Event planners have more to worry about than ever, but destinations can be an essential ally in the safe path to recovery: Their connection to the local community can translate to added layers of convenience, safety, and reliability.
It has never been more important or more complicated for event planners to know what to expect from a host city — not just in terms of the square footage at the local convention center, but in terms of the social distancing and hygiene protocols local partners will adopt.
Keeping the pandemic under control is a community-wide effort, and planners need to feel confident that they can rely on local venues, vendors, and suppliers to safeguard event attendees.
Now that some places are getting back to business, no-nonsense destinations are rolling up their sleeves to deliver on their safety promises by communicating guidelines and setting clear expectations. Some like Visit KC in Kansas City, Missouri, are even going as far as to catalog local partners who’ve committed to upholding them.
The Logistical Support That’s Essential to Event Planners
Event planners have more factors to consider than ever before. What venues are taking added precautions? How do social distancing restrictions affect venue capacity? What outdoor spaces are open, and are there any limitations to access?
Destinations have their fingers on the pulse of the city and can help planners coordinate the safest possible options for maximizing attendance at events. Visit KC, for example, is using its website as a resource for all the latest information relevant to planning a Covid-safe event.
Helping Planners to Make Sense of Local Regulations
The rules affecting events and business operations have never been harder to track, and they often vary widely from region to region — even city to city.
Destinations that can make sense of all the changes and provide all of the key information at a glance will enable planners to better understand what kinds of events they can realistically accommodate. The “See how KC can help” banner on the Visit KC website leads the visitor to the most up-to-date guidance on both municipal and statewide restrictions.
For example, while municipal rules limit restaurants to 50% capacity until January 2021, the state of Missouri hasn’t placed any caps on attendance numbers as long as social distancing guidelines are respected. Event planners can also feel reassured knowing that municipal regulators have made wearing a mask mandatory in the majority of public settings.
Connecting Planners With Safety-Conscious Local Partners
Most destinations will already have the inside scoop on how their local establishments are handling health and safety guidelines, as well what kinds of services they can still provide. If this information is presented in an organized, easy-to-navigate format, event planners can gain a head start on their research.
Visit KC’s website has two pages that segment this information into topical subheaders: Kansas City’s Health, Safety and Reopening Guidelines and Things to Do in Kansas City Right Now. It also opens each page with the header “Updated ____,” and it provides live links to relevant third-party pages so that planners can easily confirm information.
For example, the page includes links to the Kansas City Convention Center’s “Health and Safety Initiatives” (which have just earned it a GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation) and, just as crucially, to the facility’s room-by-room breakdown of its new capacities under social distancing guidelines. This information is essential for event planners, who need to consider the impact of social distancing rules when balancing their costs against potential revenues from ticket sales.
Other handy information includes:
- A list of local hotels with enhanced health and safety measures, with links to each hotel’s protocols
- A curated list of local attractions that are currently open to the public, with information on which institutions have timed entry policies to manage attendance numbers
- Lists of restaurants that are still operating, with one list broken down by municipal region, and another segmented into spreadsheet columns organized by services available (e.g. takeout, curbside pickup, outdoor dining)
While all of this can be found on Google, a well-organized, purpose-built resource that centralizes all the information can ease the research burden for event planners.
The Benefits of a Centralized Health & Safety Effort
Event planners choosing a destination based on local culture or flavor need some reassurance that local establishments are adhering to health and safety measures like rigorous hygiene standards and social distancing guidelines, and it’s helpful to know how many are committed to upholding them.
Destination partners can spearhead this effort by creating a community pledge that local businesses can commit to upholding.
A community pledge not only gives businesses the opportunity to declare their commitments on a public platform, but it establishes standards that in turn set expectations for contract negotiations around the delivery of health and safety services.
The KC Clean Commitment, for example, outlines six general commitments that local businesses can pledge to honor:
1. Encouraging the use of face masks or adequate face coverings by all staff and customers.
2. Limiting occupancy in common areas to comply with social distancing guidelines.
3. Providing hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations to our customers and teammates, as available.
4. Sanitizing and cleaning high-touch surfaces within our location, thoroughly and frequently.
5. Providing a safe place to work for our employees, enhancing staff protocols and safety measures—both front and back of house.
6. Abiding by all current KCMO and CDC guidelines put forth for our type of business.
Additionally, when companies commit, they receive a free toolkit to help them meet their obligations.
Moreover, by creating a system for cataloguing businesses who acknowledge and commit to following the health and safety guidelines, destinations also provide event planners with a directory of compliant venues, vendors, and suppliers — another huge asset when it comes to sourcing for a Covid-conscious event. To help event planners and others identify local businesses that are committed to enhanced health and safety measures, Visit KC has published a list of everyone who’s signed onto the KC Clean Commitment.
The Value of a Community-Wide Health and Safety Commitment
Creating Business Incentives to Optimize Health and Safety Practices
Event planners have a vested interest in the sense of community and solidarity that informs any destination’s Covid strategy. Having local partners and businesses on board is the only realistic way to host a safe event. Moreover, businesses that set the bar for Covid best practices provide a model that others can follow, and the more businesses there are on board, the deeper the pool of inspiration for strategies to keep people safe without compromising their event experience.
