After nine months of Zoom events and virtual meetings, associations seem to be gearing up for a 2021 that may see a return to in-person conferences. With vaccines on the horizon for citizens in the United States, I’m hopeful that this can be accomplished safely. The value we receive from meeting in person, networking, and sharing ideas in a casual setting (like over a meal or during a cocktail hour) is hard to measure.
NAHAD, which is moving forward with its annual convention for April 10-13, 2021 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, has really gone the extra step in ensuring that its members and attendees feel comfortable. Earlier this month, I sat in on a webinar that the association put on, specifically to address any concerns.
Sam Petillo, President, NAHAD, expressed his optimism for the future of the hose industry.
“The hose industry is climbing out of the economic slowdown,” said Petillo. “My company has seen — and I know others, even on the manufacturing side, have seen — the volume of orders improve substantially since June … we should expect to see a sustained recovery throughout 2021 and an even stronger rebound the year after that, as oil and gas rebounds.”
Molly Alton Mullins, Executive Vice President, NAHAD, noted that: “Members really want this opportunity to get together.”
NAHAD opened registration on November 17, and the group has seen a great response, according to Jessica Hauser Forte, Director of Conferences, NAHAD. They’ve already sold 45 exhibit booths, have 75 registrants confirmed and sponsorship money is coming in, as well. Seven hospitality events are booked in conjunction with the conference.
The NAHAD office and the Marriott have worked hard to ensure the safety of attendees, and this came across clearly during the meeting. The group has a webpage at nahad.org/aws/NAHAD/pt/sp/convention_covid with information from the hotel, different airlines, the city of San Diego, and local attractions — what each is doing in relation to Covid-19, what refund policies are, etc. All are live-linked, so they contain the most up-to-date information.
According to Donna Lynn Chong, Resident Manager, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, the hotel is doing deeper, more frequent cleaning. Staff is focused on disinfecting high touch areas regularly and hand sanitation devices have been placed throughout the hotel. They’re using mobile technology to minimize physical contact, such as with mobile keys. Surface disinfecting wipes are available in all rooms. In-stay housekeeping is limited to reduce contact during each guest’s stay. And there are physical distancing signs all across the property.
And Karlee Hartmann, Director of Event Planning, Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, said food and beverage will look somewhat different — hotel associates will serve guests while wearing all the PPE that is expected and required. While we’re used to seeing 10 people at round tables at conferences, the Marriott is reducing chair count to four per table, to better social distance guests. Aisles in conference rooms now feature six feet of distance. There are dedicated entrances and exits into each conference room. Most of the hospitalities will be held outdoors.
For the popular Showcase of Hose Solutions, aisles will be extra wide with pipe and drape between rows, and there will be plenty of ballroom space to spread out. Masks will be required in the hotel, except when a guest is eating or drinking. All hotel associates are also required to wear masks in the state of California.
Mullins noted that cancellation policies will be extremely flexible, and if someone has to cancel, they will get all of their money back, or they can apply it to a future NAHAD Conference.
No one wants people to travel to an event unless they’re comfortable going. It’s always best to make an informed decision — and I applaud NAHAD and its board for putting all the information out there, so each member can do what’s right for them.