Experience Columbus is committed to helping the Central Ohio region out of the COVID-19 crisis, and to assuring event strategists and organizations that for any gathering they plan in Columbus, safety is a top priority.
That commitment started at home, though, when the DMO created programs designed to help get local businesses back on their feet, and to give residents the confidence to visit those restaurants, attractions, and shops safely.
Following a citywide mask-wearing requirement, Experience Columbus launched its “Live Forward Pledge,” which is focused on helping the destination rebuild during and beyond COVID-19. The pledge program urges the city’s tourism, hospitality, and other businesses to agree to:
- Follow, enforce, and adhere to safety guidelines outlined by the CDC, Ohio Department of Health, and relevant industry organizations.
- Require that employees wear protective gear and clearly communicate expectations to guests on any requirements for them.
- Implement and enforce social distancing
Since the program began in early May, more than 150 Central Ohio organizations and businesses have signed the pledge, including an early pledgee, the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The convention center’s general manager, John Page, said that as the largest conference venue in the area, it was important to “set the tone” by taking the pledge. More importantly, he said, “it’s about collaboration. It’s about the participation that comes as part of [this community]. As you look at what the Live Forward Pledge is, it’s inherent in everything we’re doing here in Columbus — for the convention business specifically, but for the larger brand within our city.”
With the latest state and local guidelines allowing events of up to 300 attendees, many businesses already have reopened. The convention center started hosting events in June, when it began serving as the temporary home for the Franklin County Municipal Court. It has hosted 30 events of all kinds since then.
After implementing its own reopening strategy created by its parent company, ASM Global, the convention center now is pursuing the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s GBAC STAR accreditation, which is the cleaning industry’s gold standard of prepared facilities and the only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation for facilities.
Achieving the GBAC STAR accreditation “is a third-party validation that we’re meeting those highest levels of cleanliness and safety,” Page said, and it gives consumers confidence that the center, along with many Columbus businesses, are doing all they can to create safe environments.
Besides the convention center, partners from four industry sectors — event venues, transportation, lodging, attractions — are currently pursuing the accreditation with Experience Columbus’s encouragement. These partners include the Hilton Columbus Downtown, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Hyatt Place Columbus/OSU, Courtyard Columbus OSU, The Grand Event Center, and the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
The collaborative, holistic approach to creating a safe destination that Page spoke about is evident in a late-summer success story. In August, John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) became the first facility in Columbus — and one of the first airports in the world — to earn the GBAC STAR accreditation. And the city’s public bus system, run by the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), is the first bus system in the country to commit to earning the accreditation.
“Everything Experience Columbus has done pre-pandemic and during this pandemic gives confidence in their ability as our destination marketing organization, and [that] they have the wherewithal to make sure we’re operating in a collaborative fashion,” Page said. Because of those efforts, he said, Columbus businesses are “able to speak with one voice to our customers both today and into the future.”