotel and airport are all featured.

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition plans to hold another in-person or hybrid meeting in November.

Wisconsin 

This summer, the American Club Resort in Kohler, Wis., hosted a month-long gathering for 150 people from a financial institute in Chicago. The company wanted to bring 100 of its top interns together, so they could meet with their mentors face to face and leadership could better identify which candidates should be given job offers. The company also hoped that this time together would increase their job offer acceptance rate. 

The gathering included 100 interns, 30 managers and 20 event staff members. The group did a complete buyout of the property, which offers 241 guest rooms and 22,000 square feet of meeting space. A bubble environment was used to keep everyone safe for the duration of the program, which lasted from July 18 - Aug. 16. During this time, all attendees stayed on-site. Only the resort staff members traveled outside of the bubble to go home at the end of the day.

All American Club Resort employees were tested twice for Covid-19 before they were allowed to enter the bubble, and then were tested on an ongoing basis throughout the program. Staff members were also given a handbook with a social contract outlining the health and safety expectations they were expected to abide by.

The attendees were flown into Chicago on July 5, two weeks prior to the start of the program. They spent two weeks quarantining in a hotel room and had to undergo two Covid-19 tests before they were allowed into the bubble. As with the resort staff, attendees also underwent continual Covid-19 testing during the program. 

According to Justin Gephart, director of sales for the American Club Resort, only two people tested positive for Covid-19 during the entire month. The first was a staff member who tested positive during the first round of tests before the bubble began. The second case was a staff member who tested positive during the first week of the program and was removed from the bubble. There was no spread and the group did not report any positive cases post-event.

To ensure proper sanitation and disinfection, the American Club brought in a third-party cleaning service which applied a fogging disinfectant throughout the hotel, including in the guest rooms, bathrooms, dining areas, public spaces and back-of-house areas. A bioprotect surface spray was applied afterwards. The second spray is designed to create a protective layer that prevents the growth and spread of bacteria and mold for 90 days. Beyond this, extensive cleaning was conducted daily and audited to ensure the highest levels of safety. 

Workstations were spaced six feet apart and everyone was given two Covid-19 tests before they were allowed onto the property.
Workstations were spaced six feet apart and everyone was given two Covid-19 tests before they were allowed onto the property. Photo Credit: American Club

Workstations were spaced six feet apart in the meeting rooms. Individual containers were used for food-and-beverage service, and a contactless lunch was provided to minimize touchpoints between attendees and resort staff. Activities, such as golfing, biking and canoeing, were held outdoors with thorough sanitization of all equipment. As an added precaution, the American Club Resort had a nurse available on-site and set up an isolated section of rooms for quarantining, although they were never used.

"We had two positive tests, but we had absolutely no spread," said Gephart. "We had extensive cleaning policies in place, we had PPE in place; and physical distancing is such a critical piece. The ethos we asked everyone to conduct themselves under was, 'assume you're asymptomatic and so is the coworker next to you.' With that mindset in place, it was a highly successful program."

Los Cabos, Mexico

Despite the additional challenges faced by organizers of meetings outside the United States, Los Cabos has welcomed close to 300 international groups since the Mexican state of Baja California Sur officially reopened to tourism in mid-June. While not the size and volume of events hosted by the resort destination in a typical year, the numbers speak to the extensive protocols and guidelines that have been established to keep visitors safe.

Among the largest events to occur here was the
World Meetings Forum, a three-day gathering of meeting professionals at the end of August. The conference welcomed 250 attendees in person — most of them coming from Mexico, along with three international attendees — and nearly 70 people who tuned in remotely from around the globe.

Pulling off the event successfully required close collaboration with the host hotel (the Paradisus Los Cabos), Los Cabos officials, and health authorities at the state and federal level. But the key piece, according to WMF chair Rafael Hernández, was their partnership with Azumed, a health-screening and testing company.

Azumed had been working with large factories and companies, Hernández explains, and had developed an impressive screening procedure for Covid-19 risk and exposure. Neither he nor Azumed knew exactly what they were looking for in terms of next steps, but when they met they knew they'd stumbled upon a great opportunity.

"We found each other," he said. "We didn't set out to meet one another but we did. They weren't yet looking for events to partner with, but they did a presentation, and for every single slide they showed me, I thought, 'Oh my god, this is the key — not just for our event but for the event industry and for everything.'"

World Meetings Forum 2020 Los Cabos
The World Meetings Forum team was eager to get back to business. Source: World Meetings Forum

Through Azumed, WMF organizers screened all potential participants in advance via questionnaires. Based on Azumed procedures, certain participants were sent to get rapid Covid-19 tests at an approved facility. Those who tested positive were sent to get PCR tests a few days in advance of the event, to confirm their status. As it happened, two would-be participants tested positive again and were not permitted to attend.

Azumed provided medical personnel on-site as well, and continued to screen and conduct rapid testing during the meeting. A contingency plan was in place should anyone have tested positive; fortunately, no one did.

Crucially, a plan was also in place to follow up post-event. Azumed continued to query attendees more than two weeks after the event to ensure no one developed any symptoms. On Sept. 17, the organizations confirmed the meeting was truly Covid-free.

Hernández, who says his team was incredibly proud of that result, adds that to adhere to all protocols, they had to take a much stricter approach to policy than in years past — no matter who tried to exert influence.

"Normally you get people who appear at the event at the last moment, who say they tried to register but they couldn't," says Hernández. "It isn't unusual for people from the government to do this — a minister of tourism, who will show up with 10 people. This time we had to tell them no — that if they didn't go through the health-security procedure, we're sorry. Even if they want to pay me double, or even if they want to sponsor — sorry, because we cannot put everyone else at risk."

That's why attendees felt safe, he concludes. "They knew that the whole time they were seeing the same people," he says. "That's how they knew we were taking care of things."

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