“Travel feels normal again, we just have to wear a mask,” reported Michael Dominguez, CEO and president of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), host of the podcast “Beyond the Meeting Room,” and uber-frequent flier. In fact, he sees the future as a much healthier place. A new partnership ALHI is announcing today with Delos to train meeting professionals on wellness beyond protocols could jump start a more holistic approach to taking care of attendees.
Delos Wellness Accreditation for Meetings and Events will launch as a five-hour course that brings awareness to the effects of air, water, light, nourishment, movement, comfort and mindfulness as it relates to the agenda and meeting space. Self-reflection questions will challenge participants to equip their groups for optimal meetings success. There will be quizzes at the end.
Attendees may find that since airports, hotels and convention centers plan to continue the increased electrostatic cleaning, and enhanced sanitation, they are getting common illnesses much less often. But that could be only the beginning of an enhanced focus on overall wellness—mental and physical.
“There is so much opportunity for education around the things we can do to elevate the well-being of our attendees and create environments where we can thrive,” Dominguez said. He pointed out that large conferences represent enormous amounts of payroll being spent so keeping people healthy, alert and receptive to ideas should be the fiduciary responsibility of all meeting professionals.
“A healthy meeting is a happy meeting and when people feel safe in their meeting spaces—that is when the most meaningful meetings can occur.”
An Evolving Focus
The program has its roots pre-pandemic. MGM Resorts already works with Delos, Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Deepak Chopra for its Stay Well Meetings and guest rooms at MGM Grand. The new training series builds on the research and science and arms planners with the tools they need to be more effective. Dominguez ventured that planners could even attract more clients with the enhanced skill set.
“We know from market research and feedback from partners that business travelers are seeking healthier travel and meeting experiences that prioritize their well-being while away from home, said Peter Scialla, president and COO of Delos, in a statement.
Now that Covid transmission rates are under 1 in many places, indicating that the surge of the epidemic is over, Dominguez is optimistic that even where there are pockets of spread, we have the tools to ensure they don’t result in increased hospitalization and death.
“Vaccinations can help, but the important thing for meeting professionals is testing,” he said. “Vaccines don’t keep people from getting entirely or from spreading, but they can keep people from dying.” He suggested following the lead of the United Kingdom, NBA and NFL and test before an event and quarantine if someone shows up positive during the event. “That will slow the spread.”
The Right Direction
Referring to his opening remarks about mask-wearing as the only difference at airports, Dominguez explained that while airports are now busy again, travelers just need to take the time to research requirements wherever they are going—vaccination, testing or both—and they won’t have any trouble getting back on the road—or in the air.
When asked about some of the logistical problems of flights being cancelled and hotel staffing issues, he said we are going the right direction on that as well. A lot of labor issues will loosen up—already are loosening up as time goes on, vaccine mandates are softened and unemployment benefits end. “People not wanting to return to work was a complicated and unintended consequence of a well-meaning bill that didn’t anticipate tourism coming back ask quickly as it did,” he said.
Even the challenge with finding childcare that is holding some back at home is getting resolved, he said. He pointed to programs in some cities that would create co-op daycare centers for hotel workers. “That could be a cool benefit,” he said. Combined with colleges going back to in-person lessons and bringing hotel workers back with them and salaries increasing, he sees staffing as a transitional issue.
A U.S. Labor Department Jobs Report released on Friday confirmed that more than 530,000 jobs were filled in October, higher than estimates with leisure and hospitality jobs representing the biggest new employers.
Even the challenge of finding open dates in his schedule and in hotel ballrooms due to compression is “a good problem to have,” he joked. “Remember when we said we would never complain about travel because we missed it so much,” he recalled with a laugh.