Are you wondering where to start as you are trying to identify a safe destination for your next event?
We’ve got you covered.
Whether you are planning an event for this summer or for 2023, there is so much to consider, and it can feel really overwhelming.
Before you get started on selecting a destination, you’ll want to make sure it can safely host your attendees. That’s why we encourage you to start the research phase with these nine questions:
- Is the destination open to my attendees?
First things first, confirm where all of your attendees will be traveling from. Then, make sure the destination is allowing visitors from those locations. If the majority of your attendees are coming from the United States, consult the U.S. State Department’s County Specific travel guide for real-time updates.
- How has the country prepared its hospitality leaders to safely welcome tourists?
Has the destination offered any official trainings to ensure their staff can safely provide services? If so, you will want to know about it.
Mexico is a country that has gone above and beyond with their safety initiatives. All employees who work in hospitality are required to pass their IMSS (translated to The Mexican Institute of Social Security) exams before they can return to work. The two exams, Safe Return to Work & Everything You Need to Know About Prevention, covers how both employees and employers implement new sanitation protocols to create safe environments. They also cover what the COVID-19 virus is, how to properly detect symptoms of the virus, how to safely use PPE (personal protective equipment), how to stop the spread of the virus in the workplace and in their personal lives, and much more.
This type of nationwide education and training is a planner’s dream come true because it means everyone from your housekeeping team to your sales team in Mexico knows how to safely welcome your guests.
- What are the entry requirements for the destination?
Some destinations have announced strict entry requirements for travelers. Many countries are mandating that visitors complete a digital form, often referred to as a Health Pass, prior to boarding. This may be a questionnaire filled out online or through a downloaded phone app. Questions are focused on the individual’s state of health, their itinerary, and contact information during their travels (which may be used by their health departments for contact tracing).
Additionally, some countries are requiring tourists to purchase health insurance. For example, Costa Rica stipulates that health insurance must cover visitors’ accommodations in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19 illness. Then the explanation of travel insurance coverage must be entered into the country’s Health Pass for approval by the Costa Rican authorities.
Be on the lookout for countries that provide free insurance for travelers. The Dominican Republic became an event planner’s ideal host country when they announced their tourist health insurance program (currently in place through April 30, 2021). The free assistance plan offers complete care with coverage for medical emergencies in case of COVID-19, as well as outpatient visits, hospitalizations, and medicines, extended stays due to medical emergencies, attention from specialists, medicines in case of hospitalizations, a wide variety of health centers throughout the country, transportation in case of emergency, hospital expenses and cost of penalties for flight changes.
- What are the quarantine requirements for the destination?
While not all destinations require a quarantine for arriving tourists, it is important to stay up to date so you can make contingency plans and inform your attendees about the “what if” scenarios. For example, travelers arriving in Hawaii without proof of a valid negative COVID-19 NAAT from the state of Hawaii’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners list will be subject to the state’s mandatory 10-day mandatory self-quarantine.
- Does the destination require a negative COVID-19 test to enter?
Many countries now require that travelers show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entry. As event planners, it is imperative that you gather all of the details around this requirement so that you can communicate the right information to your attendees.
Here are some follow-up questions to ask around testing:
- What type of test is required – Diagnostic (often referred to as PCR) or Antigen or Antibody? (check out an explanation of each from the FDA)
- Are at-home tests accepted?
- When must the test be taken prior to arrival?
- When do the test results have to be provided? Typically airlines will ask passengers to show their results prior to boarding the flight. Once the test has been verified by the flight agent, they will approve the passenger for boarding.
- Must results be printed? Or can my guests show results from an app or email on their phone?
Due to the tight turnaround between testing and receiving results, printed proof of negative testing can get tricky. Some airport lounges do have printers that you can direct your attendees to.
6. Specific to the nearest city, what is the hospital bed capacity?
This is a good question to inquire about, whether or not we are experiencing a global pandemic. Knowing how the healthcare system can support your guests is critical information to you as the leader of your gathering (especially if you are bringing a lot of people to the destination).
7. What are the current COVID-19 rates in the destination?
It’s important for you to know the current state of health of your destination. By doing some research on the rates of infection, you can gain insight into how that destination is managing the health crisis. This will also likely be the first question your guests will google once you announce your program, so getting the answers first will be critical to ensuring their level of comfort. Johns Hopkins’ Center for Systems Science & Engineering has an up-to-date dashboard on global cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has a COVID Data Tracker that includes maps and charts tracking cases, deaths, and trends of COVID-19 in the United States which is updated daily.
Additionally, you can ask the destination’s visitors bureau or Ministry of Health to provide you with information about the city-wide or nation-wide strategies they have implemented to reduce community spread.
8. Are there limitations on gathering sizes?
Every city, county, state, and country is handling gathering allowances differently. Reach out to the destination’s visitors bureau to get the most up-to-date information about their gathering regulations and restrictions. Additionally, you’ll want to check out this Meetings Mean Business tracker that showcases the latest U.S. state-by-state protocols for in-person gatherings – including occupancy limits, mask requirements, and travel protocols. Also note that while the Centers for Disease Control announced the new recommendation that fully vaccinated Americans can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, it is still suggested they take precautions and avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings.
- Is the destination offering any incentives for groups to host events?
Many destinations are eager to welcome meetings and incentives back! If you don’t ask about potential special promotions, you might miss out on some pretty appealing benefits for your group.
These days, incentives are often coming in the form of safety freebies. Starting January 26th the entire country of the Dominican Republic will be covering the cost of the COVID-19 Antigen test for all passengers from the United States. This is a huge benefit as tests can run anywhere between $40.00 to $250.00, which enormously impacts your budget.
Please note that while Antigen tests are free, there is often a small fee to cover the cost of processing them. While some hotels have decided to absorb this cost, others may charge a small fee. Be sure to confirm with your hotel partners how they are handling their on-site testing process.
Another great benefit being offered is from the Aruba Convention Bureau. The Bureau just announced that all future bookings of ten or more rooms per night will receive a financial credit per room night. Plus, planners can access airline ticket reimbursements for up to two people! This is such a great opportunity for planners to have their site inspection flights covered. This means you can get a better feel of the destination and your property, and be a stronger and more knowledgeable spokesperson for the safety protocols you experienced while there.
These nine questions are of course just a start to understanding how prepared a destination is to safely host your event. Regulations are constantly changing so it is important to continue following up with your destination and planning partners for updates.
Once you have selected your preferred destination and are ready to schedule site inspections, check out our Safe Travels blog, Does Your Hotel Partner Pass the Covid Site Inspection? You can also download our checklist with the top five questions to ask on your Covid Site Inspection.