Monterey, California: Educating Hospitality for the Return of Travel

With many meetings postponed until the fall season, Monterey Conference Center on the Central California Coast will use its space to give back to its community. Beginning in June, the conference center will work with Monterey County Hospitality Association to educate the area’s hospitality community about how to restart business in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“The educational sessions and training will go on throughout the year. With the lack of research and knowledge about the virus, it will be a continuing educational process,” says Doug Phillips, general manager of Monterey Conference Center.

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During the sessions, the conference center will also host vendors who supply products and equipment appropriate to the post-COVID-19 world, including PSAV, which will support virtual and hybrid events; Tricor, which specializes in event-floor planning; and local companies that provide PPE materials.

Phillips says the center plans on hosting the gatherings every Tuesday, the same day as the local farmers market, in hopes of spreading the word not only to the community’s hospitality sector, but to everyone.

Tips on how to socially distance during meetings, including setups for exhibit spaces, meeting rooms and banquets will be provided. It’s unsure what California will require once conference centers are allowed to open, but Phillips says Monterey County is looking at several premeeting preventatives, such as infrared temperature checks, questionnaires on attendees’ health and contact tracing.

Phillips says, short-term, food options will be plated or served via lunch boxes, grab-and-go style. He believes  the buffet will return— “though it may require additional staff to serve [to] avoid multiple people touching utensils and [a] protective shield between the food server and guest.”

Exhibit room setups may look slightly different than before. By accommodating the six-foot distancing rule, Phillips says 75 percent of capacity will be lost. Other options, such as hard-wall plexiglass booths, are being explored to allow no loss in capacity while still following the rules.

“Perhaps the biggest change in exhibit shows will be the flow, a single entry and exit, appointment only or scheduled time on the floor,” he says.

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