Experts from The Palm Beaches Share Destination Tips to Support Crisis Recovery

June 18, 2020

Now is the time to prepare for future meetings.

Nearly 50 percent of meeting planners believe their attendees would feel comfortable flying or driving to a face-to-face meeting in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a recent Association Forum survey. So, how can planners prepare now for meetings down the road, and what can they do to increase confidence among those who are a bit more apprehensive?
Meetings and hospitality leaders from The Palm Beaches took to the virtual stage on June 10, during Association Forum’s “Destination Tips to Support Crisis Recovery” webinar, to tackle questions on a handful of topics designed to prepare the industry for future events. The panel, outlined below, shared tips and insights from a broad range of perspectives.
  • Kelly Cavers, Senior Vice President of Group Sales and Destination Services, Discover The Palm Beaches, Palm Beach County’s official DMO
  • John Tolbert, President & Managing Director, Boca Raton Resort & Club
  • Dave Anderson, Regional Vice President, Spectra Venue Management & Palm Beach County Convention Center
  • Robert Mino, Vice President, Life Science, Business Development Board
  • Donna Kastner (Moderator), Founder of Retirepreneur and 15-plus-year industry veteran
The DTPB team has curated information from the webinar and put together the following summary of key points. Continue the conversation with us, by contacting our award-winning Sales and Services team or by signing up for our Meetings Industry Newsletter.

What does community mean and how important is it, especially in the context of the COVID-19 crisis?

The strongest destinations are backed by their communities, but that support system is not limited to hospitality businesses. DMOs need to look outside the box and cultivate a diverse network of community leaders and shared knowledge – which ultimately results in the most successful meetings and events.  
During the COVID-19 crisis, one of the ways The Palm Beaches have come together is by establishing a unified beacon for recovery: building trust and confidence. DTPB has embraced this by leading regular virtual events such as Town Halls and educational seminars featuring organizations such as the U.S. Travel Association and Florida Department of Health.
“The amount of collaboration that has happened over the last 90 days has been incredible,” said Anderson. “You know we are working as one to create a future for our industry. When you look at other destinations, really ask those questions: How collaborative and unified is the effort there?”

Outside image of the Hilton West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County Convention Center

How does leisure travel reopening sooner allow destinations to prepare for larger group meetings in the future?

As destinations continue to reopen to leisure travelers, hospitality businesses are testing and refining protocols that eventually will impact future meetings and events. Businesses also are reimagining venues and creating outdoor spaces to meet new needs. 
“The Palm Beaches is naturally suited to support meetings in the future, and we want to make sure we denote all outdoor and open-air spaces as well as tenting capabilities to showcase our destination’s flexibility and creativity,” said Cavers. “We are working to update our Meeting Planner Guide to include these new outdoor event opportunities such as a reimagined courtyard at the convention center and the use of golf courses for outdoor presentations at the Boca Raton Resort and Club.”
The Palm Beaches already see a surge in hotel bookings, mostly from locals and travelers within the drive market who are itching for a post-quarantine escape. DTPB expects to see this same demand from meetings attendees, who will look to tack on a couple days before or after their event, likely with their loved ones. 

Health and safety are top of mind for everyone. How can destinations show that they’re ready to host visitors?

One health and safety initiative that is picking up steam globally is the GBAC STAR accreditation. GBAC (the Global Biorisk Advisory Council) is a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, and represents one of the industry’s highest and most coveted standards of cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention – including against COVID-19.
This month, The Palm Beaches became one of the first destinations in the United States, and the first and only in Florida to purse GBAC Star accreditation on a destination-wide basis. The Palm Beach International Airport, convention center, more than 150 hotels and other facilities throughout the destination must comply with all facets of the program’s rigorous training and implementation process to earn accreditation.
“GBAC STAR accreditation for The Palm Beaches will provide consistency throughout our destination,” said Cavers. “It will unite a diverse group of businesses by setting a high bar for safety and sanitation that goes beyond what’s expected. We encourage other DMOs, if able, to consider championing this movement in their own communities.”
GBAC Star Logo

What role has the Life Sciences cluster played during the COVID-19 crisis?

Healthcare innovation in the Unites States has increased tremendously as research centers across the nation work tirelessly to find a vaccine as well as develop drugs and antibody treatments. Some of that research is taking place right here in The Palm Beaches, at the world’s top two standalone scientific institutes for biomedical research: Scripps Research and Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.
“Not only is the industry growing really quickly, but there’s also going to be a ton of innovation in the next year and a lot of members will want to attend these types of conferences,” said Mino. “They’ll want to see outside the walls, talk to these world-class scientists and have that interaction you can have locally.
“We’ve also seen that there are alternative manufacturers and suppliers in the Life Sciences. Ford Motor company is now making ventilators, and other companies are making masks; those may be the appropriate partners for you to start to look at as additional sponsors for your event.”

What steps should communities take to help associations better manage the financial side of meetings?

It’s important not to view a DMO in transactional terms. Your working relationship should be a partnership, in which communication flows openly and candidly. We encourage you to vocalize your needs and look outside the box of traditional costs, and let your DMO get creative.
“If you identify a need for additional support in order to make an event successful, share that with your DMO,” said Cavers. “Do you need five volunteers to monitor room capacity or others to manage the flow of traffic? 
“One of the areas we’ve really elevated is what we call our ‘Destination Champions.’ These are local residents, including furloughed hospitality workers, who offer their support through volunteering. These individuals want to see our industry thrive because they understand the positive impact it has on our community. The opportunities also allow them to keep their toes wet.”
Boca Raton Resort & Club Ariel Image of Property

Final thoughts: How will our industry emerge from this challenging time even stronger?

For an industry that thrives on connections, the importance of communication has become more apparent than ever. The coined term “new normal” often holds a negative connotation, but the industry also has pushed the boundaries of innovation and best practices – a trend that won’t stop once things return to normal.
“Today’s best practice is tomorrow’s normal,” said Tolbert. “We’re looking to reinvent every aspect of the business, so it feels different and better, and the experience goes back to the importance of in-person meetings. 
“This technological revolution we’ve seen – and Zoom is a great example of it – is an accelerator for in-person meetings, and associations are more important now than ever for the recovery.”
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