Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

October 21 2014

How The Hospitality Industry Is Approaching Ebola

By David McMillin

After President Obama appointed a
czar to handle Ebola and Congress asked the Centers for Disease Control about mistakes in handling the first case of the virus in Dallas, many hospitality and meeting professionals have been asking one big question: what does the virus mean for the travel and convention industry?

There is no clear answer, but there are proactive steps that people can take. Here’s a look at how some key members of the industry have been handling the concerns.

DISCUSS: Share Your Thoughts On What Ebola Means For Meetings

In The Air

It’s easy to catch a cold or the flu sitting next to a sick passenger, but Ebola operates much differently.

“While it’s possible that someone could become infected with the Ebola virus in Africa and then get on a plane to the United States, it’s very unlikely that they would be able to spread the disease to fellow passengers,” Stephan Monroe, Deputy Director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases, said in a summer briefing. “The Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with the blood, secretions, or other body fluids of ill people, and indirect contact – for example with needles and other things that may be contaminated with these fluids.”

SEE ALSO: Convene | Ebola Update: Meetings Doing What They Do Best

Nonetheless, the CDC has issued guidelines for the airline industry on how to stop sick passengers from boarding and how to manage passengers who become ill while traveling. After news of a healthcare worker infected with Ebola traveled on a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth, Frontier responded with an abundance of caution, removing the plane from service and contacting passengers who were also on the flight.

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In Other Meetings

One meeting recently took a proactive step for attendee safety in the face of Ebola fears. When attendees arrived in Boston for Sibos, a global financial conference with approximately 7,000 registrants, they passed through thermal scanners at the entrance to detect elevated body temperatures and possible infection illnesses.

“With visitors from more than 130 countries and the WHO’s global safety warnings regarding recent outbreaks, such as the Ebola virus disease, we take extremely seriously the safety of our delegates and will therefore ensure preventative measures are in place,” conference organizers said in a prepared statement.

SEE ALSO: Ebola Update From The European Meetings Industry

In The City With The First Ebola Case

Many of the headlines have surrounded Dallas where the first documented case of Ebola in the US appeared. After treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan, two healthcare workers contracted the disease. Some feared the new cases were a signal that the US was not prepared to deal with Ebola. However, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings highlighted that the city was healthy and open for business.

“Dallas is safe,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a direct address to those who might worry whether the city is safe for conventions. “We’re containing this viral spread, and we’re making sure that everybody is safe.”

Mayor Rawlings added the importance of patience, asking everyone to calm down and look at the facts. Since Rawlings’ address, Dallas has received more good news. Forty-three people who had contact with Duncan prior to his death have been removed from a watch list for signs of Ebola.

DOWNLOAD: PCMA’s Free Emergency Action Plan Template

Looking Ahead

The good news is that the worries of a global Ebola outbreak appear to be fading. However, the past month has been a wake-up call for everyone. At PCMA, we recognize that this type of scare can cause serious concerns for your attendees and serious risks for your meetings. Have you taken any steps to communicate with your attendees about Ebola? Share your thoughts and hear from your colleagues in this Catalyst discussion: Meeting-Specific Aspects of Ebola.

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