While most meetings and events are on hold for the time being, the vaccine rollout 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 programs in place – from hybrid events that combine in-person and virtual participation, to measures such as temperature checks and testing procedures.
Hilton has extended its cleaning protocols to its event operations, calling it Hilton Event Ready with Clean Stay. The program includes meeting room seals and checklists, sanitizing stations, a playbook offering guidance and resources for planning events (including testing provider details) and a physical distancing meal service.
Hilton also recently introduced a set of solutions to help event organizers plan hybrid meetings at participating hotels. In October 2020, the hotel group held its global sales hybrid event at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in Virginia. The “hybrid ready” properties offer seamless connectivity, a planning playbook and expertise from dedicated staff.
Select hotels will have “presentation stages” that are pre-built with technology for recording and broadcasting high-quality online events. This is currently available at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida, Hilton Atlanta, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Hilton Denver and LA’s Beverly Hilton, and is rolling out in other select US locations and across Europe, the Middle East and Africa by the end of the year. Properties equipped with this 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 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. hilton.com
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 Allsafe program, 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 organizers.
In April, the group launched All Connect, a hybrid meetings concept powered by Microsoft Teams technology. The initiative allows corporate customers and event planners 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 take place on the Teams platform. Within the hotels’ meeting spaces, Microsoft Teams Rooms and Surface Hub 2S connect on-site guests with remote participants through “industry-leading audio and video device experiences.” Bespoke programs and experiences are available to attendees.
As of February, 55 percent of Accor hotels with meeting rooms provided hybrid solutions. The group is aiming for 100 percent of its hotels with meeting rooms to comply with the new hybrid meetings standard by 2022.
According to research carried out by Accor, 70 percent of respondents saw hybrid meetings as “an important service in the future.” The company says that further sector analysis shows a trend towards remote events and meetings that is unlikely to disappear post-pandemic, especially as customers begin to focus on sustainable corporate travel.
In the US and Canada, the group has partnered with tech company X.labs to coordinate COVID-19 testing for attendees. Planners can either ask the X.labs concierge to send PCR kits directly to attendees for at-home testing or order antigen rapid tests for doing it on-site. In both cases, they can track results via X.labs’ Ready app to see who has been cleared for attendance. group.accor.com
The luxury group introduced Hybrid Meetings by Four Seasons in April. Hotels follow safety protocols from the group’s Lead With Care program and will implement additional measures for meetings and events, including offering personalized consultations and managing attendee flow. The group’s catering teams can organize 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 keynote addresses, 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 at its properties globally, providing guidance on end-to-end testing options and costs. fourseasons.com
Hyatt is using a hybrid format to allow meetings to take place simultaneously across various properties in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. 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 sanitizing of meeting rooms before and after use, “care stations” with PPE and sanitizer, social distancing signage, linen-less tables where possible, disinfection of AV equipment between uses, pre-packaged food items, and buffets with Plexiglas coverings and staff to serve hot dishes.
In April, the group launched a new collection of services called Together by Hyatt. These include 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, 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. Attendees who meet the criteria will be able to display a green checkmark on the app for entry into the venue. hyatt.com
IHG Hotels and Resorts
IHG is applying its Way of Clean initiative to its Meet with Confidence program. Key features include deep and more frequent cleaning of event spaces, hand sanitizer stations, socially distanced room layouts, and single-serve and pre-packaged meal options.
The group is also offering two hybrid options for meetings and events. The Smart Solution is available at participating hotels globally, except in Greater China. In the US, it includes rapid on-site COVID-19 testing in partnership with Wellness 4 Humanity and digital collaboration technology from Weframe. Its Weframe One interactive cloud-based touchscreen allows on-site and remote participants to work together.
The Expert Solution includes virtual technology experiences and is available at nearly 100 hotels in the US and Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The group has partnered with Williams Sonoma in the US to include “curated” food and drink delivered to off-site attendees. ihg.com
Marriott launched its Connect with Confidence program last year. It encompasses enhanced sanitation guidelines, new operational training for associates and increased use of conference technologies.
The group carried out its first hybrid meeting under the program 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 sanitizer 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, sanitizing products and individually packaged refreshments. Participants 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 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 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 percent of meeting professionals planned to host a hybrid event in the next six to 12 months. Some 95 percent of attendees said they would attend another event if it were to be designed with the same principles.
The group has been hosting hybrid events at properties across the world in recent months. In May, Marriott Hotels introduced a Green Screen Package for up to ten participants and a Hybrid Meeting Package for up to 30 attendees across 45 hotels in the United Kingdom.
Marriott is offering COVID-19 tests to meeting customers at all 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. marriott.com
Radisson Hotel Group
Radisson has partnered with certification company SGS to create a ten-step protocol for meeting spaces in its worldwide locations. Features include sanitizing stations, physical distancing, improved air circulation, strict food safety procedures and increased cleaning and disinfection, especially in high-traffic, 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 program in more than 75 hotels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with the goal of expanding this to more than 100 EMEA properties.
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 can carry out lateral antigen flow tests at hotels prior to events, while guests have the option of accessing PCR testing on-site or in the vicinity.
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 program. Park Plaza says the program 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 more.” radissonhotels.com;
Wyndham Hotel Group
To protect planners and attendees, Wyndham has implemented social distancing measures and reconfigured meeting rooms, with signage. All food and drink service complies with local guidelines and regulations, event spaces undergo more frequent cleaning and disinfection, meeting rooms at many hotels feature technology for virtual attendance, and tissues and hand sanitizer are provided for all attendees. Depending on local regulations, some hotels will offer temperature screening. wyndhamhotels.com