As we all know, meetings and hospitality numbers are down right now, but we must believe this temporary situation will make us stronger as an industry. In a world of so much uncertainty, it’s been challenging for all of us to adjust to a new reality, a new normal for sure. However, I am 100% certain our industry will see this through, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s talk about possible new best practices. It’s important to discuss – as our “new normal” will likely include a degree of social distance and change upon re-entry in the meetings world. Both hotels and clients will be practicing these new measures. Will hotels put into place a more “distant” standard set up? Maybe a 1 per 6 vs a 2 per 6? All service personnel serving guests with gloves and more stringent handwashing? Will staff temperatures be taken as a precaution upon coming into work? These are all valid points to think about. For clients, will it be smaller sessions? An uptick in virtual meetings and keynote speakers? Will live events book closer to home, hosting events in less crowded cities or destinations? New mobile apps to communicate with attendees may be in the works. Shoulder season bookings maybe more of an option (less people, less mass travel). Changing the duration of meetings, or even hosting more F&B events in outdoor space (weather permitting) could more of a focus. Both hoteliers and clients will likely be sure both attendees and staff members will have access to the proper supplies, such as hand sanitizer, gloves, soap and even face masks. Frequently touched surfaces and objects will be cleaned on a more regular basis.
As you would have probably guessed, there will also be a great focus on cancellation and attrition clauses in both hotel contracts and client addendums. Clients are looking to these specific clauses in order to further protect themselves for future events. Even with previously signed contracts – clients will have to exercise their right to cancel at a discounted penalty and impose rebooking clauses. Additional clauses like force majeure will also play a key role in negotiations, becoming even more specific with language inclusive of “WHO (World Health Organization)” and “pandemic” a must see. Insurance clauses will also be a focus, and specific wording in many of these clauses will be closely observed. Contract and addendum verbiage will be added to protect against circumstances of a disease outbreak as well as similar unforeseen circumstances. Once business as “usual” resumes, clients may also start asking for higher attrition allowances (or even waived attrition for shorter term events). Same for standard cancellation tiers (lower cancellation based on date range, multiple tiers, and better rebook options on cancellations).
We are a “people” industry, and we want to stay connected. I’m certain we will be seeing some nice incentives for clients to rebook from our hotel partners as well in order to get back together. We all want to get back to business, and people will be drawn to these offers. Master bill credits, multi-year deal concessions, waived deposits, additional discounts on room rates and F&B may all be on the table. In addition, in these trying times, it is so wonderful to see some hotel chains are creating programs to help everyone, everywhere. Hilton and American Express Marriott, for example, announced they are teaming up to donate up to 1 million rooms to medical workers on the frontlines: https://newsroom.hilton.com/corporate/news/hilton-american-express-team-up-to-donate-rooms. Marriott also launched a community caregiver program https://www.pcma.org/marriott-community-caregiver-program/.
So, as we navigate through this ever-changing world, let’s continue to delight and engage our customers.Support each other as much as we can. Focus on the best possible people we can be towards each other. Stay positive. We will recover and reconnect. Believe in the silver linings. And let’s not forget – we are all in this together!