While most meetings and events are on hold for the time being, the rollout of vaccines means we may soon see the return of business gatherings, although they will look a little different from before. Hotels are devising innovative solutions for your next get-together.
Here we round up some of the major programmes in place to keep delegates safe – from hybrid events that combine in-person and virtual participation, to measures such as temperature checks and testing procedures.
Last year Accor introduced its All Meet Well initiative at 135 hotels in its Northern Europe portfolio. Meetings and events are run in accordance with the group’s All Safe cleanliness programme, features of which include daily cleaning in the evenings and during lunch breaks, including disinfecting light switches, door handles, chairs, tables, hangers and consoles; vacuum cleaners equipped with HEPA filters; and cleaning checklists provided to event organisers prior to meetings taking place.
The group is also set to launch All Connect, a new hybrid meetings concept powered by Microsoft Teams technology. The initiative will allow corporate customers and event planners around the world to combine “physical in-hotel meetings with virtual interactions across multiple locations”. The concept focuses primarily on smaller meetings (eight to 50 physical participants) and meetings will take place on the Teams platform. Within the hotels’ meeting spaces, Microsoft Teams Rooms and Surface Hub 2S will connect on-site guests with remote ones through “industry-leading audio and video device experiences”.
Customers will benefit from the expertise of dedicated teams, and there will be bespoke programmes and experiences available to attendees. At the moment, 55 per cent of Accor hotels with meeting rooms are already providing hybrid meeting solutions. The group is aiming for 100 per cent of these hotels to comply with the new hybrid meetings standard by 2022 across all of its brands worldwide.
Read more about ‘All Connect’ here:
According to research carried out by Accor, 50 per cent of physical gatherings that were planned by the company’s meeting and event customers in 2021 will switch to virtual formats. In addition, 70 per cent of respondents saw hybrid meetings “as an important service in the future”. The company says that further sector analysis reveals a trend towards remote events and meetings that is unlikely to disappear after the pandemic, especially as customers begin to focus on more sustainable corporate travel.
Meanwhile, at Accor-managed properties in the US and Canada, the group has partnered with tech company X.labs to coordinate Covid-19 testing for attendees. Meeting planners can either ask the X.labs concierge to send PCR kits directly to attendees for at-home testing or order antigen rapid tests to do it on-site. In both cases, they can track results via the Ready app to see who has been cleared for attendance.
The luxury group introduced Hybrid Meetings by Four Seasons in April. Hotels follow safety protocols from the group’s Lead With Care programme and will also implement additional measures for meetings and events, including offering personalised consultations and managing attendee flow and food and drink experiences. The group’s catering teams are able to organise simultaneous “culinary surprises” for in-person or remote attendees across multiple global venues – this might include individually served menus or interactive mixology kits.
Other services range from a multi-broadcast meeting solution for keynotes and leadership addresses, which provides a professional backdrop, stage and technology for global conferences, to the Hub and Spoke offering for smaller gatherings, which unites regional groups across multiple properties.
Four Seasons can also facilitate access to Covid-19 tests for guests at its properties globally, and teams will work with planners to provide guidance and recommendations on end-to-end testing options and costs.
Hilton has extended its cleaning protocols to its event operations, calling it Hilton Event Ready with Clean Stay. The programme includes meeting room seals and checklists, sanitising stations, a playbook offering guidance and resources to plan events (including testing providers) and a physical distancing meal service.
Hilton also recently introduced a set of solutions to help event organisers to organise hybrid meetings at participating hotels around the world. The “hybrid ready” properties offer seamless connectivity, a planning playbook and expertise from dedicated team members. For a list of hotels see meetings.hilton.com/eventready.
Select hotels will have “presentation stages”, which are pre-built with technology for recording and broadcasting high-quality online events. This currently applies only to Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida, Hilton Atlanta, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Hilton Denver and LA’s Beverly Hilton but is set to be rolled out in other select US locations and across Europe, the Middle East and Africa by the end of the year. Properties equipped with such technology will accommodate between two and six on-site presenters and up to 50 in-person attendees.
Hilton is providing Covid-19 testing and health screening resources for event attendees in the US. Participating hotels will provide a list of third-party providers that can provide handheld temperature check devices, personal screening checklists, self-testing options and same-day on-site testing.
In March, Hilton Prague and Hilton Prague Old Town held a hybrid event showcase for 300 clients from 30 countries, in partnership with AV Media Events. The main stage with live speakers was set up in the Congress Hall of Hilton Prague, while the Vivaldi meeting room at the Old Town property was used as a breakout space.
Hyatt is enabling meetings to simultaneously take place across various properties in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific through a hybrid format. Content can be broadcast to meeting rooms across multiple hotels, allowing delegates to safely connect and engage.
Each location can house 15 attendees and features a video monitor, two flipcharts and a dynamic device with multiple built-in cameras and microphones.
Events abide by Hyatt’s Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, which includes sanitisation of meeting rooms before and after use, “care stations” with PPE and sanitiser, signage to remind guests about social distancing, linen-less tables where possible, disinfection of AV equipment between uses, pre-packaged food items, and buffets with plexiglass coverings and staff to serve hot dishes.
In April, the group launched a new suite of offerings called ‘Together by Hyatt’, which includes features such as an on-site ‘support squad’ to address real-time technology questions from attendees and help speakers with setting up their talks; recipe cards and shopping lists for remote attendees as part of the F&B service; and curated content from meditation app Headspace.
