Amid the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, many venues, properties and destinations have responded to the challenges that the pandemic poses to the MICE industry by developing a range of innovative virtual tours for planners.
The Hotel at the University of Maryland, a luxury hotel and conference center adjacent to the University of Maryland (UMD), has launched digital solutions such as virtual tours for planners to interact with the space from a distance.
“Our goal is to provide clients with the opportunity to begin planning now, even if they are unable to be on-site,” said Jeff Brainard, vice president of sales and marketing at Southern Management Corporation in a press release statement. “We must be ready to respond to the needs of the market as soon as it recovers, and in the meantime, interactive video technology can help us overcome some of the challenges that have surfaced as a result of the pandemic.”
Live Interactive Tours
One of the services being utilized, Realync, is a platform that allows for live interactive virtual tours for planners. The video tours allow meeting and event planners from around the world to take guided, customized site tours of a property without boarding a plane or stepping on site. A recording of the video is automatically emailed to the client at the end of the tour, where it can be saved and forwarded to other key decision-makers. The Hotel has also partnered with several video-conferencing companies to complement in-house capabilities by connecting groups of any size from anywhere around the globe.
“These new virtual opportunities will be key in helping our teams drive toward building a strong future. We want to provide our team and clients with hope and show that we are working with them to bring business back to our properties as quickly as possible,” said Brainard. “There are actions we can take today to shape our future, provide for our team members, and help our industry recover — the future is what we make of it, and we know there are very bright days ahead.”
Elsewhere, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) has found itself ahead of the curve, having led the way in the meetings industry nearly four years ago with 360ATL. This suite of online virtual reality tour products for meeting and event planners has allowed Atlanta to stay top of mind with decision makers, and has given planners the ability to engage with hotels, suppliers and venues.
“Virtual site visits allow our sales staff to guide meeting planners through a complete tour of the city, beginning with their arrival at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport,” said William Pate, president and CEO, ACVB. “Given the state of the industry, this immersive experience shows meeting planners the proximity between special event venues, attractions, hotel and dining options in lieu of an in-person site visit.”
Meeting planners can use 360ATL to view Atlanta’s walkable convention and entertainment district, all adjacent to Georgia World Congress Center. The platform also showcases the convention center’s convenient location to Centennial Olympic Park, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, hotels, restaurants and world-class attractions. Beyond Downtown, neighborhoods such as Midtown, Buckhead, Eastside and Westside give an expansive view of the entire destination and options throughout.
To complement the virtual tours, ACVB also offers an online venue catalog to assess more than 300 restaurants, facilities and attractions that double as event spaces. Planners browse visuals, seating configurations and amenities with the option to create a personalized catalog with up to 100 venues.
Barcelo Bavaro Grand Resort in the Dominican Republic and Barcelo Maya Grand Resort in Mexico also offer virtual 360 tours of the resorts and their meeting spaces.
Elsewhere, destinations around the country have been sharing videos on their social media channels to remind their fans and followers that great travel experiences await them. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina released a video titled “Until We See You Again”; Niagara Falls, New York posted “A Destination of Hope” to its Facebook page; Omaha, Nebraska posted “Intermission”; and Florida’s Paradise Coast posted “We Aren’t Going Anywhere.”
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