With most face-to-face meetings on hold, hotels and event venues have been getting creative in finding ways to use their meeting space. As schools go back in session this month, many of them virtually, meeting space is being repositioned as a place where schoolchildren — and their parents — can work safely and productively.
In Chicago, the meeting and event venue Catalyst Ranch is offering space for “micro-schooling pods,” small groups of students and parents who come together to create safe learning experiences. “I think we are really in a unique and special position in that the service and venue we offer is truly singular,” said Bryan Bosque, digital marketing and social media manager for Catalyst Ranch, which is known for its colorful and interactive spaces. “The aesthetic here … it’s stimulation and color and offers ways to get creative juices flowing.” These are qualities, he said, that lend themselves not just to meeting attendees, but also working adults and students alike who have been largely isolated for the past six months.
Catalyst Ranch, whose staff is following CDC protocols for sanitation, is offering spaces for tutors and students to gather safely to regain some of the social interaction students are missing out on with remote learning. Every space in Catalyst Ranch features instructions on how to sit in a socially distanced way, with hybrid capabilities available if necessary — something small, in-person meetings have been taking advantage of during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In San Francisco, the Intercontinental Hotel San Francisco also offers socially distanced, certifiably sanitary space for in-person group learning with classmates and instructors. Amenities include WiFi and whiteboards, breakfast, lunch, and snacks to-go, as well as access to an outside terrace — and the hotel is close to a local park. What may be most appealing to parents: The package includes complimentary workspace plus WiFi, access to the hotel’s business center, a coffeemaker, and free parking for the teacher and one parent.
The services at both venues depend on local health and education regulations, which are still being worked out. Other venues — particularly resorts — have converted meeting space into work and office space and are marketing themselves to individuals and families as a way to blend work, school, and leisure.
The Amara Resort and Spa, in Sedona, Arizona, for example, offers a 750-square-foot space as a private classroom or office, with classroom seating, whiteboards, and shelves stocked with school supplies. Guests have access to an on-call executive assistant or teacher’s aide to help set up audio and video connections — on-site tutors or nannies can be reserved in advance for an hourly fee.
The pivot to providing space for students is coming in response to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic. But meeting the needs of working parents — and their children — in a business setting is a trend that deserves to continue, even when social distancing is no longer necessary. In a Convene survey conducted last year, 30 percent of the event professionals who responded said they had missed attending an event due to a lack of child care.