A business community in solidarity can learn from those who win event contracts by exceeding the KC Clean Commitment expectations.
Chad Tower, General Manager of Kansas City’s HyVee Arena, explained that health and safety plans for each of the facility’s events were developed collaboratively with the event directors: “Between their policies and ours, we made sure that we were covering all of our bases, going above and beyond what the regulations require.”
When it comes to managing transmission risk at events, the best solutions often come from figuring out how a venue’s layout options can be arranged to funnel crowd movements strategically. One advantage that many midwestern facilities have is space — lower real estate costs mean that businesses often have large indoor rooms along with expansive parking lots and patios. And some of Kansas City’s leading businesses are showing how this additional space can be used to advantage.
For example, the HyVee Arena’s plan included limiting cross-traffic by taking optimal advantage of the facility’s dual staircases — located at opposite ends of the building — and its spacious floor plan. Tower explained, “A lot of our access points can be turned into one-way directions, and our concourse is unusually wide, almost like an airport’s.” They set up additional signage to help direct traffic along pre-planned paths.
The J. Rieger & Co. distillery, on the other hand, has hired additional staff to help direct clients to safely distanced positions within their spacious bar-restaurant facility. Lucy Rieger, the Brand Director, explained that the venue can normally accommodate 350 people, so even when guests are spaced far apart, the room feels far from empty. Keeping the furniture in place also helps to generate an atmosphere of familiarity:
“People keep saying it feels ‘normal’ because we don’t have tables marked off or furniture removed. We just strategically seat people. Prior to Covid-19, it was just ‘first come first serve’ walk-ins, but we implemented reservations and a host so that somebody would guide you to your seat, far from other patrons.”
LUCY RIEGER, Brand Director, J. Rieger & Co.
With thoughtful planning and the strategic use of existing facilities, health and safety compliance doesn’t have to work against customer convenience.
HyVee Arena and J. Rieger & Co. provide their community with two different models for using extra square footage to maximal advantage, and other businesses on the KC Clean Commitment list can look to these examples when developing their own best practices.
Another signatory to the KC Clean Commitment, the Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, is also helping to set the bar for the city’s business community. They’ve invested in an advanced ionization air filter system that captures contaminants, including 90 percent of airborne coronavirus particles. Their provider supplies both healthcare providers and major private enterprises like the Google headquarters. Beyond ensuring optimal air quality, Corvino’s other initiatives include paid sick leave for hourly employees and extra staff for enhanced cleaning protocols.
A Community that Supports its Members Supports Events
When local organizations can depend on one another, it makes the whole community more dependable — and in turn, it ensures a more secure investment for event planners.
As a destination, Kansas City is aware of the important role that its local community plays in attracting meetings and events, and Visit KC has made a point of communicating regularly with companies that are working to uplift the community as a whole.
And many of the businesses that have pledged to the KC Clean Commitment have also engaged in initiatives that support their fellow businesses and community groups. Event planners need to feel reassured that their venues and suppliers will be able to keep running even if more stringent restrictions are suddenly put in place, and a strong community network can act as a support structure to keep businesses running.
Reliable hotel and catering services are particularly crucial for event planners bringing in guests from out of town. Kansas City’s Crossroads Hotel showed the principle of a solid community grounding in action when it collaborated with fellow businesses to keep patrons fed. Its Percheron Rooftop Bar, for example, partnered with a nearby local restaurant to deliver food to guests while the hotel’s meal services were put on hold due to safety concerns. The hotel also gave guests a list of take-out and delivery options for further variety.
As a family business that managed a comeback following the Prohibition era, J. Rieger & Co. similarly understands the value in working together as a community in times of hardship. Applying their practical know-how to the pandemic, they were one of the first distilleries to start manufacturing hand sanitizer for the community. This rapid pivot served the distillery’s immediate business needs while also filling a key demand:
“It kept our whole staff employed and served a major gap in the supply chain. For a while, we were supplying all of the major hospitals in town, the nursing homes, along with a number of public entities and government buildings.”
LUCY RIEGER, Brand Director, J. Rieger & Co.
This kind of community effort demonstrates the solution-oriented thinking that event planners depend on. Planners need to know that they will be able to access the services and supplies needed to give their attendees the best experience possible, both in terms of safety and convenience. When local businesses are able to pool their resources to meet unanticipated demands, they demonstrate the very resilience needed to keep events running smoothly in these challenging times.
When choosing a destination, event planners need to know that they can depend on the entire community to uphold health and safety regulations. They also need to know key details about social distancing capacity, opening hours, and other services. There are no longer any guarantees that old norms still apply, and the situation varies so much from region to region. Destinations can help event planners to manage all of these new demands by:
- Providing up-to-date guidance on both municipal and statewide regulations relevant to event planning
- Organizing and curating lists of health and safety compliant venues, suppliers, and other attractions
- Spearheading centralized effort to uphold health and safety standards across local businesses
- Encouraging community initiatives that help the city to thrive despite adversity
More than ever, planners need guidance and extra reassurance that their events will be able to move forward as planned.