These are unprecedented times for meetings and events.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought on some tough changes, but the meetings and hospitality industries are strong and resilient—the best we can do right now is lean on each other. We are all in this together!
With that said, we want to know: What acts of kindness and support have you seen lately?
Whether it's creating community when we can't meet face-to-face; offering a free service on something you might otherwise charge; or inspiring acts to help fellow meetings and hospitality workers, professionals and businesses, we want to hear uplifting stories to keep us connected as we navigate these hard times.
In 200 words or less, tell us your story of how the meetings, events and hospitality industries are making a difference. Send your stories and any photos to Danielle.LeBreck@meetingstoday.com for a chance to be featured in our upcoming roundup of inspirational good deeds from our community.
We will update this page with your stories as they come in. Keep coming back for daily inspiration and pick-me-ups!
South Point Hotel-Las Vegas Guarantees Pay and Health Insurance for Full-Time Employees; Waives Cancellation, Penalty and Attrition Fees
The South Point Hotel-Las Vegas has an owner, Michael Gaughan, that has guaranteed that all full-time employees will get paid as well as keep their health insurance, which is so important now.
He has put this into effect from the beginning of the shut down until December 31. He has also guaranteed all employees will return in their present jobs. This is such a benefit to our clients to know they will be working with the same people after this is over.
Another great thing Mr. Gaughan has done for the hospitality industry is that he has waived all cancellation fees/penalties for groups that had to cancel due to the virus. In addition, for those groups that are hanging in with us for future months, we have waived any room attrition fees, and the food and beverage minimums will be just the numbers the client guarantees for the contracted functions.
This is helping out our clients to be able to still have their event/meeting without the worry of financial ruin due to a decrease in attendance.
—Maureen "MO" Robinson, South Point Hotel-Las Vegas
Victoria, British Columbia’s The Parkside Hotel Offers Community Rate to Essential Workers
For The Parkside Hotel & Spa, we are in the unique position of being an all-suite property. All of our guest rooms are self-contained and have a partial or full kitchen. Early on we, as most hotels, closed down our meeting spaces and the hotel amenities—the pool, fitness facility, spa, and theatre. Like most hotels, we also were having to lay off the majority of our employees and close down one of our towers. It became apparent that there was a need to do what we can to help essential community workers during this difficult time. We came up with a "Community Rate" to offer to those who needed to isolate and protect themselves from potentially spreading the virus. To be able to provide an option was our priority.
As well, our exclusive catering partner, Truffles Catering, have created an Express menu that caters to our hotel guests and community folks who can opt to have home-cooked meal delivery right to their door.
It all comes back to what can we do to get through this TOGETHER. The new normal is uncomfortable for everyone but we will get through this and our industry will be stronger than ever.
—Tauna Eden, The Parkside Hotel & Spa
Chicago’s Dimension Design Makes Masks and Gowns for First Responders and Nursing Homes
Chicago tradeshow booth design and building company Dimension Design has converted its production capabilities from booth design and building to making masks and gowns for first responders and nursing homes. The effort allowed the company to rehire employees who had been recently furloughed. The first masks and gowns were delivered the week of March 23. The company, which is now on the hunt for additional cotton fabric, expects to produce about 500 items per day.
—Lisa Kenny, Choose Chicago
Paducah’s National Quilt Museum Helps Distribute Hand-Stitched Masks to Medical Professionals
While the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary quilting, the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, is closed to visitors due to the pandemic, the community of quilters surrounding the museum have stepped up to help. As thousands of quilters have come together throughout the country to hand stitch face masks for medical professionals on the front lines of COVID-19, Frank Bennett, CEO of the museum, saw an opportunity to take the lead. He knew the museum could play a role in facilitating the distribution of masks to the medical facilities and professionals in need by leveraging its large social media following and connections to many online groups. Learn more information, here.
—Laura Oswald, Paducah CVB
Memphis Tourism’s Music Hub Launches Online Music Festival to Support Local Musicians
In an effort to support Memphis’ local music community and engage global audiences, Memphis Tourism’s Music Hub created a virtual music relay festival. The event kicked off with one performance on Thursday, March 26th, 2020 and continued through Saturday evening with performances scheduled at a variety of times over three days. The festival was held via a Facebook event, co-hosted by Memphis Tourism and I Love Memphis.
