As meeting venues prepare to once again host small, face-to-face events, they’re finding how important it is to assure potential clients that their spaces are safe and sanitary for meeting participants. Tourism Calgary and the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre (CTCC) recently hosted a site visit that did what any site visit does — walk the group through the center to see how center staff envisions their event — but also gave them a masks-on look at the center’s health protocols in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The client, the international organization Daughters of the Nile, plans to welcome an expected 1,500 attendees next June to its 2021 Supreme Session at CTCC. Although it is unclear whether certain health guidelines still will be in place in 2021, Tourism Calgary and the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre followed current protocols while hosting the site visit, said Jason Fajardo, senior sales manager at the center.
“We’ve had six months to come up with these procedures and … this is how we’ve elevated our process to ensure that people feel safe,” he said, adding that they get a mandate from Alberta Health Services. “These are the minimum standards that come in to an event here. As things evolve, we will expand beyond that.”
The current procedures began for the 10-member Daughters of the Nile planning committee even before they arrived on site. Working as a liaison between the group, the center, restaurants on the agenda, and the hotel where the group would stay, Tourism Calgary sent the group all safety protocols put in place for COVID-19, including Calgary’s mask bylaw that requires everyone to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
Calgary also sent out personal questionnaires to each participant asking general health questions related to COVID-19, such as if they had been out of the country, if they felt sick, or if they had any coronavirus symptoms.
Once the planning committee arrived at the center, they were introduced to a “COVID-19 ambassador” — an employee who guided them through a screening process that included temperature checks, a review of the locations of sanitation stations, the center’s protocols, and personal health procedures including social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding touching your face, among others.
After the screenings and briefings, the site visit began — although it was more of a “new normal” than the standard old visit. Center staff members encouraged attendees to use the sanitation stations now placed throughout the venue, and made sure all doors were open to lessen the number of contact points for attendees.
While CTCC offers virtual site visits, the Daughters of the Nile opted to attend in person partly because they are based close by in Alberta, Fajardo said. Also, there is really nothing like experiencing the site in person to really understand how it can be used for an event, he said.
CTCC delivered in that respect, said center CEO Kurby Court. After the tour, the group was ushered into a room that was set up to demonstrate to them that a room-set for social distancing does not have to be, well, distancing, he said.
“It wasn’t chairs set six-by-six through a room. It was social distancing with nice furniture,” Court said. Everyone had their own table and comfortable chair. Potted plants and other features helped create individual environments that although they were spaced appropriately apart, encouraged “eyeball-to-eyeball” discussion, he said. Calgary team members facilitated a discussion in the room to give the delegates a sense of how the room will work for their event.
“It really helped them experience what a socially-distanced event would feel like, look like, sound like,” Court said. “It lowered their anxiety and allowed them to see that it could be a real human experience.”