Tips for being agile and adapting to the new normal of meetings and events
As we forge ahead in uncertain times, this collection of articles and examples from the industry parse out the details of the current business environment and how hotels are coping – and helping others – during this time.
Be flexible and plan for the future
This article discusses how hoteliers need to have a forward-focus and plan for the uncertainties in both the short- and long-term. Planners will likely be cancelling or rescheduling their events for later in the year, so flexibility on all sides will help this to be executed smoothly.
Social distancing might also affect the way meetings are set up, so hoteliers that are able to accommodate this and have a plan for these instances will set themselves up for success. This can also mean smaller and more intimate gatherings, so make sure you’re prepared to downsize large spaces to accommodate these types of changes. Being flexible on cost, too, if the meeting is downsized can win points and build relationships with planners as they adapt their meetings to fit this new normal.
When things resume to “business as usual,” make sure you’re taking all measures necessary to reduce health risks and ensure a safe and clean facility – like with hand sanitising stations and making sure frequently touched items are cleaned regularly. The article ends on a hopeful note: “The events industry can use this challenging time to prepare for a future of opportunity and to forge closer relationships with our customers.”
An example from Homeikan, Tokyo
Hotels in Japan are taking a more unconventional approach to adapt to these new circumstances. Homeikan in Tokyo, an operator of traditional inns, is taking advantage of the district’s rich history of being home to more than 100 traditional Ryokan inns where writers would write in seclusion. Guests can pay 8,000Y per night to feel like great authors of the past and work in seclusion.
In March, bookings sold out within hours of the offer being made available and could become a fixture. Other hotels are trialling similar strategies. In the wake of school closures in Japan, Tokyo Daichi Hotel Yonezawa, has opened its doors to students unable to study at home.
Support your local community
In the meantime, some hotels and convention centres have transformed into emergency care facilities by contributing beds and space to alleviate the overcrowded hospitals. With an objective to unite with the community in its fight against coronavirus, Marriott International in Asia Pacific (excluding Greater China) has launched its Community Caregiver Program for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. In these challenging and unprecedented times, associates from hotels across the Asia Pacific region have volunteered over 40,000 hours to serve their communities. Contributions include food donation, making of protective personal gears for front line medical staff, and securing shelter for medics and journalists.
Other venues doing their part
Hilton Kuala Lumpur
The Hilton group has been added to the list of quarantine centres in the country as the Malaysian government prepares a long battle against the global pandemic. In the coming months, Hilton Kuala Lumpur as well as several other premium hotels in the country will help in the fight against coronavirus. This initiative is to ease the pressure on hospitals. In this way, hotel rooms can be used as quarantine facilities to isolate people and hospital beds can be kept for more serious cases.
Le Meridien Cairo Airport
Le Meridien Cairo Airport in Egypt partnered with government to offer free of cost quarantine facilities to the victims of the global pandemic. The state government is doing this to support the hospitality industry in this difficult time as well as to ease the pressure on hospitals. In this way, hotel rooms can be used as quarantine facilities to isolate people and hospital beds can be kept for more serious cases.
Quest Apartment Hotels, Australia
Quest Apartment Hotels in Australia has offered 80 of its properties to be used as temporary quarantine and isolation facilities. In the coming months, Quest properties will help the country’s fight against coronavirus. The company is supporting more than 500 families across Australia with accommodation during periods of self-isolation and is working closely with corporations across the country who are sending employees home before state borders close.
The OYO Hotels chain in India has partnered with Apollo Hospitals to offer sanitised beds and quarantine facilities in certain hotels in six major cities of the country. Several hotel chains including Lemon Tree, Radisson Hotels and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), are collectively offering hotel rooms as paid quarantine facilities across the country. Certain OYO hotels have partnered with hospitals for setting up safe, pay per use quarantine facilities, while certain others are focused on providing a safe shelter to local and foreign tourists and travellers who are grounded in cities owing to the lockdown.
Kemayoran Athletes Village, Jakarta
Built for the 2018 Asian Games, Kemayoran Athletes Village has been turned into a temporary hospital to treat Coronavirus victims in Jakarta, Indonesia. Four out of 10 towers in this complex have been converted into a medical facility with a capacity to house more than 7,000 people, including a Coronavirus task force, medical staff and up to 4,208 patients. In Australia, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre has been earmarked as a potential makeshift hospital.
Dubai World Trade Centre
The UAE government has turned Dubai World Centre into the Middle East’s largest hospital to treat Coronavirus victims in the country. This temporary field medical facility can house 3,000 coronavirus patients — including 800 intensive care patients. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre has also been converted into a temporary field hospital with 1,000 beds. Dubai Parks and Resorts has also taken the shape of a temporary medical facility to boost the number of hospital beds in the city.
Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs)
It’s not just hotels and venues joining the fight. Convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) across the globe are doing what they can to support their countries. Some, such as Tourism Australia, have become a source of support and information for the broader community. Their Covid-19 Coronavirus Response page mentions that by doing so they “collectively prepare a strong, thorough response for serving the public as a whole.”
Donate unused food
Hotels and venues are also donating their unused food to their local community, as well as masks, gloves, and hand sanitiser to healthcare workers and law enforcement officers. The food not suitable for human consumption is being donated to local animal rescues. One such example is Centara Grand at Central World in Bangkok which has been providing complimentary hotel accommodation and meals to healthcare workers. More recently, the Centara Resorts & Hotels group has rolled out a campaign called ‘Help the Heroes’ that aims to support those in need by channelling donations to the Chaipattana Covid-19 Aid Fund and the Thai Red Cross Society. Another hotel in China, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong has partnered with Food for Good - an NGO that runs community kitchens and raises awareness of food waste - to distribute meals cooked by hotel chefs for disadvantaged elderly residents. The hotel is also sending homemade brownies to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital and Ruttonjee Hospital, and healthcare workers in three more public hospitals on the Hong Kong Island.
Read the rest of the article for a detailed breakdown on how hotels and venues across the country are pitching in and helping their communities with food donations.
Hotels open up to the homeless
Hotels are also taking this opportunity to provide shelter and support to one of the hardest-hit groups in society, the homeless. Several hotels around the world are dedicating empty hotel rooms to those needing to self-isolate during the outbreak. The state government of Western Australia has set up the project “Hotels with Heart” to reduce the risk of Coronavirus for people living on the streets. Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said, “With the help of community service organisations, this initiative will take the pressure off the health system in Western Australia and potentially help to flatten the curve as the State fights to stop the spread of COVID-19.”