The kickoff of 2021 brought anticipation at the thought of being back together. Cautiously, we all watched the news as vaccinations began to roll out in huge numbers during the spring. With optimism we saw cases plummet and hopes rise for the opportunity to engage with our media friends in person at wineries once more. Looking ahead to a planned winery harvest tour felt possible. Surely, we’d be in the clear by late summer! With confidence, we weighed the pros and cons with our client in March and together made the call we’d move forward with our four-winery tour scheduled for early August 2021. Little did we know we were not out of the pandemic’s grasp.
As confidence in travel ramped up across the country, so did the Delta Variant. We quickly realized the success of this tour now included a new but critical variable: Keeping our media friends and guests safe. The need for a checklist to ensure the comfort and safety of our client and our media guests took priority. If you’re considering in-person events, we hope our experience will be of help.
In-Person Event Check List –
- Check in with media guests well in advance (several months) to gauge comfort level with traveling during a pandemic; share their feedback/concerns with the client throughout the planning process and remain supportive of their decisions
- Include cost of refundable airline tickets into the budget, in the event COVID-19 scenarios worsen or guests’ level of comfort changes as event draws near
- Understand the CDC Guidelines and implement where possible, always ready to answer any health & safety-related questions from guests. In our case, we were able to answer questions relating to proof of vaccination, health/safety protocols at each winery/hotel/restaurant, as well as TSA and airline protocols
- Provide real time updates on local COVID-19 guidelines, including sending an email update about Sonoma County reinstating a mask mandate a week before the trip
- Provide all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, and extra masks throughout the trip
- Book all transportation options for each guest, understanding their individual level of comfort with group transportation
- Book hotel accommodations for each guest – guests should have their own hotel room unless traveling with immediate family or persons in their primary household
- Provide a list of safety protocols in the itinerary for easy review
Assuming the role of Monday morning quarterbacks post game day, we realize this incredibly successful event had everything to do with preparation, patience, and transparency with our client and guests. (Of course, being seasoned media event pros doesn’t hurt. 🥰) We also recognize our travel partners and destinations have become well-rehearsed in implementing safety protocols and providing detailed guidelines to ensure safe travel.
Less than a week before our event, Sonoma County reinstated its mask mandate requiring all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings when indoors in workplaces and public settings. This communication was well organized and easy to find via their centralized website that provides up to date information on planning your stay. Of course, the situation with the Delta Variant remains fluid. Shortly after our event the Transportation Security Administration extended its mask mandate through 2022, supported by the US Travel Association. As we move into 2022 planning for our clients, we remain optimistic we’ll get to the end of COVID-19 and be back together soon. In the meantime, we continue to provide our clients with two tracks for PR activations: in-person and virtual. Safe travels!