Highlights of the Industry Review session, featuring U.S. Travel Association and Meeting Professionals International
On Wednesday, November 11, ALHI hosted a multi-city hybrid event that connected 1000 guests across 4 events in the U.S. and a virtual audience from across the globe.
The event was an opportunity to see and discuss the intricacies of hybrid meeting production, and for those attending in person, to experience safety protocols in action, as well as to hear from industry leaders including Michael Dominguez of ALHI and Tori Emerson Barnes of U.S. Travel Association.
If you missed it, or if you just want to share the highlights with colleagues and friends, below are high level notes from the day.
Opening Comments from Michael Dominguez, President & CEO of ALHI
Mike opened the session with comments about the last-minute changes ALHI experienced during the planning of the event, including the cancellation of a location in Salt Lake City due to Utah calling a State of Emergency earlier in the week.
"It becomes a conversation of could vs should," he said when speaking of event planning during COVID-19. "As an industry, we used to get an event done at all costs, but now the conversation should be about if the event can be done safely and if it makes sense with everyone's comfort level."
He referenced a recent industry event where an outdoor reception for 1,000 people was planned and then moved indoors due to inclement weather. "We have to start rethinking these things," he said, "and the reception should have been cancelled at that point."
Post-election Industry Update with Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy, U.S. Travel Association (USTA)
Mike moderated the session from Orlando, and spoke with Tori virtually from Washington, D.C. Their conversation was around the work that the U.S. Travel Association is doing on behalf of our industry, and what the immediate future looks like.
"The more engaged our industry is, the more we can engage members of Congress, and the more our voice will be heard," Tori said during her conversation with Mike. "There are challenges with the pandemic, and the more work together and sing from the same song sheet, the more we'll break through."
When asked about what the effort boils down to, Tori was frank about the realities for the hospitality industry. "It's about jobs. It's economic impact and constituents that matter. That's what it comes down to - how do we bring the jobs back. We need help from the government right now so that we can bring those jobs back," she continued.
Members of Congress recognize how hard the hospitality industry has been impacted, she said, noting that the next relief package needs to pass by Dec. 11 and USTA is hopeful that at least some part of the package can move forward with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's support.
Additional highlights from Tori and Mike's conversation
In addition to relief and recovery legislation, USTA initiatives to get people back to travel include:
- Continued focus on health and safety processes that the industry has put in place through the #TravelConfidently campaign that promotes the use of masks, social distancing, hand sanitation, and adherence to health and safety guidelines
- Extension of the Paycheck Protection Program
- Extensive COVID-19 testing across the country
- Tax and trade deals helpful to rebuilding and growth within our industry
- COVID RELIEF NOW is a coalition comprised of nearly 300 public and private companies and organizations working together to call upon Congress to take action and come together to pass bipartisan economic relief packages.
- Power of Travel Coalition is a grassroots effort to grow travel champions in Congress. You can become an advocate for top priorities within our industry.
Real Talk: Behind the Scenes of MPI WEC Grapevine 2020 with Melinda Burdette, Director of Events, Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
When Mike and Melinda sat down for their chat, Mike revisited the idea that the meeting and events environment is different than it was earlier this year, pre-COVID.
"We're all learning, and the environments are so different now," he continued. "As meeting professionals, we are trained that it has to go perfectly. In this environment, it's not going to. There are things we can't control."
Melinda chimed in. "It's about moving forward. MPI has been bold in our commitment to move forward with a hybrid event." She referenced WEC Grapevine, an event held earlier this month with "600 people in-person and 1,100 virtually who participated in how to get our industry back to business." She reiterated Mike's point about things that can't be controlled, "but we can manage," and that the safety of attendees remains top of mind.
"Did everything go perfectly?," Melinda asked. "Absolutely not. Nothing ever does. You do the best you can in situations you've been given. The industry has been very supportive, and we ultimately feel MPI did the right thing [by hosting WEC Grapevine] in moving the industry forward."
Mike added, "We know everyone's in a different place, and we have to respect that, respect both sides. For those who are ready to meet in-person, go for it. If not, go virtual."
2021 event planning tips from Melinda and Mike's conversation
- Transparency is vital.
- Understand your audience's comfort level. Melinda suggested MPI WEC attendees were ready for a classroom setting, but may not have been ready for gatherings.
- For in-person events, check every box of the CDC guidelines.
- Hybrid events provide a way to connect large audiences while taking into account travel restrictions, individuals comfort levels and can still yield a productive meeting.
- Mask enforcement is vital; the optics of attendees without masks are a challenge for the industry
- Consider signage to remind in-person attendees to wear their masks, e.g. "Mask Up Y'all."