The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to devastate individuals, families and communities worldwide. The socio-economic fallout of the Coronavirus triggered lockdowns, resulted in a global recession and led to critical supply shortages. For many, social distancing became the norm. Life as we “know it” will undoubtedly change. For the foreseeable future, there will be no “business as usual”.
We’ve seen LVMH Moët Hennessy swap making champagne and start producing hand sanitiser (for free) and Gap helping to manufacture Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) instead of hoodies.
In the UK, London’s huge ExCel Centre was turned into the “Nightingale Hospital”, one of several temporary critical care hospitals created by the British military in record time.
During a crisis, the very best of human nature can rise to the challenge. We’ve been heartened to witness countless inspiring examples of IACC members’ resilience, kindness and willingness to support others during the coronavirus emergency. Here are just a few examples:
The Alexander, a Dolce by Wyndham Hotel
The Alexander partnered with the Buckingham Foundation to serve as a Satellite Kitchen for Second Helpings (above). As part of the collaboration, the teams provided specially prepared meals for homebound seniors and families on low incomes. Throughout April, the team prepared 250 meals on three days each week to feed those in need during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have the infrastructure. We obviously have the skill set with our very talented Alexander team who love what they do. They love cooking and they love preparing food for people. And so we put all of this together and we felt like it was a perfect win-win-win, if you will.”
Theresa Rhodes, the Buckingham Foundation.
The Alexander also recently expanded its community outreach by offering free accommodation to Indianapolis-area hospital medical workers, including doctors, nurses and first-responders.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Honors Everyday Heroes on the Front Lines of COVID-19
Wyndham Hotels launched its new #EverydayHeroes initiative in April. The scheme offers all essential frontline workers an instant complimentary Gold membership upgrade in its award-winning loyalty program, Wyndham Rewards®.
“We’re humbled to honor such a deserving group of individuals: everyday people who have been performing herculean tasks in the face of danger. This is one small way we can help make their next trip as special as it deserves to be. They’ve earned it.”
Geoff Ballotti, President and CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
In addition to championing those on the front lines of COVID-19, Wyndham continues to update its policies worldwide to provide guests and Wyndham Rewards members with increased travel flexibility (including relaxing cancellation policies). The company also encourages members to donate their Rewards points to their preferred charitable partner.
Murray Hall, Executive Chef at Dolce Hotels and Resorts helped arrange substantial deliveries to food charities (Markham and Newmarket Centers).
Chauncey Conference Center - Facing a Challenge with Heart
The team at New Jersey based Chauncey Hotel & Conference Center has been busy supporting those in need. Activity included:
Donating Food to Local Soup Kitchens
What happened to Chauncey’s food in its fully stocked walk-in refrigerator? Well, Sara Blivaiss, Chauncey’s General Manager immediately thought of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and she reached out to ETS’s Center for Advocacy & Philanthropy, who readily agreed to make a donation.
Chauncey’s F&B Manager, Jennifer Burns and Executive Chef, Brian Wagner honed the details with Paul (TASK’s Chef). Chauncey Maintenance staff members Tom Marolda and Larry Griffin made the special delivery, which included over 50 pounds of vegetables, five cases of fruit, 1,800 eggs and 25 gallons of milk and juice!
“I am so grateful that we could donate food to people in our community who need it the most.”
Sara Blivaiss, Chauncey General Manager.
Whilst Chauncey is temporarily closed for business, some of the team are working at other Aramark locations on a new initiative called Aramark Healthcare Heroes. Employees are putting together more than 300,000 packages of food, household cleaning and personal care products. The packs are being provided to city-wide hospital staffers on the front lines of COVID-19 across NYC.
An engaging weekly newsletter is being shared with meeting planners to help boost morale. Uplifting content included virtual tours of National Parks and detailed “Chauncey Recipes at Home”, created by Executive Chef, Brian Wagner.
Staying Connected at Summit Chicago
Just one of Summit Chicago’s “Cook Off” social media posts - designed to boost people’s morale during this challenging time.
Here Anna Hess, Client Logistics Coordinator at Summit Chicago describes how the team has been coping and supporting the wider community:
“We’ve had to change our mindset, to work harder to keep the energy and conversation flowing. It has given us a new perspective on why Summit is a Great Place to Work. Most importantly, we learned how much of a family our team really is. We all have a newfound admiration for our team’s openness to express (usually hidden) emotions and feelings.
The working from home opportunities are limited for many of the team, but during this time and to create comradery and fairness, our chefs, floor and operations teams have stepped up and with the guidance of our sales team, have given us a new way to do our jobs. Each day we look forward to seeing what Ron and Jesus have whipped up for their family meals. We get excited to see what goofy costume Raul has on for our Zoom call!
