In August 2020, The MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance hosted the first in a series of tourism stakeholder planning sessions. Over two dozen people gathered safely to share ideas, build the future, and plan for what's next.
Sara Ericsson sat down with Patrick Sullivan (President and CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce), Ross Jefferson (President and CEO of Discover Halifax), and Denise Bradbury (Associate Director of Sales at the Westin Nova Scotian) to talk about their experience meeting live and face-to-face.
Do you feel attending this meeting in person provided greater value than a virtual meeting?
Patrick: “I believe having this meeting in person will provide significantly more value than the large number of [web calls] that I’ve been on for the last four or five months. I think seeing people in person, having the opportunity to communicate with people and to interrupt someone – versus a web call where it’s difficult to do – and to engage with a 25-person meeting is a significant opportunity.”
As an attendee, do you feel like you have been provided a safe and well-managed environment?
Patrick: “As an attendee, I feel this is a very safe environment. I see hand sanitizer, I see people wearing masks, I see physically distanced chairs and a very spread out group of people, so I feel very safe in this environment. I think everyone should feel safe and return to meetings in person if they can.” <
Denise: “We’ve been working closely with our clients to set up social distancing floor plans so that they are comfortable, and we are comfortable in serving them. In an environment where they are six feet apart, people are safe. We have hand sanitizer stations, we’re serving food and beverage directly to our guests, and not serving buffets. We’ve really looked at how we serve our food now, safely and securely, and how we set up our meeting rooms. We’re very fortunate to have large, spacious ballrooms at the Westin Nova Scotian, so we can spread out and make people feel safe and secure when they’re in the meeting environment.”
Why are meetings important to the city of Halifax?
Ross: “Meetings in Halifax are incredibly important. They represent a large portion of the visitor economy here and, in the run of a year, $115 million is spent on hosting conferences and meetings here in Halifax. It employs well over 1,000 people: those who are directly involved here working in hotels, the food and beverage industry, and those indirectly, like the [audio-visual] companies and other suppliers supporting this. So it represents a significant part of the Halifax economy.”
Is this the first in-person meeting you’ve attended since March?
Patrick: “I’m really pleased to be able to participate, and really pleased that the venue has taken all the safety measures they need to take, and that Discover Halifax has put together such a dynamic group of folks so that we can have a great meeting together and catch up after a very long time of not seeing each other in person.” (This wasn't Patrick's first live meeting, but he still finds it exciting!)
Is your company planning on having live meetings and events this year?
Patrick: “The Halifax Chamber of Commerce is absolutely planning on having events and activities. We have an off-site plan for our Board of Directors of 25 people in just two weeks. We will be doing it at a downtown hotel [and] it’ll be the first time any of our board members have been together … since March, so we’re excited about that. We have an opportunity of business after hours on a patio at a hotel, and we plan on having 45 people at that venue, so we’re excited about that, and we’ll be doing much more as we head into the fall.”
What measures are Marriott hotels taking to ensure a safe environment for meetings?
Denise: “We have a Commitment to Clean policy, and the procedure set in place for guest rooms, common areas and meeting spaces as well so that we are cleaning more regularly, using the right products, and keeping our associates safe by wearing masks. As of the end of July, it’s a policy within all Marriott hotels to wear a mask, guests and associates, when you’re in the public areas. If you’re not in your hotel room or you’re not eating and drinking, you must be wearing a mask to keep everybody safe.”