Keep Attendees Safe
While the Zika virus is spreading rapidly, there are things that can be done to minimize the impact it has on meetings and events. Heres how to immunize your event from the Zika threat and any hysteria that is surrounding it.
Give mosquito repellent and even netting as in-room amenities. Communicate the need to use them as well. Make sure such repellent is placed in your groups members rooms and included in their pre-departure packages. The CDC recommends using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents, and ensure to advise clients to follow the product label instructions.
Encourage attendees to consult with their doctors before and after traveling to Zika-affected areas for the most up-to-date counsel on the status of their health.
Provide facts about prevention and risk controls to attendees to help them make informed decisions rather than react to hysteria. (This is also true for planners trying to decide whether to cancel an event.) These include:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/zika
Pan American Health Organization: paho.org/hq
World Health Organization: who.int/en
U. S. Travel Association: bit.ly/smZikaUSTA
Business Travel Coalition: bit.ly/smZikaBTC
During the site-selection process, find out what preventive actions your hotel or resort is taking. Make sure it has screens on all windows and avoids outdoor areas on site that have standing water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Turn your itinerary on its head. Unlike malaria-spreading mosquitoes that are active in the evening, mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime. Inform participants of this fact and alter your itinerary. Occupy attendees with meeting sessions, spa activities and other attractions inside the resort or hotel during the day. In the evening, create events such as night golf tournaments with glow-in-the-dark golf balls and organize dine-arounds and night club outings.
Be flexible when it comes to canceling a meeting. Should your organization feel it necessary to cancel a meeting, try to reschedule or move the event to a property in the same chain in another destination. This will minimize penalties and ensure greater financial protection for your company.
Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or give attendees permethrin-treated items as in-room amenities. It isnt enough to just spray your skin with insect repellenta mosquito with the Zika virus can hitch a ride on clothing, and get into a hotel room and bite an attendee after the insect repellent has been washed off. To ensure effectiveness, reach for permethrin.
Offer a hybrid meeting option so people can attend the event live online if they are concerned about traveling. This may be of particular interest to groups that have a lot of women of childbearing age among their attendees.
Amend your dress code. Its not enough to say resort casual and forget it. Encourage attendees to wear long-sleeved shirts and long skirts and pants, rather than shorts, when meeting in Zika-affected areas.
Get your force majeure strategy in place. Monitor and document registration changes, travel arrangements, cancellations and room block impacts, for starters.
Alonzo, Vincent, Keep Attendees Safe This Summer, Successful Meetings, June, 2016, p. 20
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Permethrin is a medication and chemical widely used as an insecticide, acaricide and insect repellent. It belongs to the family of synthetic chemicals called pyrethroids and functions as a neurotoxin, affecting neuron membranes by prolonging sodium channel activation. It is not known to rapidly harm most mammals or birds, but is toxic to fish and cats.