Memphis Tourism's Music Hub partnered with Music Export Memphis to collect donations for a COVID-19 Relief Fund benefiting musicians who have lost gigs as a result of the health crisis.
Memphians, especially our musicians, have always given back in times of need. This project serves as a way for the global community of music fans to help support the Memphis music community during this challenging time.
The lineup, which included headliners such as Mononeon, Ben Nichols of Lucero, and Grammy-nominated band Southern Avenue.
—Jeff Homad, Memphis Tourism
Indianapolis Spreads Civic Pride and Raises Dollars for Tourism Industry Workers with Indy T-Shirts
Within just six days, Visit Indy, The Shop (local t-shirt provider) and the Indianapolis community raised $61,055 to support the local hospitality community workers in need, while showing civic pride.
Photo: T-shirts by The Shop; Credit: Visit Indy
This campaign was to support the 83,000+ Indy men and women who rely on tourism for a paycheck. The dollars have been split between The United Way of Central Indiana’s Relief Fund and The Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Artist Relief Fund. The money was raised by the community coming together to purchase randomly colored Indy t-shirts from The Shop for just $10.
We are encouraging everyone to continue to show off their #LoveIndy civic pride while supporting those in need. We are asking the Indy community to snap a photo wearing an official Indy tee and post to social media using the hashtags #LoveIndy and #IndyKeepsCreating.
—Nate Swick, Visit Indy
Caesars Entertainment Donates 250,000+ Pounds of Food and Thousands of Personal Protection Supplies
Caesars Entertainment is donating food, as well as essential personal protection equipment across the country to assist healthcare workers, law enforcement and more. To date, the company has supplied more than 250,000 pounds of food, which is equivalent to approximately 208,000 meals to numerous food banks and charities. Additionally, Caesars Entertainment has provided thousands of items including gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to local hospitals, first responders and local charities.
Photo: Emergency Worker Message, Atlantic City; Credit: Caesars Entertainment
All Caesars Entertainment resorts and casinos across the United States have volunteered to assist their local communities, including in Las Vegas, where 116,000 pounds of perishable food items were donated to Three Square Food Bank and gloves, masks and hand sanitizer was donated to University Medical Center Las Vegas.
Distillery in Chicago Suburb Ditches Whiskey for Hand Sanitizer Production
During these difficult times, many of our members have been working diligently to provide any services they can to give back to the Chicago Southland community. Thornton Distilling and Brewing Co. in Thornton is doing their part by temporarily pausing production of their signature whiskey and to instead produce hand sanitizer.
Andrew Howell, co-founder of Thornton Distilling and Brewing Co., said he and the team had been mulling over the idea for about a week. After the mandated temporary restaurant closures, they sprang into action. The production floor was turned into a hand sanitizer prep room, using their own alcohol as well as World Health Organization-recommended supplies to create batches. Additional bulk supplies have been ordered to continue the production and keep up with local demand.
Thornton Distilling and Brewing Co. is one of many distilleries across the country that are currently producing hand sanitizer for their communities, as mentioned in Forbes.
The hand sanitizer will be distributed to the at-risk community in Thornton and surrounding towns first, including first responders at fire departments and the Thorn Creek Senior Living facility next door to the distillery, with any remaining supplies being distributed to the public. Despite business being on hold, Howell plans on sharing this hand sanitizer free of charge.
—Katie Arvia, Chicago Southland CVB
Local Caterer in Springfield, Illinois Gives Free Meals to Food Service Workers
The strong tourism and hospitality community in Springfield, Illinois was put to the test on March 21st when the Governor of Illinois mandated closures of historic sites, hotels and restaurants due to COVID-19. For many of our service workers, this not only means they are left without a paycheck, but also the uncertainty of when they would be able to return to work. Seeing an immediate need and wanting to offer support to fellow food service workers, Brian Reilly, owner of Springfield based Cured Catering, along with his wife, Melissa, implemented the idea to provide meals for those out of a job. He started by using his own food inventory and since has received an outpouring of community support and donations. Currently, over 500 meals a night are picked up free of charge.