We have learned many new things about our team and in a time of hardship that is pretty fantastic. Right now, Summit is a Great Place to Work not because of our job descriptions, but because even though we are far from each other, our team is closer than we’ve ever been.”
Anna Hess working from home (with Miller!).
Giving Back to the Community at Sigtunahöjden
Sweden’s Sigtunahöjden implemented many changes to adapt to the new situation, the majority of which focused on individuals living nearby.
As events for up to 50 guests were permitted in Sweden, Sigtunahöjden’s restaurant and conference facility remained open, but the venue experienced many cancellations at very short notice. So, to support the wider community and to mitigate food waste, the venue donated food to those in need via the local church.
CEO Lotta Giesenfeld Boman handing over food to vicar Jakob Tronêt from Sigtuna parish.
Valmet and Svenska Kyrkan made sure that the surplus food was donated to those in need. To help the elderly and those in self-quarantine or working from home in Sigtuna, the restaurant offered home delivery and devised a new menu more suitable for takeaway.
Other initiatives included:
Providing readily available bagged groceries, homemade bread and prepared meals for those people unable to visit supermarkets.
Offering imaginative food for special calendar dates (such as Easter).
To offer employees a reprieve from home working, a co-working area (meeting all government guidelines) was created.
Lotta Giesenfeld Boman (CEO) also gave each Sigtunahöjden employee a bespoke (and thoughtful!) Easter gift of a scented cotton heart.
Louise Hallquist and Patrik Nilsson, Head Chefs at Restaurant Skog, Sigtunahöjden.
During a temporary closure, Warwick Conferences, (part of the University of Warwick) worked closely with staff and students to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 13 invaluable initiatives were implemented by the two parties - an incredible feat.
“Once again I want to give my personal thanks to each and every one of them – they are all inspiring people that are helping us all in these difficult times.”
Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick.
Incredible work is being undertaken by the University. The team is providing PPE to medical staff, researchers are creating fun experiments for house-bound children and Warwick Medical School researchers are making more reagents for COVID-19 testing.
Warwick Conferences is welcoming and accommodating NHS staff and Warwick Medical students by supplying them with B&B in their conference bedrooms, so that they can stay working at the frontline in the fight against the pandemic.
Warwick Conferences have also donated fresh food to Emmaus (a charity that supports homeless people). The Conference venue has also donated catering food boxes to Coventry Food Bank and toiletries to the YMCA.
Engaging and uplifting social media posts have complemented the on-the-ground action, with posts providing health and wellbeing advice and details of online fitness classes.
Spring would usually be a manic time for UK Based Event professional Layla Warfield and the team at Mabrouka Events. However with meetings cancelled and postponed, Layla and the team diversified their efforts:
Layla became an NHS Volunteer Responder and helped in her local community with essential food shopping and prescription collections.
Alongside the team, Layla helped to connect The Felix Project food charity with the team’s London-based restaurant contacts.
Mark Cooper, IACC’s CEO adds:
“We are inspired by how IACC members have responded to this crisis with positivity, optimism and a mutual agreement that the industry will emerge on the other side with renewed passion. For many, IACC is our members’ career home, and as a family, many have rallied together to support those less fortunate.”
The devastating impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic have dramatically altered how the events industry operates. The rules have changed, you need to be prepared for the rebuilding of your business offer for meetings and events.
We’ve already seen IACC members swiftly adapting to showcase 360 degree virtual tours, devise special deals and plan to diversify and generate alternative future revenue streams.
Learn more at IACC Americas Virtual Connect (18 - 21 May 2020) where you can experience 4 days and over 15 hours of learning, idea exchange and collaboration with experts in their field and the global IACC member community.
With Thanks to:
Dan Calabrese, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at Wyndham Hotel & Resorts.
Gabriella Chiera, Director of Global Communications at Wyndham Hotel & Resorts.
Murray Hall, Executive Chef at Dolce Hotels & Resorts.
Sara Blivaiss, General Manager at Chauncey Conference Center Princeton.
Anna Hess, Client Logistics Coordinator at Summit Chicago.
Lotta Giesenfeld Boman, Chief Executive Officer and Emma Lind, Digital Marketing Coordinator at Sigtunahöjden.
Tracey Catherine Bell, Marketing Manager, Gail Tomlinson-Short, Business Development Manager and the PR department of Warwick University and Warwick Conferences.
Layla Warfield, Director, Mabrouka Events.
Jessie States, Director, Meeting Professionals International.
Michael Pinchera, Senior Editor, Meeting Professionals International.