The Hybrid Approach

By Carrie Mantey

As progress for coronavirus vaccines continues to look more promising, the meetings and events industry is trying to remain viable and stick it out in the interim, which is not easy to do when people are avoiding meeting face to face. Because they are struggling to stay afloat while the public complies with health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels and convention centers are innovating new ways of keeping guests safe while still promoting business as usual.

One way to do that with tourism all but stymied and room occupancy rates in decline is offering new services to meetings and events planners who are striving to find a business model that makes sense for safety-minded attendees. In that vein, some venues are providing more support and offerings to accommodate digital-only and hybrid in-person/digital meetings and events that respect social distancing efforts.

And that trend may have staying power even after the pandemic ends. A Center for Exhibition Industry Research study found that 73 percent of organizers are likely or very likely to continue providing those virtual solutions in 2021.

In order to pull off this hybrid model, hotels and conference centers are taking advantage of creative in-house layout solutions, such as integrating different meeting spaces and even different meeting venues with digital communication in a hub and spoke model. Then they are pairing up with technology platforms (Zoom anyone?) for connectivity, including livestreaming, video conferencing and webinars.

Wait, can’t meeting and event planners skip the middleman, and just buy and implement these technology solutions themselves? Yes. The differentiator is that the hotel or conference center hosting the meeting or event holds up the back end of these services with real-time, in-person, professional tech and audiovisual support. After all, there’s nothing worse than a poorly executed webinar or livestream plagued by technical difficulties.

To bridge the gap between in-person and digital experiences, some enterprising hotels, including Hyatt, are even reimagining food and cocktail hour with kits delivered straight to your home so you can enjoy the virtual event as close as possible to the real thing. Now that’s an experience worth logging in for.