The new normal: reimagining events in a Covid-19 world
Slowly but surely, the UK is gearing up to reopen restaurants and hotels on the 4th July, and as we gradually emerge from lockdown, we face the reality that life will simply not return to the ‘good old days’ circa January 2020 for a while. Instead, we’re having to adjust to a new normal and reimagine countless aspects of our lives. You may have even found yourself watching content filmed pre-pandemic where the sight of big crowds catches you shouting at the screen – ‘they’re not social distancing!’
It may seem hard to comprehend how this will translate into the events industry – imagine all the people onsite. How far apart will they have to sit/stand? How do we transport everyone to offsite venues? How do we serve meals? How can we be sure the hotel room is clean…?
Well, in answer to the above, the industry has collectively taken great lengths to implement safety measures designed to protect event delegates at all stages. We’ve created a quick guide with the key points, hoping to provide some reassurance in advance of your next event.
Let’s take a look at what this means in practice…
So what are airlines doing?
Contrary to popular belief, modern aircraft are intrinsically very clean thanks to the use of HEPA Air Filters which remove 99.97% of airborne particles. The technology is supplemented by a number of passenger modifications including: the mandatory use of face masks; middle seats blocked to ensure social distancing (only applicable to some airlines); the limitation or removal of some in-flight services, such as the sale of perfumes and watches, food and beverage, provision of pillows and blankets; restricted toilet usage; enhanced cleaning procedures, and modified boarding and disembarkation procedures to allow for social distancing.
Sounds good! So when I land, how will I get to the hotel?
We work with trusted transportation companies in the UK, so we asked them to give us an overview of the key procedures they are implementing.
- Cars: usually a maximum of 2 people per sedan, and 4 people per MPV, with guests having to sit in the back seat.
- Coaches: most are operating at reduced capacities, with the isle seats blocked off. When boarding, passengers are requested to keep social distancing and to board the rear seats first and leave the vehicle in the reverse order to avoid walking past sitting passengers. All drivers wear protective gloves and masks.
- In addition, if for any reason delegates need to use public transport, they should be aware that in London and many cities around the UK, it is now mandatory to wear a face mask at all times.
Sure, that makes sense, but what about hotels?
Understandably, hotels have had to reimagine their logistical operations. Some key changes include:
- Health Inspection Certificate – the inspection and auditing of properties by international regulatory bodies, issuing an accreditation seal if they abide with the stringent cleanliness standards.
- New guest personal safety protocols – such as imposing social distancing rules and maximum lift capacities; one-way directional systems; using foot-pedal disposal bins and disinfectant mats at the hotel entrance; removing all physical brochures and newspapers; disinfecting luggage on arrival (only in some hotels). Some hotels are also providing free online medical consultations or on-site medical assistance.
- Provision of personal safety equipment for guests – these include hand-sanitiser dispensers, wipes and encouraging guests to wear face masks. Some hotels have transformed these ‘not-so-glamorous’ items into a beautifully designed welcome packs with a personal face mask, hand sanitiser, wellbeing crystal salts, a mini bottle of champagne and an immunity-booster drink.
- Upgraded health & safety protocols for employees – including temperature checks at the start of every shift; mandatory use of face masks; washing hands after each guest interaction or every 60 minutes, whichever is shorter; use of plexiglass screens at workstations; track and trace programme to identify members of staff who could have been in contact with an infected person; and immediate quarantine for employees with symptoms.
- Use of technology to minimise human interactions – such as online check-in and check-out; contactless payments; electronic invoicing; dedicated hotel app with room service, hotel information, chat with concierge desk and, replacing normal key cards with QR codes.
- Water purifying and air quality controls – revising and reinforcing all HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) units, sanitary water facilities and swimming pools and increasing the frequency of inspections.
- Upgraded cleaning and sanitising protocols, particularly in high traffic areas. Some properties are now making use of new technologies such as electrostatic sprayers with mist and ultraviolet light to sanitise surfaces.
- More lenient Terms & Conditions, such as more flexible payment, attrition and rescheduling terms or offering added benefits such as complimentary room upgrades/drinks reception.
And what are the changes to the F&B services?
Arguably one of the most important parts of an event… food! New Covid protocols include the use of disposable packaging; replacing mugs with recycled paper cups; encouraging guests to use (contactless) room service; suspending self-serve buffets and replacing them with plated service or attendant-served food stations; limiting capacity and imposing social distancing between tables (usually maximum 4 or 6 people per table) and removing linens from tables for ease of cleaning. Some hotels have also tried to spin the concept on its head by offering culinary experiences within the privacy of their gardens, balconies or terraces.
How does this extend into the meeting room?
Hotels have had to rethink entirely how meetings & events are operated within their premises and are now recalculating meeting space capacities; rearranging tables at 90 degree angles of each other to prevent attendees from facing directly across or behind one another; creating boundaries by using partitions, movable whiteboards, screens or even plants; removing furniture as much as possible; and sanitising all microphones, lecterns and other AV equipment in between uses.
That’s really comprehensive! What if I want to use an offsite venue?
Venues are applying a similar set of procedures, however some are introducing additional measures, such as: having one member of staff per every 100 people to monitor social distancing (or one per every 50 when alcohol is being served); using thermal cameras or contactless check-in stations that measure guests’ temperature on arrival; not allowing walk-in guests, only pre-registered attendees so their details can be effectively traced if necessary; imposing a declaration of good health to be signed by attendees; and setting up a dedicated “safe zone” where any attendees feeling unwell can visit. This will of course vary depending on the venue and should be discussed in more detail when planning your event.
Perfect! Is there anything else I should think of?
We’re glad you asked! The main thing you as a client can do is to start thinking positively again about events. With all the new procedures and safeguards we’ve mentioned, you should hopefully feel a bit more confident about holding live events in the near future.
Before we go, there’s just a couple more points you may want to consider:
- Possibly break down your audience into smaller groups, who will attend the event at different time slots.
- Consider running a hybrid event, where some of your delegates attend it live and others virtually (particularly those overseas).
- Advise your attendees of social distancing and other regulations in place at your event.
- If using an offsite venue, schedule meeting times outside rush hour to avoid guests having to take public transportation during busy times.
- Incorporate tours and activities that offer delegates the opportunity to be outside in the fresh air and still be able to socially distance.
- Encourage your delegates to bring their own coffee thermos, steel water bottles, pens and notepads.
It may take some time for us to all adjust to this new normal in our daily lives, but when it comes to the events industry and event planners like you and us, we know that this has only made us more efficient, creative and agile than ever. Most of all, you know you can count on the Principal. team to steer you in the right direction as we help you plan your next event in a safe and secure way.