SEATTLE – Due to the advocacy of the Washington Meeting and Convention Coalition (WMCC), Governor Inslee has modified the state’s Phase 2 and Phase 3 restrictions around business meetings, professional development training and testing, and similar activities, effective Sept. 21. According to the new guidance, the Governor’s Safe Start reopening plan will permit meetings and business events to be held at an indoor capacity of 30% or 200 guests, whichever is less (excluding venue staff)
Adherence to strict COVID-19 protocols must be followed, including implementation of social distancing requirements for staff, attendees and onsite vendors or contractors, and all attendees will be required to wear masks within each facility. Venues must also achieve the Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) STAR™ accreditation or follow compliance with a comparable program. Recognized as the gold standard of safe venues, GBAC STAR™ provides third-party validation to ensure the implementation of rigorous protocols in response to biorisk situations.
On July 7, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) announced its commitment to achieve the GBAC STAR™ accreditation on outbreak prevention, response and recovery. The WSCC has also released a Safety First Overview, which outlines the guidelines, precautionary measures, and requirements to be followed by everyone who enters the building. These guidelines include the use of EPA-approved disinfecting products and electrostatic sprayers, increased food safety measures, and access to the building limited to event attendees only. Along with safety guidelines, the convention center has also developed a virtual event studio which will allow meeting planners to broadcast virtual or hybrid (both in-person and virtual) meetings to attendees. The studio, which features first-class projection, lighting and a pre-installed audio/video control system, is an essential addition for the interim reality of in-person meetings.
“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to welcome back small groups to the building during Phase 2,” said Jeff Blosser, Washington State Convention Center President & CEO. “The convention center has bolstered its already stringent cleaning protocol to provide an even safer, but still comfortable, environment for event-goers. We look forward to collaborating with clients to mitigate known risk factors for in-person events so they and their attendees can focus on program content.”
Visit Seattle also recently launched the "All Clear King County" Safety Pledge – an initiative to encourage strict safety protocols and a means to promote those businesses implementing them. Visit Seattle is also asking that visitors to King County make a similar commitment by respecting safety measures in place – mask wearing, physical distancing, handwashing, etc. This comes in advance of an extensive marketing campaign made possible by the King County Council’s allocation of $8 million in CARES funding for tourism recovery. The campaign will launch October 1.
“We are grateful to Governor Inslee and state officials for recognizing the critical role of meetings and business events during this time,” said Tom Norwalk, Visit Seattle President and CEO. “This is a positive step forward and we hope it will illuminate the ability to safely host larger meetings and business events as we move forward through the phases.”
“As a member of the Coalition team working with the staff from the Governor’s Office, Labor & Industries and the State Health Department, I was extremely impressed by their focus on understanding our venue operations, commitment to the safety of our staff and guests, and desire to find a path for a safe reopening,” said Tim Carr, Meydenbauer Center President and CEO. “Our Coalition spent considerable time reviewing approved guidance for other industry sectors to determine how we could create a safe meeting environment that met or exceeded the safety guidelines of other business sectors.”
In anticipation of inviting attendees back safely to in-person events, venues throughout the state have been tirelessly enhancing their safety protocols and procedures:
- The Port of Seattle recently completed a multimillion-dollar modernization of Bell Harbor International Conference Center, managed by Columbia Hospitality. Columbia Hospitality has instituted Columbia Clean in partnership with Ecolab, a global leader in infection prevention. This commitment enhances already stringent safety and sanitation protocols through cleaning measures, extensive training, and implementing innovative cleaning technologies, such as modern electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces and objects.
- Marriott’s Commitment To Clean has helped to shape the hotel industry’s response to implementing COVID-19 safety standards, which is evident throughout Sheraton Grand Seattle. Their regimen includes face coverings, treating surface areas and public spaces with hospital-grade disinfectants, maintaining social distancing and practicing rigorous food safety.
- Meydenbauer Center has heightened their cleaning and sanitation standards in response to COVID-19 and has earned the GBAC STAR™ accreditation. Their enhanced safety measures include increasing disinfection of high-touch surfaces and spaces, conducting randomized Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) testing to identify growing microorganisms on surfaces, HVAC modifications, and increased staff safety protocols. Meydenbauer has also developed a virtual events studio to bring virtual meeting attendees together as safely and professionally as possible.
- The Hyatt Collection in downtown Seattle – Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt at Olive 8 – has implemented “Safety First, Wellbeing Always,” with less contact, more care, and impactful measures. Grand Hyatt is currently open and Hyatt Regency will reopen on October 1.
- Greater Tacoma Convention Center has implemented “The Greater Way Forward” to improve their safety measures. They have also achieved the GBAC STAR™ accreditation, along with HVAC upgrades to improve air quality, electrostatic sprayers to thoroughly disinfect spaces between meetings, UVC cleaning technology added to escalators and more.
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The Washington Meeting and Convention Coalition (WMCC) is a group of statewide partners assembled to advocate for group meeting and convention business in response to the impacts of COVID-19. The group’s purpose has been to request a separate classification for meeting and convention events from concerts, festivals and large athletic events. Business events have the significant benefit of consisting of pre-registered attendees and different controls than other gatherings. This coalition is comprised of the following statewide representatives who partnered to create the WMCC Safe Reopening Plan, initially submitted to Governor Inslee on July 13:
- Meydenbauer Center/ Bellevue Convention Center Authority
- Washington State Convention Center Public Facilities District
- Spokane Public Facilities District
- Lynnwood Public Facilities District
- Greater Tacoma Convention Center Public Facilities District
- Visit Seattle
- Visit Tri-Cities
- Marriott Hotels of Seattle
- Seattle Hyatt Collection
- Four Seasons Hotel
- Columbia Hospitality
- Meeting Professionals International (Washington Chapter)
About Visit Seattle:
Visit Seattle has served as the official destination marketing organization (DMO) for Seattle and King County for more than 50 years. A 501(c)(6) organization, Visit Seattle enhances the economic prosperity of the region through global destination branding along with competitive programs and campaigns in leisure travel marketing, convention sales and overseas tourism development. More than 41 million annual visitors spend $8.1 billion in the city and county each year. The economic power of travel and tourism generates more than 80,000 Seattle area jobs and contributes $837 million in annual state and local tax revenue. Visit visitseattle.org.
About the Washington State Convention Center
Located in the heart of Seattle and walking distance to world-class hotels, restaurants, entertainment and attractions, the Convention Center’s Arch building has been the Northwest’s premier meeting and event facility for over 30 years, providing industry-leading service, award-winning catering and innovative solutions for event planners, guests and visitors. WSCC looks forward to opening the Summit building, adding approximately 248,000 square feet of exhibit space, 59 meeting rooms, and a 58,000 square-foot ballroom to the Center’s offerings, in Spring 2022. For more information, visit www.wscc.com.