Home COVID-19 Industry Events Take Tentative, Baby Steps Back Toward Normality

Industry Events Take Tentative, Baby Steps Back Toward Normality

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Glenn Hasek

One of the most missed parts of hospitality industry “normality” has been conferences and trade shows. I miss the face-to-face communication with people. Virtual meetings have become part of the new reality and a necessity with COVID-19, but I hope we can all return to meeting in person soon. It is not only good for the soul, but also a huge job creator for hotels, exhibition centers, publishing companies, event planners, foodservice workers, and many more sectors of the economy. If we all continue to social distance, etc., perhaps the environment will be right for a return soon to full trade show and conference activity.

HD Expo would have happened last month, but it was converted to a virtual event. Here in Florida, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show has already been postponed to September 2021. HITEC, originally slated for this month, has been pushed back to October. Greenbuild, North America’s largest annual event for green building professionals, has gone virtual for this November’s conference and expo.

After a postponement, AAHOA is still planning its convention and trade show for August. If it takes place it will be our industry’s first large COVID-19 era event. Emerald, owner of HX: The Hotel Experience (HX) and Boutique Design New York (BDNY), is still planning both fall shows. On its website, Emerald says, “We are closely monitoring the fast-moving developments regarding COVID-19 in accordance the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and World Health Organizations, and are prepared to take action as the need arises.”

A Communications Challenge

Hotel companies have done a good job implementing and publicizing their efforts to create a clean and safe environment for guests but I have not seen much publicity from exhibition centers and event planners regarding what steps they are taking to ensure a hygienic, safe space for conference and trade show attendees. It is happening in some places, but the story needs to be much better told.

How will a conference and trade show be different in this new environment? People should know and that information should be easily found on the event’s website. If you go to the HX website, there is a COVID-19 Update link to the same Emerald page linked to from the BDNY site but that is it. I could not find any helpful information on the AAHOA convention and trade show site either. The Javits Center, the location of HX and BDNY, last posted a press release about anything in December 2019 and I could not find a page dedicated to COVID-19.

The Orange County Convention Center, to its credit, does have a page dedicated to COVID-19 health and safety, and is participating in the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation program. I wonder, however, if any AAHOA convention attendees will find that page.

We are all going through this pandemic for the first time, so it is a learning experience for sure. People have reason to be nervous and scared about travel in a country that has seen almost 2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 108,000 related fatalities. Being that the situation is fluid makes it difficult for everyone to plan. My advice to anyone planning an event: You cannot communicate enough.

Whether online or in person, I do hope to see many of you soon. We have a lot of catching up to do.

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