Will Hoecker, owner of several restaurants and bars in Springfield, also came forward providing his own workers with meals from his restaurants inventory. This gave Will the opportunity to support his well-deserving employees that give him so much of themselves every day. Springfield hospitality and the service industry will continue to remain strong and support one another.
—Amy Beadle, Springfield CVB
Bentonville, Arkansas Eatery Serves Free Takeout to Service Industry Workers
While many in the service industry are now without work, a Bentonville, Arkansas eatery responded to the COVID-19 impact by making sure those in the hospitality sector are not without a meal.
On March 25, 2020, The Hive in Bentonville, with the assistance of several vendors, served over 300 take-out meals for free to those in the service industry. Executive Chef Matthew McClure said his team felt the need to do something positive in response to the pandemic. “I saw this need in the community with all the hospitality workers, many of them being laid off or reduced work and just felt like we had to do something to make an impact,” McClure said.
The delicious menu included salad, grazed brisket, mashed potatoes, and plenty of desserts.
—Aaron Mullins, Visit Bentonville
Bryan College Station, Texas, Hotels Partner with Meal Prep Service to Help Students in Need
Two Valencia Hotel Group properties in Bryan College Station, Texas, The George Hotel and Cavalry Court, have partnered with a local meal prep service called “Dorm Dish” to help Texas A&M students who are in need of a meal.
Photo: Meal Service for Texas A&M Students, Bryan College Station
In this partnership with the two Valencia Hotel Group properties, Dorm Dish agreed to provide microwavable dinners to the students, with Valencia Group’s catering service providing lunch. Meals are picked up at Cavalry Court’s onsite restaurant, The Canteen, from 11:30 am-1:00 pm, and 5:00 pm-6:30 pm, Monday-Friday. Funding for the meals is provided solely through donations via GoFundMe. The program currently sits $1,300 away from being able to feed all 30 students on their list through the rest of the semester (April 28th).
The idea for the program is similar to that of “sponsoring an Aggie student,” and the organizers have hopes that it will continue long after COVID-19 ends. The joint effort between these businesses not only embodies how important it is to come together during a time of crisis, but also showcases Bryan College Station’s southern hospitality and Aggie spirit.
—Kendra Davis, Experience Bryan College Station
The Oak Bay Beach Hotel Expands Their Home Delivery Offerings to Groceries
The Oak Bay Beach Hotel in Victoria, B.C., is rolling out a new initiative to support their local community with an expansion of their delivery service. In addition to prepared food delivery, this program allows customers to select fresh grocery items, dry goods and beverages online through the hotel’s website or by phone and have them delivered to their homes the next day.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued through these past few weeks, the hotel, as well as the entire community, has had to make some significant and difficult changes to the way they operate. With the temporary closure of their iconic Snug Pub and elegant Dining Room, the hotel began offering a limited takeout and delivery menu like many other restaurants in the city. However, we began to notice the gap between food service distributors, and those struggling to order groceries from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The Oak Bay Beach Hotel saw the opportunity to enhance their offerings to help fill this temporary gap by offering an expanded free delivery service.
The Oak Bay Beach Hotel has been at the heart of this community and a place of gathering for over 90 years, so it has been especially difficult to know that so many of our neighbors have voiced their challenges accessing grocery delivery. We are encouraging everyone to be safe, stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible, therefore we knew we had to find another way to continue to support and serve our community during this time of need. We looked at our resources and realized that this is something we could offer which could make a difference and allow us to stay connected to the community, until the time comes where we can welcome everyone back.
—Madone Pelan, The Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Leans on Virtual Experiences During Festival Season
Baton Rouge is no stranger to community crisis as we have overcome numerous hurricanes and floods together over the years. While the circumstances surrounding this crisis are different, the Baton Rouge community has come together to help local businesses in the hospitality industry.