The group plans to trial the use of mobile health passport Verifly for in-person gatherings, allowing attendees and colleagues to present their Covid-19 test results and complete all necessary requirements on the app prior to arrival. Delegates who meet the criteria will be able to display a green checkmark on the app for entry into the venue.
IHG Hotels and Resorts
The group is applying its Way of Clean initiative to its Meet with Confidence programme. Key features include deep and more frequent cleaning of event spaces, hand sanitiser stations, socially distanced room layouts, and single-serve and pre-packaged meal options.
IHG also offers two hybrid options for meetings and events. The Smart Solution is available at participating hotels globally, except in Greater China, and includes rapid on-site Covid-19 testing in partnership with Wellness 4 Humanity and digital collaboration technology from Weframe – Weframe One is an interactive cloud-based touchscreen that allows on-site and remote participants to work together.
The Expert Solution is available at nearly 100 hotels in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the US. Services include virtual technology experiences and “curated” food and drink delivered to off-site attendees by Williams Sonoma.
Marriott launched its Connect with Confidence programme last year. It comprises enhanced sanitation guidelines, new operational training for associates and increased use of conference technologies.
The group carried out its first hybrid meeting under the programme in November 2020 at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner in Virginia, with 44 in-person participants and 238 virtual attendees. The event made use of thermal scanners, contactless check-in, social distancing signage, hand sanitiser stations and grab-and-go food and drink.
Attendees were grouped into zones and seats were set up at least six feet from each other, with guests able to reserve a “sanctuary seat” at check-in and maintain it for the duration of the event – these included amenities such as a face shield, sanitising products and individually packaged refreshments. Delegates could also choose a green, yellow or red wrist band to indicate their level of comfort with physical contact with others.
Those attending virtually could select their preferred viewing angle when watching a live stream and could use free Uber Eats gift cards to order food to arrive at the same time as in-person colleagues “to further reinforce the shared experiences”. The event used Meeting Play event technology to provide multi-view live streaming plus polls and surveys.
In January, an event took place at Colorado’s Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center for 100 in-person and 803 virtual attendees. Survey results from this gathering revealed that 51 per cent of meeting professionals planned to host a hybrid event in the next six to 12 months, and 95 per cent of attendees said they would attend another event if it were to be designed with the same principles.
The group aims to hold future hybrid events “throughout the world over the next few months”, including in Dubai. It is also exploring initiatives such as virtual breakout sessions and packaged welcome gifts, which would be posted in advance to participants at home.
Marriott is offering Covid-19 tests to meeting customers at Gaylord Hotels in Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Colorado, with plans to roll it out to certain other Marriott branded hotels in the US. Additional optional health protocols include daily or pre-arrival health screening questions via app and daily temperature checks to enter the event area.
In May, Marriott launched its Green Screen Package and Hybrid Meeting Package across 45 hotels in the UK, 14 of which are located in London and Heathrow. Both packages offer room hire, complimentary wifi, dedicated bandwidth up to 25/25mbps, the use of the Meeting Services App to make contactless requests, all day tea, coffee, water and soft drinks, and lunch. It is also possible to book both packages with sustainably sourced lunch box menus, which are individually wrapped and served to each delegate at multiple hotel locations.
The Green Screen Package is designed for up to ten delegates and includes room hire and a green screen, while the latter package is for 10-30 attendees and features an LCD screen or projector, a static HD camera, a microphone, PA system, studio lighting, live stream technology, onsite technical support, tables and chairs (as required), and delegate pens and pads (as required). Participants can be hosted across different properties in multiple geographical locations using the same connection and streaming services. Technology resources include creative set design, personalised backdrops and lighting.
Radisson Hotel Group
The group has partnered with certification company SGS to create a ten-step protocol for meeting spaces in its worldwide locations. Features include sanitising stations, physical distancing, improved air circulation, strict food safety procedures and increased cleaning and disinfection, especially in high-touch areas.
It has teamed up with Zoom to host hybrid events, allowing attendees to connect by video to other satellite meeting locations “with one click”. Radisson has implemented the programme in over 50 hotels, with the goal of expanding this to more than 100 properties across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In March, it partnered with Hughes Healthcare to introduce rapid testing for meeting attendees at participating hotels in select countries across its EMEA portfolio, including the UK. Trained healthcare providers will carry out lateral antigen flow tests at the hotel prior to the event, while guests will have the option of accessing PCR testing on-site or in the vicinity.
Park Plaza Hotels
Radisson brand Park Plaza Hotels has launched a Reassuring Meeting and Events initiative to enhance the safety measures in place as part of its Reassuring Moments programme. Park Plaza says it has been developed alongside Radisson’s ten-step protocol and SGS certification and provides “safe, secure and flexible environments, ideal for retraining teams, working sessions, creative planning, hybrid events and much more”.
Wyndham Hotel Group
To protect planners and attendees, the group has implemented social distancing measures and reconfigured meeting rooms, with increased signage. All food and drink service complies with local guidelines and regulations, meeting spaces undergo more frequent cleaning and disinfection, meeting rooms at many hotels are equipped with technology for virtual attendance, and tissues and hand sanitiser are provided for all delegates. Depending on local regulations, some hotels will also include temperature screening.