Recently, Marriott International announced COVID-19 testing capabilities if you wish to book one of their hotels for an event. As you’d expect, the headline stirred just a tad bit of controversy amongst the Brew Crew members, and a lot of interesting topics of conversation soon arose in the midst of Marriott’s incredible announcement.
Is this setting yet another precedent in our industry? Will venues’ testing capabilities signify the full return to live events? And does this mean that even planners no longer have to worry about safety protocols or making testing available themselves? These are only some of the questions Will Curran, Dustin Westling, and Nick Borelli are looking to answer on this week’s edition of the Event Brew. So press play and join us for yet another exciting, candid talk!
How Marriott Is Doing It
Will has been wondering for a while about who would be responsible for the testing process. “But now that this has come out, it makes sense. The venues are going to do it. I see it as a very good marketing play”.
Dustin has an interesting observation.”So Marriott is putting in the work to find third-party testers and have that be an option if you want to do events. And this is important. It’s quite clever of them to create this headline. But the thing that I think is interesting is the more private testers we get on the ground, the cheaper it’s going to become, once there’s competition. The question is, how cheap is cheap enough if you’re trying to put on a large-scale event? I’m curious to see if this is something we can roll out at a price tag that’s going to make sense. ”
“It seems like when it comes to food safety and fire safety it’s a no-brainer, the house takes that on as part of the gig”, says Nick. “Liability isn’t black and white as to who caused it, it’s often who has the most amount of money and the most to lose, and venues have a lot of that”.
“But are venues liable if someone catches COVID? Is there any ground to stand on?”, wonders Dustin. “We talked about it before, but the question remains. Can you go out in a time of COVID and have the expectation that someone else is going to make you safe? In this time when you’ve been told avoid this, avoid that, wear your mask, wash your hands…And then tracking and tracing? It’s almost impossible to say this is where you got it. That’s why I think it’s so dangerous for us to be the only industry required to do contact tracing. So it’s so easy for events to be blamed for an outbreak or for somebody catching COVID. But at the end of the day, you can’t prove any of that”.
“I think testing is necessary. Yes, there are a million logistical questions, but if you’re bringing together 1000 people, you should make it part of your registration process”, says Will.
Can This Work?
“I do think that there is probably a level of security theater associated with this because there’s just not that much control. And the other aspect of it is will they require lockdowns? So I’m going to a venue. I go to Las Vegas for this conference and I’m at a Marriott and they do a test. But then I go out that night and it’s Las Vegas, I’m going to get some sort of disease. So then what, do they do a test every day?”, wonders Nick.
“I think the science says you don’t start transmitting it to others right away. So if you get a rapid test, let’s say you show up at 8:00 AM you get your rapid test. You attend the event, presumably with all people that have tested negative and you go out to dinner that night. You don’t immediately contract it and start spreading it. So there’s a period in which you’re most at risk of spreading it. And it’s usually once your symptoms start. So the time in between is not as spreadable”, Dustin explains.
The Potential Pitfalls
“I also think that there’s a danger in this testing thing. Because I think it takes away all the other precautions. People feel like a mask is going to protect them when it’s like, no, the mask is just one layer. But getting that through to people is really, really difficult to say, yes, you have to wear a mask and you have to stay back and you have to do all of these things”, he adds.
“And they all have to work together to keep you safe. So I do worry a little bit about testing. And then you add in all the employees! If a venue is going to say, okay, we’re going to set up testing. That means every employee that’s in contact needs to be tested as well or else you’re not really creating that safe of an environment. So it’s a lot to consider. If you’re doing an event and you want to test a thousand people, you better add another 250 to that list for all the staff that is going to come in contact with your guests”, he says.
What’s Their Angle & What Does It Mean?
“I think what they’re trying to do is build a case ahead of time to say that they did their due diligence and more in a way that is superior to their competition. Especially when people are going to try and look at a chain of events because no one is going to necessarily in a vacuum have been exposed to a virus that went from this vacuum to the hotel, back to the vacuum. They’re going to have other touchpoints and they’re not going to be able to trace it”, says Nick.
“So when they bring everyone in front of them and they try to build these cases and a lawyer says, okay, who should we go after for money? They’re going to be like, well, let’s not go after the Marriott because they’re known in their industry to go above and beyond because they have all of these things. And they’re going to be less likely to be in the crosshairs of litigation. So I think that as much as they’re doing it potentially for marketing, they may also be doing it in an era where they’re trying to protect themselves from litigiousness that would come out of nowhere”, he adds.
“I think that there’s a balance of things that we should be doing. I think there should be way more testing for staff, people that are in close contact for longer periods of time. That makes sense. I think the rule is going to be that every attendee needs to be tested to go to the event. But that’s not realistic. It’s not viable. It’s not the way that we’re going to get back to work”, says Dustin. “But I do think that more testing for staff needs to become a priority. I would have been way more impressed to see a release from a major chain that says we’re providing rapid tests to all of our staff. Because keeping them safe is how we’re going to get back to work”.
At the end of the day, Marriot announced it first – and it was a brilliant marketing ploy. “I think if this is successful, whoever gets it second, won’t be known as the safe one, but they’ll also have to do it if it’s successful enough. So it’s really interesting”, says Nick.