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Convention Centers Prepare for Safe Return of Attendees

By / Sep 3, 2020 (gremlin/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Whenever in-person events begin again, convention centers will be ready to keep attendees safe, thanks to the help of new technology, cleaning protocols, and staff roles.

When the time comes for in-person events to resume, convention centers across the country will be ready to deliver an experience that prioritizes health and safety.

Much of that will be the result of new technology, cleaning protocols, and staff positions that venues have put in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a glimpse at what a few convention centers have rolled out.

High-Tech Tools

When attendees enter San Antonio’s Henry B. González Convention Center, they’ll be met by some new technology. According to an article published last week in the San Antonio Express-News, the Texas venue has installed thermal imaging cameras that will take the temperature of conventiongoers, and staff will use virus-killing ultraviolet light to disinfect escalator handrails. But disinfecting will not be a job just for humans: The convention center will also have a robot equipped with ultraviolet light to clean conference rooms and smaller meeting rooms.

Also introducing some high-tech tools is the TCF Center in Detroit. The convention center can track Wi-Fi usage in the facility to get a clear picture of crowd density. According to a press release, “the reports allow show managers to make quick adjustments in crowd control to assure guest safety and maintain proper social distancing.”

Clean Machines

Several convention centers—including the Georgia World Congress Center and Las Vegas Convention Center—have worked to achieve the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s STAR facility accreditation, which signifies a venue’s ability to maintain the highest standards of sanitation and infectious-disease-prevention protocols.

Since March 17, the Indiana Convention Center has invested more than $7 million in health and safety enhancements, including hospital-grade filtration systems. The center—which reopened on July 7—implemented a Clorox 360 cleaning process that kills 99.9 percent of bacteria in five seconds and can cover 18,000 square feet of space in an hour. Convention center staff are working closely with meeting planners to build conference schedules to ensure that cleaning can be done consistently throughout the day.

Staff Roles

In July, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau announced it was partnering with Dr. David Nash, dean emeritus of the Jefferson College of Population Health, to serve as PHLCVB’s chief health advisor. In this role, he will provide advice and guidance to meeting and event planners about health guidelines and protocols.

Along these same lines, Centerplate—which is the onsite caterer for convention centers nationwide—has designated a health ambassador for each of its facilities, including the San Diego Convention Center [PDF]. This team leader not only receives specialized training to help direct onsite teams, but also works with the local health department and conducts sanitation walkthroughs during events.

Whenever attendees return to convention centers, the experience may be a little different, but there’s no doubt that venues will have put their health and safety first.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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