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| Written by Marie Johnson, CMP

COVID-19: M&IW Update

In the meetings and travel business, we need to be acutely aware of risks. As part of M&IW’s Global Travel Risk Management program, we’ve been practicing emergency preparedness planning for decades. We are responsible for providing detailed emergency preparedness plans to our clients as part of our onsite services to ensure the safety of all attendees.

When a new and unknown health risk is identified, such as the COVID-19 (formerly referred to as 2019 Novel Coronavirus / 2019-nCoV), it is important to get the facts and stay up to date using trusted resources. While M&IW has best practices in place for emergency preparedness, Duty of Care has been greatly magnified over the past few years. As a result, we developed a partnership with WorldAware to provide us with integrated risk management solutions that begin and end with intelligence. We will continue to monitor this situation, respond appropriately, and work in collaboration with our clients on the path forward.

[Webinar OnDemand] Emergency Preparedness

If you missed it, Connie Nau, CMP, CRP, Sr. Director, Recruiting & Training with M&IW, facilitated a dynamic and in-depth conversation with two of our top partners in emergency preparedness — Gene Butler with Marriott International and Bruce McIndoe with WorldAware.

Things to Consider

“It is becoming increasingly apparent the business events industry is directly feeling the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Sherrif Karamat, CAE, PCMA’s president and CEO in the MeetingsNet article entitled COVID-19: Canceling, Not Canceling, What Happens Next? While the global impacts of COVID-19 continue to unfold and there is still much unknown, let’s review some important questions from our global operations team to consider regarding your approaching events.

  • Where is your meeting being held? Is it in an affected area? As the infected areas continue to grow, it is important to remain educated on how each destination is handling travel restrictions due to the novel Coronavirus. It will be extremely important that you work together to understand how events in affected areas will be handled (i.e. canceled, postponed, relocated, etc.). 
  • Where are your attendees coming from? Are attendees coming from travel restricted areas? Even though your program may not be occurring in an affected area, your attendees could be coming from a travel restricted area or your company could be enforcing travel restrictions. Your hotel room block, flights, ground transportation, food and beverage guarantees could all be affected by these changes so be sure to consider these important attendee questions as your programs approach.
  • Have any of your attendees been to China recently? You may want to consider setting standards for attendees that fall into this category. Best practice would be to require attendees who have recently traveled to China to prove they have been outside of the country for at least 14 days prior to attending your event.
  • Have your attendees been in contact with anyone who has contracted the novel Coronavirus? It is strongly suggested that all attendees self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.
  • Would you be interested in partnering with on-site medical care? M&IW has successfully partnered with In-House Physicians over the past 7+ years. They deliver high quality, on-site medical care at key meetings to assist with Duty of Care. Whether it is a national sales meeting, international incentive or training meeting, all attendees benefit from the peace of mind of having access to a convenient, trusted source for healthcare while away from home.

Detailed Communications Plan

One of the most important factors is to have a communications and crisis plan in place. Our team works with all key stakeholders, clients, internal partners, and suppliers to help with pre, during and post-event communications. Please note that all decisions should be approved by your company’s legal department. The items below are intended as suggestions, not legal advice.

  • If your company is considering a cancellation, relocation or postponement, make a clear statement to attendees on the date of when a decision may occur. Be sure to include your hotel buyer in the conversation for clear contract options.
  • Work with the proper resources to ensure all aspects are covered for communication (pre-trip and while on-site): updates on the company website, updates on program status on the event registration site, email communications to registered attendees, push notifications on the mobile app, and additional signage with directions, precautions, and reminders
  • Consider using your travel letter to educate and remind attendees NOT to travel if they are not feeling ill.
  • Make a statement if attendees or staff appear ill while on-site, they will be asked to stay in their hotel room.

Investment in Health & Safety Measures

It is our responsibility to not only provide simple safety reminders to attendees, but it is also important to take precautionary steps to ensure the health and safety of everyone. “Most groups, meetings, and conferences are continuing with added investments in health and safety measures,” according to Sue Hatch, Content Director, with MeetingsNet.

Suggestions for Attendees

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (NOT your hand), then throw the tissue in the trash

Steps for Event Managers

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes. Consider including cleaning products in your supply bin.
  • Work with your hotel/venues to provide increased cleaning and disinfection practices in high-volume areas, such as handrails, bathrooms, entrances/exits, public touch screens, and catering.
  • Consider adding signage/placards on-site reminding attendees of hygiene recommendations.
  • Consider adopting a “no-handshake policy” for your event.
  • Consider investing in anti-bacterial hand wash and Kleenex for all public areas (registration area, general session tables, meal room tables) and/or provide individual-sized anti-bacterial hand wash bottles to arriving attendees.

Post-Recovery Plan

In the past few years, our community has had to manage our industry’s response to health crises in Toronto (SARS), Mexico (H1N1), South America (Zika) and Africa (Ebola). We are hopeful the spread of the virus will soon be contained, and a vaccine developed to prevent future outbreaks. “While the short-term economic impact of postponed or canceled events on communities and business is a significant concern, the disruption of business events could also have an equal if not larger, global social impact in terms of halting the sharing of critical knowledge – across every industry sector and profession – that propels our society,” said Karamat.

As before, we’ll need to come together as an industry on post-recovery efforts to restore global confidence and convey the importance of business events. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns with your upcoming events or need assistance with future events, please reach out to your M&IW team member or email us at and we’ll direct your inquiry.