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The Spanish MICE industry mobilises to return to safe events

Affected directly by Covid, the Spanish MICE industry has shown itself to be generous, adaptable and resilient.

Almost overnight, MICE players responded in two ways: first by offering their assets to manage the pandemic; second, by reinventing themselves with new formats, types of layout, professional profiles and protocols.

Solidarity

If in past wars, churches were available for the sick, in the battle against Covid, hotels and venues opened their doors. The IFEMA exhibition hall was turned into a field hospital in just a few days, as was Fira Barcelona, and the CCIB housed a logistics centre for the delivery of protective equipment. And this occurred throughout Spain; the Association of Congress Centers of Spain (APCE) also made its facilities and equipment available. The list of hotels that participated is huge; one of the first to transform its facilities for the sick or their families was Room Mate Hotels and more followed suit: Ilunion, Vincci, NH, B&B Hotels, etc. Several catering companies such as Medems, have also contributed their services.

But beyond helping, the sector has reinvented itself to allow safe events, creating new protocols so that events can safely take place again.

Fairgrounds, conference centres and large venues

IFEMA was the first and set up the CECOR (Centre for the Coordination of Security and Emergencies), to back up the rest of the security and emergency structures at this venue. But by now, almost every venue has a Covid protocol.

Hotel chains have also done their bit. An example is NH Hotel Group that combines a Feel Safe at NH protocol, suggestions for new set-ups, and solutions for hybrid events with audio visual sets in properties; Meliá has a Stay Safe with Meliá hygiene security programme, certified by Bureau Veritas; and Madrid Marriott Auditorium has been adapted to the requirements of the ICTE, the body responsible for the MICE health protocol in Spain.

New outdoor spaces will undoubtedly be an advantage to Spain, whose climate allows meetings or coffee breaks in the open air for much of the year. Terraces and gardens have been converted into meeting rooms with Accor’s Open Air Meetings; and the Claris Hotel in Barcelona has modified its spaces to give groups direct access to the terrace. 

Large venues have introduced creative layouts. The Tarraco Arena (Tarragona), a former bullring, has rearranged rooms to allow large groups to separate into small ones. The WiZink Center has been transformed into a large artificial grass terrace with separate tables and chairs to seat 2,000 attendees while maintaining a safe distance, and an air renewal system keeps rooms fresh by renewing every eight minutes.

Certification

Certification is a good way to build trust. Today there are two options: the certified “Safe Event”, which combines the definition and implementation of protocols, advice and inspection; and from the OCA certifier.

Staffing agencies play a much larger role now, they become part of the organiser’s security team and ensure that protocols, required distances, etc. are respected. They have also added new capabilities, for example, disinfection of meeting rooms (Hands For Events) or services of quick tests in events (Workout Events).

Associations

As a result of the pandemic, the MICE sector has never before been so united. New associations came to life during the crisis and created protocols and advice for safe events such as the safety manual presented by the Catering Business Association or that of the Madrid PCO association.

Among the initiatives, the association of incentive travel agencies (I´M +) it stands out for signing agreements with insurance companies and laboratories for rapid tests, the consistency of contracts in all territories, and the creation of an assistance service.

The MICE Forum (a group of industry associations) has established itself as a uniting voice and has organised meetings with the Secretary of State for Tourism, as well as issuing requests for help; and AEVEA has supported the #redalert campaign movement with a video that explains the enormous variety of professionals who make a living from events.

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