Graham Pope, head of Europe, Cvent Hospitality Cloud, shares his best-practice tips for how hotels can address planner safety concerns, deliver safer meetings and attract business leads.
Hotels and venues will play a significant part in the successful return to in-person and hybrid events as planners prepare to deliver their MICE programmes in 2021. However, hotels must be ready to adapt their business practices to meet the changing needs of planners with safety a top priority according to Cvent’s latest research.
1. Communicating safe space
The research highlights that when it comes to what influences planners in their selection of the venue, it’s safe space, with more than half (56 per cent) specifying health and safety considerations. As this is a top priority, hotels must reassess their offering and better demonstrate how they can deliver safer meetings.
Many planners now expect venues to provide a clean, sanitised environment, offer daily temperature checks during the event, and provide on-site medical personnel. While hotels will have taken the necessary steps to reopen safely and in-line with industry and government guidelines, there is a clear disjoint communicating these practises to planners as nearly six in ten (58 per cent) surveyed are struggling to reschedule in-person events in 2021 because of insufficient health and safety protocols at venues.
Hotels that clearly communicate how they are adhering to health and safety standards will be highly sought after.
Top tip: Ensure maximum visibility of health and safety procedures by offering an easily sharable document, highlighting them on your hotel website (with a link to a landing page with detailed information), update new policies on associated databases and online sourcing platforms, keep destination marketing organisations (DMOs) and travel agencies informed, and even spread the word across social media platforms. It’s vital to keep abreast of government guidelines at a local, regional and national level and update safety protocols accordingly onsite and across all digital channels.
2. Adapting the RFP
As event planners will be looking for hotels that meet high health and safety standards, the RFP process must adapt to include sanitisation and cleanliness protocols. Planners will also have additional technological requirements if they are incorporating a virtual audience as well as an in-person one (also known as a hybrid event), so RFPs should now also include information pertaining to hybrid capabilities and supplier and onsite support.
Top tip: Be transparent in the steps you take to keep attendees safe during events and overnight stays. Be clear about front and back of house operations, provide information about F&B strategies (as catering is a key component of in-person events), and highlight virtual and hybrid offerings including what’s available onsite and external tech support.
3. Online venue sourcing and virtual tours
Online venue sourcing platforms and virtual tours provide a fantastic opportunity to accommodate planners who are going online more than ever – especially when sourcing during times of social distancing, travel and lockdown restrictions. Allowing a planner or travel manager to “visit” your venue from wherever they choose to log in makes sourcing safer, easier, and more efficient for all parties.
Virtual tours are a great way to showcase the space, map out socially-distanced floorplans in real-time, and show planners that you’re going the extra mile to make their meetings and events work – all from the safety of their home or office.
Top tip: To attract more MICE business, provide online 3D virtual tours on not only your website, but sourcing networks too where planners are looking more frequently.
4. Using digital tools for safer event set-ups
Safe operations are front of mind for organisers: from sourcing through to event delivery. Using event diagramming tools allows you to showcase your space to planners in an accurate virtual setting and also illustrate how their event vision can become a reality, while satisfying present safer meeting and capacity guidelines.
Top tip: By accurately mapping out the various event spaces, including non-traditional areas or lesser-used entryways and throughways, both hoteliers and planners can determine optimal layout options which factor in technical requirements including rigging points, screen configuration, staging locations, entrances and exits, F&B and more. This allows venue teams to effectively communicate the event variables and show how these (including delegates) will safely fit into the venue.
5. Hybrid events
Over three quarters (76 per cent) of surveyed planners in the research said that they would consider hosting hybrid events in 2021. As events become more technology-reliant, event planners will also expect so much more from venues. To not fall behind the curve, hoteliers need to consider how their meeting and event spaces can best be adapted to suit the unique needs of a virtual or hybrid event.
Top tip: Conduct an audit of your infrastructure and consult technical and AV partners to ensure your venue can cater for hybrid event requirements, and adapt your marketing strategy to communicate your proposition. This year has changed the needs, requirements and sourcing behaviour among planners; it is critical for hotels and venues to adapt and embrace digital technology to meet those needs. Statistics already show that in doing so, hotels will give themselves a competitive edge.