Marriott Brings Industry Leaders Together to Reinspire and Reignite Meetings and Events
In an effort to showcase its health protocols and spur along the recovery of the meetings and events industry, Marriott International recently hosted its largest in-person customer event since the start of the pandemic. Held Aug. 24-27 at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in Orlando, Florida, “The Exchange” brought together nearly 800 corporate and association meeting professionals, and Marriott executives and sales professionals.
The event, which followed a year of mostly virtual meetings for the hospitality giant, was a milestone for its “Connect with Confidence.” Launched in August 2020 by Marriott Bonvoy Events, the program provides industry-leading resources and innovative solutions for hosting meetings and events in the current health landscape, such as modified floor plans for social distancing and enhanced virtual and hybrid meetings solutions. In December 2020, Marriott added optional health protocols to the program, which include COVID-19 testing.
With the theme “All for One,” the event illustrated how planners can host in-person events while prioritizing the well-being of attendees as the COVID-19 landscape continues to evolve, according to Marriott officials.
“We launched our Connect with Confidence initiative a year ago to help meeting and events professionals navigate the pandemic and find new ways to create exceptional meetings experiences,” explained Tammy Routh, Marriott International senior vice president, global sales organization. “Our goal is to instill confidence in our customers and encourage an eventual return to group meetings while staying nimble and keeping well-being front and center. The Exchange is a pivotal moment in that journey.”
To keep all participants safe on-site, Marriott implemented enhanced protocols before and during the meeting. All attendees were required to provide either a COVID-19 vaccine validation or proof of a negative COVID-19 test in advance of the event, submitted using the free CLEAR app’s Health Pass feature. Attendees who did not submit advance proof of vaccine validation were also tested on-site by ITA Group/Eurofins, with a negative test required for event entry.
Before and during the event, attendees had the chance to experience various “Connect with Confidence” elements and industry-leading best practices first-hand. Many said they found the event incredibly valuable, including Jerome Bruce, director of meetings and exhibits at the Association of Government Accountants, who applauded the hospitality company for bringing leaders, planners and hoteliers together for collaboration, learning and connecting face-to-face.
“The industry has been through a lot over the past year,” Bruce said. “It is valuable to hear from Marriott leaders, listen to the stories of resiliency and perseverance of hotels throughout the pandemic and learn about the emerging trends and opportunities.”
During The Exchange, attendees participated in industry meetings, collaborative breakout sessions, volunteer opportunities and in-person networking sessions, including a marketplace that connected customers with 115 hotels. Sessions covered critical, top-of-mind industry topics including risk management, sustainability, diversity and inclusion and global operations protocols.
Along with Routh, Marriott speakers included Anthony Capuano, CEO; Stephanie Linnartz, president; Liam Brown, group president, U.S. and Canada; Erika Alexander, chief global officer, global operations; and Julius Robinson, chief sales and marketing officer for U.S. and Canada.
“Meeting with our corporate and association customers face-to-face at The Exchange reminds me of the power, energy, and connection that we get from being together in person. It’s an experience that can’t be replaced by screens and emails,” Capuano said. “I am continually inspired by the resiliency of our industry, our people and our customers, and I’m enthusiastic about being back on the road and returning to group meetings and conferences.”
Throughout the past year, Marriott Bonvoy Events has continued to create and offer resources designed to empower meeting professionals to “connect with confidence,” including how to plan and execute hybrid meetings. Starting earlier this year, the company has hosted more than 3,000 industry professionals at a series of immersive Hybrid Event Learning Labs at hotels across the country.
Photo: The Exchange Opening Session with Tim Oldfield, Stephanie Linnartz and Anthony Capuano (left to right)