With the Omicron variant still a cause of concern worldwide, travel restrictions, proof of vaccination, negative COVID tests, social distancing, and temporary or partial lock downs are back at the forefront of event planning. Thankfully, lessons learned over the past two years are making the situation more manageable than this time last year or the year before. However, there are some important tips to keep in mind when planning destination-oriented events.
Worries about infection are only part of the problem. Short staffing is plaguing the entire travel industry. Airports do not have enough ground handling personnel to handle multiple planes at once. A lack of flight crew is causing flight cancellations. Hotel staff is low on housekeeping, food and beverage, and other key positions.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to help navigate “around” various situations.
- Think “low traffic” when it comes to your destinations. This not only includes destination cities, but also hotel venues and arrival/departure airports. These are all places which are not as likely to have seen huge changes in their guest traffic and were therefore able to maintain adequate staff levels.
- Consider charter aircraft if it works for the size of your group. Unlike commercial air travel, which depends upon an incoming flight arrival for the next flight to leave on time, charter aircraft are more often “ready and waiting” for their passenger groups. They also typically fly out of smaller business or commuter airports, which are more easily serviced by a smaller group of workers.
In addition to better flexibility as to what time you choose to depart, on-board refreshments, and shorter security lines, charter air travel can be a great way to limit virus exposure among attendees as it will only be your group aboard the plane.
- Can’t make the costs work for charter? Book the very first flight out of your departure city. This is the one time of day that commercial aircraft are parked and waiting for passengers, and therefore far less prone to delays or cancellations. It may not be pleasant to wake up for a 6 am flight, but it’s better than getting stuck for hours or days with other flight scheduling problems.
- Plan for inconvenience. Baggage can get delayed. People may get stuck on highways. Travelers these days are weary upon arrival. Have “go kits” ready and waiting for guests. Snack baskets for car shuttles or hotel rooms, extra toiletries, a voucher for coffee or a cocktail, any little gesture is appreciated.
- Start Negotiations Lower. Because travel can change at the last minute, it’s a smart idea these days to expect cancellations among your attendees. Many planners are finding it’s better to confirm fewer attendees and be willing to pay overages rather than paying for attendees who end up as no-shows. Note that this applies to activities and food and beverage, not accommodations.
Most of all – stay flexible. Got a big, fancy, formal gala planned and now tons of your guests are missing baggage? Do a pajama party theme instead… or move your dinner outside “picnic style” and encourage guests to dress comfortable and casual. If props or décor get lost in shipping delays, get creative and see what a local theatre troupe might have they can loan you. Or, partner with a local team up-front to avoid shipping problems altogether.
Travel can be frustrating, but we’ve proven we can work through it. After 9/11, the industry was sure it could never recover. Now, we’re all used to taking off our shoes and shuffling through security in our socks. The same will eventually happen in today’s world.
About the VIBE Agency: The VIBE Agency is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in the creation and orchestration of live and virtual experiences for the corporate industry. The agency is forward-thinking and was recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019 and 2020. Most recently, Valerie Bihet, founder of the VIBE was named a Smart Women in Meetings 2021 Hall of Fame honoree by Smartmeetings, for her consistent work advancing the industry. If it can’t be live, make it VIBE!