Over the past year, hotels and venues have adapted processes and procedures and enhanced their future operation. From 12th April, we enter Step 2 of the easing of lockdown measures, where outdoor hospitality can reopen. We’re currently working towards Step 3 that where no earlier than 17th May, live events can restart. The Government has published Events Guidance for Local Authorities in England that includes style of events and capacity numbers.
At our latest, fully subscribed, educational webinar for clients, we talked through the different areas where we have identified how hotels and venues are adapting from their experiences throughout the pandemic. We felt this was such an important subject to discuss with clients. Our aim was to provide insight into the future and what may influence their decision making and bookings for the future.
Ahead of the webinar, we went out to a number of hotels and venues, independents, groups and standalone venues to understand what changes they’ve had to implement to ensure their properties are safe. We also asked what changes they have made which they feel will improve the experience and efficiency in the future.
There are a lot of positives to highlight as hotels are becoming experts on flow of delegates and hygiene. Many that we have spoken with have gained experience in holding large sporting events such as the London Marathon and sporting event HQs. This has allowed them to get new procedures in place such as continual fogging of public areas ensuring extra cleanliness. The majority of hotels we spoke to have invested in temperature checking equipment to allow testing upon arrival. This will reduce the risk of infection along with numerous hand sanitising stations throughout their properties and mask wearing in public areas.
During the webinar, clients enquired about vaccinations and the possibility of vaccination passports. At this stage it’s too early to say what will be required, but we will inform clients of any updates once released.
Aside from cleanliness and hygiene, here is an overview of the key topics discussed…
The message that came from all venues and hotels was ‘its about collaboration and transparency’ which is great to hear. Risk assessments are now becoming part of the sales process for a venue. The majority advised they will now join clients/agencies when carrying out risk assessments. They will share their own risk assessments as part of the process as they feel this will help both parties understand and share experience on how the flow of an event will run and ‘good ideas’ can be shared. In the past risk assessments would have been carried out by the client on their own in isolation. It is great to see collaboration and sharing of thoughts.
There are changes as to what’s included in risk assessments to incorporate new Covid-19 regulations. This will ensure delegates are safe and feel safe. The agent/client will be looking at the flow of the event with the hotel rather than in isolation as there may key considerations that need to be incorporated and considered. There will be more areas to cover in the risk assessment. This will include accommodation, cloakrooms, a bigger focus on catering and the consideration of networking and how this might happen safely.
Senior Event Manager, Eloise Perry, has recently attended a course on Covid-19 related risk assessments and will support the team and our clients when preparing future risk assessments.
When asked about training of hotel staff, all hotels and venues advised they are providing lots of additional and enhanced training. This is to support their staff to ensure they are fit for work on their return and the re-opening. Employees will be returning from furlough, with many being off for nearly a year and with lots of procedure/process changes in place. There is a mix of full ‘on board’ training online and face to face that will not only support the team on keeping themselves safe. The training looks at hygiene requirements both personal and the venue and the flow of movement throughout the premises.
There are also mini-inductions for the return to work for casual staff too as they will need to be made aware of all the changes in place. Hotel management understand that their staff need to be ‘at the top of their game’ for a busy summer season for both corporate and private business!
Prior to the pandemic, sustainability policies were very much at the top of venues and our client priorities. The response from venues on whether this was still a priority varied with some hotels saying that with more time they have been able to spend time on looking at sustainability. Others have said due to safety, they have reverted to plastic water bottles and individual toiletries in bathrooms. It’s believed this is only a temporary measure and plastic will be removed when safe to do so. They all confirmed this is only a temporary measure and plastic will be removed when safe to do so.
Hotels are still looking at other ways to improve their sustainability policies and the majority are sourcing local food where they can, and a couple of the groups we spoke to have started to grow a proportion of own veg. The majority of venues are considering new outdoor spaces with wood ovens that are sustainable.
The underlying theme was that they all want to ensure they can focus on sustainability measures where they can, but safety must remain top priority.
Food is key for delegates when attending an event. Food is where we usually receive the most feedback, especially regarding breakfast – everyone loves a breakfast buffet! Breakfast buffets however are no longer possible in their usual ‘self-service’ style due to the restrictions in place. If you have experienced hotel breakfast since lockdown, it started with grab and go bags, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect well on a 4* hotel of course. Some hotels introduced a chef buffet service. However, this has proved not to be cost effective, as many stations require individual chefs, and the increased number of staff to manage the flow of the restaurant and queue. Many hotels have reverted to plated English breakfast, BUT the feedback is ‘they love the buffet’.
For lunch, many properties have been considering their outside options and prolonging the summer season with heaters and covered areas. Bento boxes have become popular as it allows delegates to go off and make phone calls / look at emails whilst eating their lunch. Barbeques will be very popular through the Spring/Summer period.
When asked about food wastage and if this had been reduced due to limited buffets. Majority responded to say that although they were seeing a reduction in waste, they will revert back to buffets as the cost in service outweighs the waste.
Many felt lunch buffets may not be as popular in the future, especially where an outdoor option is available.
None of us thought a year ago that the lockdown would last as long as it has, and such flexibility would be required, more so for the hospitality sector. Hotels have become much more flexible with their contract terms. They’re providing the flexibility to move bookings/deposits where there are Covid-19 restrictions from the Government.
Many hotels and venues are adding clauses to their contract terms covering the pandemic. These clauses will allow you to move a booking or deposit without cost. If you need to move a booking for a Covid-19 situation, where the Government has clearly stipulated meetings are not permitted to take place, contracts will be flexible. However, if it’s a non-Covid related situation that requires you to move the booking, clients should ensure they are fully aware of the contract conditions and costs that they have entered into a contract with.
Despite us looking forward to the return of live events from 17th May, we would recommend clients considering a hybrid solution to manage risk in changes of future Covid-19 situations. Hybrids are a fantastic business safe alternative as you still have the opportunity to have a live audience in the room. They create an atmosphere, whilst allowing for people to join virtually who might not have the confidence to return to large events yet. Hybrids also allow for people attending from different nations/countries where alternative rules/quarantine regulations may be in place.
Hybrid events also provide a fantastic cost saving initiative for those that would need to travel long distances. Having virtual attendees can save on their travel and accommodation costs where they have long distances to travel and also with travel restrictions and quarantine requirements make sense in some cases. Clients are also considering hotels and venues where the option to drive is available as some delegates might not be comfortable using public transport. Worth consideration when you are choosing your venue.
The discussion ended with some key thoughts the hotels/venues wanted to share with our clients:
95% of the attendees to our webinar said they were confident with returning back to live events. We are confident with the measures in place that live events will be able to take place safely in the safe environments of the hotels and venues!
If you want to discuss any concerns you have about returning to live events, or want to know more about the changes hotels are making, get in touch. Let us work together to make your event safe and enjoyable for all.