Due to the advocacy of the Washington Meeting and Convention Coalition (WMCC), Washington governor Jay Inslee has modified the state’s Phase 2 and Phase 3 restrictions around business meetings, professional development training and testing, and similar activities, effective from September 21. According to the new guidance, the governor’s "Safe Start" reopening plan will permit meetings and business events to be held at an indoor capacity of 30 percent or 200 guests, whichever is less (excluding venue staff)
Adherence to strict COVID-19 protocols must be followed, including implementation of social distancing requirements for staff, attendees and onsite vendors or contractors, and all attendees will be required to wear masks within each facility. Venues must also achieve the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation or follow compliance with a comparable program. Recognized as the gold standard of safe venues, GBAC STAR provides third-party validation to ensure the implementation of rigorous protocols in response to biorisk situations.
On July 7, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) announced its commitment to achieve the GBAC STAR accreditation on outbreak prevention, response and recovery. The WSCC has also released a "Safety First Overview," which outlines the guidelines, precautionary measures, and requirements to be followed by everyone who enters the building. These guidelines include the use of EPA-approved disinfecting products and electrostatic sprayers, increased food safety measures, and access to the building limited to event attendees only. Along with safety guidelines, the convention center has also developed a virtual event studio, which will allow meeting planners to broadcast virtual or hybrid (both in-person and virtual) meetings to attendees. The studio, which features first-class projection, lighting and a pre-installed audio/video control system, is an essential addition for the interim reality of in-person meetings.
“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to welcome back small groups to the building during Phase 2,” said Jeff Blosser, Washington State Convention Center president and CEO. “The convention center has bolstered its already stringent cleaning protocol to provide an even safer, but still comfortable, environment for event-goers. We look forward to collaborating with clients to mitigate known risk factors for in-person events so they and their attendees can focus on program content.”
Visit Seattle also recently launched the "All Clear King County" safety pledge—an initiative to encourage strict safety protocols and a means to promote those businesses implementing them. Visit Seattle is also asking that visitors to King County make a similar commitment by respecting safety measures in place: Mask-wearing, physical distancing, handwashing, etc. This comes in advance of an extensive marketing campaign made possible by the King County Council’s allocation of $8 million in CARES funding for tourism recovery. The campaign will launch October 1.
“We are grateful to governor Inslee and state officials for recognizing the critical role of meetings and business events during this time,” said Tom Norwalk, Visit Seattle president and CEO. “This is a positive step forward and we hope it will illuminate the ability to safely host larger meetings and business events as we move forward through the phases.”
In anticipation of inviting attendees back safely to in-person events, venues throughout the state have been tirelessly enhancing their safety protocols and procedures:
- The Port of Seattle recently completed a multimillion-dollar modernization of Bell Harbor International Conference Center, managed by Columbia Hospitality. Columbia Hospitality has instituted "Columbia Clean" in partnership with Ecolab; this commitment enhances the existing safety and sanitation protocols through cleaning measures, extensive training and implementing innovative cleaning technologies, such as modern electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces and objects.
- Marriott’s "Commitment To Clean" has helped to shape the hotel industry’s response to implementing COVID-19 safety standards, which is evident throughout Sheraton Grand Seattle. The regimen includes face coverings, treating surface areas and public spaces with hospital-grade disinfectants, maintaining social distancing and practicing rigorous food safety.
- Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue has heightened its cleaning and sanitation standards in response to COVID-19 and has earned the GBAC STAR accreditation. The enhanced safety measures include increasing disinfection of high-touch surfaces and spaces, conducting randomized adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing to identify growing microorganisms on surfaces, HVAC modifications, and increased staff safety protocols. Meydenbauer has also developed a virtual events studio to bring virtual meeting attendees together as safely and professionally as possible.
- The Hyatt Collection in downtown Seattle—Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt at Olive 8—has implemented “Safety First, Wellbeing Always,” with less contact, more care and impactful measures. Grand Hyatt is currently open and Hyatt Regency will reopen on October 1.
- Greater Tacoma Convention Center has implemented “The Greater Way Forward” to improve their safety measures. It has also achieved the GBAC STAR accreditation, along with HVAC upgrades to improve air quality, electrostatic sprayers to thoroughly disinfect spaces between meetings, UVC cleaning technology added to escalators and more.