After a year of mostly virtual meetings, Marriott International hosted its largest in-person customer event since the start of the pandemic last week, showcasing health protocols and marking a positive sign for the recovery of the meetings and events industry. The event was a milestone for the company’s “Connect with Confidence” program, a global initiative by Marriott Bonvoy Events, which provides industry-leading resources and innovative solutions for hosting meetings and events today.
Marriott’s “The Exchange” event, held August 24-27, 2021, at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in Orlando, Florida, brought together nearly 800 attendees – including corporate and association meeting professionals, as well as Marriott executives and sales professionals.
Anthony Capuano, Chief Executive Officer at Marriott International, said, “Meeting with our corporate and association customers face-to-face at The Exchange reminds me of the power, energy, and connection that we get from being together in person – it’s an experience that can’t be replaced by screens and emails. I am continually inspired by the resiliency of our industry, our people, and our customers, and I’m enthusiastic about being back on the road and returning to group meetings and conferences.”
The event, themed “All for One,” illustrated for customers how they could host in-person events while prioritizing attendees’ well-being as the COVID-19 landscape continues to evolve. Committed to demonstrating a spirit of respect and care, Marriott implemented enhanced protocols before and during the meeting. All attendees were required to provide either a COVID-19 vaccine validation or proof of a negative COVID-19 test in advance of the event, submitted using the free CLEAR app’s Health Pass feature. Attendees who did not submit advance proof of vaccine validation were also tested on-site by ITA Group/Eurofins, with a negative test required for event entry.
Additionally, customers experienced various “Connect with Confidence” elements and industry-leading best practices first-hand, both before and during the event. Jerome Bruce, MBA, Director of Meetings and Exhibits at the Association of Government Accountants, said, “The industry has been through a lot over the past year. I applaud Marriott for once again bringing leaders, planners, and hoteliers together for collaboration, learning, and connecting face-to-face. It is valuable to hear from Marriott leaders, listen to the stories of resiliency and perseverance of hotels throughout the pandemic, and learn about the emerging trends and opportunities.”
Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales Organization at Marriott International, said, “We launched our Connect with Confidence initiative a year ago to help meeting and events professionals navigate the pandemic and find new ways to create exceptional meetings experiences. Our goal is to instill confidence in our customers and encourage an eventual return to group meetings while staying nimble and keeping well-being front and center. The Exchange is a pivotal moment in that journey.”
Attendees participated in industry meetings, collaborative breakout sessions, volunteer opportunities, and in-person networking sessions, including a marketplace connecting customers with 115 hotels.
Sessions at The Exchange covered critical industry topics such as risk management, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and global operations protocols. Marriott speakers included Anthony Capuano, Chief Executive Officer; Stephanie Linnartz, President; Liam Brown, Group President, the United States and Canada; Erika Alexander, Chief Global Officer, Global Operations; Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales Organization; and Julius Robinson, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for U.S. and Canada.
Throughout the past year, Marriott Bonvoy Events has continued to create and provide resources that empower meetings professionals to Connect with Confidence. Most recently, more than 3,000 industry professionals experienced a series of Hybrid Event Learning Labs.