Now that COVID-19 vaccines are slowly being distributed, meeting planners and destination marketing organizations alike are eager for in-person events to start returning. To answer some questions related how COVID-19 will continue to impact hospitality, travel, and the meetings industry, the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) hosted a webinar conversation on Dec. 17 with PHLCVB’s chief health advisor, David Nash, M.D., and PHL Life Sciences Advisory Board member, Leonard Friedland, M.D., in which participants from the meetings industry could submit questions.
While Nash, who serves as dean emeritus at Jefferson College of Population Health, admitted to moderator and PHLCVB senior vice president Kavin Schieferdecker that he didn’t have a crystal ball, he anticipates that large in-person events could return with enhanced safety measures “deep into 2021 — the last quarter,” he said. “Let’s call it October, November, December of next year, when most people who want it will have been vaccinated… . Let’s hope that’s 60 to 70 percent of the population. So we’ll have this herd immunity. We’re still going to wear masks. We’re still going to wash hands. We’re still going to have social distancing.” With all of those layers of protection, Nash said he is “looking forward to” attending meetings in the fourth quarter.
According to Nash and Friedland, all of the additional safety measures organizations have been taking during the pandemic will need to remain in place after a large percentage of the community is vaccinated for another level of safety for attendees and organizers. In short — buffets aren’t making a comeback in 2021.
“I still think we have to mind our P’s and Q’s — separate portions,” Nash said. “I’d want to go to a [meeting venue] that has the certification that they’ve got better ventilation. That they’re paying attention to room cleaning like never before… . The time when we’re packed tightly in a room and there’s standing room only, and the doors are closed and it’s hot — that’s not going to happen in 2021. That’s not a meeting I would go to. So it’s paying attention to those details we’ve been working on that’s going to connect us.”
Added Friedland, vice president, director of scientific affairs and public health, GSK Vaccines: “I’m going to want to make sure that I feel comfortable where I’m going, that the seats aren’t so crowded together, that there’s good traffic flow, and that testing is available for those who want it,” Friedland said. “Here in Philadelphia, our airport now has a [site] where you can get rapid testing. These types of systems in place make people feel comfortable.”