Something the south and Louisiana in particular are known for is gathering. We are in the midst of crawfish and festival season—a time when our communities and families gather together to celebrate our most treasured crustacean, music, cuisine and the culture that makes our state and city so unique. During this time of separation and mandated distancing, you can imagine—people of Louisiana are going through all of the emotions of missing family and friends to knowing this year’s annual festival they look forward to has been cancelled.
We have seen so many creative and innovative ways to still celebrate together (or alone together) during this time. Our 3rd Street Songwriters festival held virtual events this year, allowing locals to experience the raw and authentic music they are used to hearing virtually from their homes. Baton Rouge’s annual Blues Festival held each April has also turned to a “virtual” experience, offering performances live on Facebook and Instagram from blues musicians across the world.
While many of our meetings and conventions have been postponed and our hoteliers experiencing a steep decline in bookings—the community has rallied together to support the hospitality industry during this trying time. Several local groups have come together to create campaigns to support the workforce behind this great industry.
The Keep BR Serving Campaign promotes area restaurants by the purchase of gift cards to use at a later date. Many restaurants are using the funds received from gift cards to pay employees during this time. In addition, several area restaurants, including hotel restaurants have remained open on a takeout or delivery basis only. Our mission during this time is to support our hoteliers and local hospitality businesses in every way we can to ensure when this passes, we will be back and ready for business stronger than ever.
Many of our attractions have begun offering “virtual experiences” of their museums. Visit Baton Rouge has put together a list of ways you can explore Baton Rouge from home to support these efforts. We hope these will inspire future visitors and locals alike to visit these attractions once business resumes as normal.
—Meredith Conger, Visit Baton Rouge
Greater Palm Springs CVB Launches Online Community Coronavirus Resources
The Greater Palm Springs CVB has taken a leadership role for the region, sharing critical information and updates beyond their 2,000 hospitality businesses. After launching a Coronavirus resource page, the team created several microsites to assist hospitality workers and residents in the local community:
Stay in. Take out.
This campaign was developed to encourage residents to support local restaurants by ordering delivery or takeout for their next meal. The website includes a continually curated list of 380-plus restaurants and has received more than 21,000 pageviews since launching on March 18.
Photo: Greater Palm Springs CVB's Oasis at Home Online Portal
Oasis at Home
Until it’s time to travel again, visitors can enjoy Greater Palm Springs from home thanks to this new online portal filled with more than 50 experiences ranging from virtual tours to local foodie and fitness classes to at-home activities for kids. In its first five days, the site received more than 3,800 pageviews.
To help keep the local community’s senior residents safe, a Seniors First page was created that highlights special store hours for seniors and other at-risk customers, receiving 1,133 pageviews in its first two weeks.
The CVB is also working with Riverside County on a PSA television commercial for the region reminding the community to “Stay in Your Place. Maintain Your Space. Cover Your Face.”
And to support tourism and hospitality workers in the Coachella Valley, the CVB’s Tourism Foundation has established a support fund and partnered with Lift to Rise and United Way of the Desert to collect donations for local families who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
—Scott White, President & CEO, Greater Palm Springs CVB
Minneapolis Rallies to Support Local Business with #WeGotThisMPLS Campaign
#WeGotThisMPLS. That’s the message that the team at Meet Minneapolis is sending to a wide audience during the COVID-19 crisis. First, Meet Minneapolis created an inspirational video to show support for local tourism and hospitality workers. It was shared across social media and distributed to all members of the Minneapolis City Council.
Photo: Meet Minneapolis Supports Local Businesses
The team also unveiled a section on the Meet Minneapolis website (Minneapolis.org), to provide ways for residents to support the local community. The site includes suggestions for ways to help local businesses and people, lists of Minneapolis businesses that offer online shopping, curbside pick-up and delivery, links to businesses and organizations stepping up during the crisis, ways to practice social distancing in Minneapolis, and more.
In addition, the Meet Minneapolis team has personally reached out to its 700 partner businesses to show support, have hard conversations about what they really need during this time, and to personally gather information about how business has pivoted so the team could promote. A special section on its website was also created to provide small business, employee and marketing resources. Meet Minneapolis social media channels have been active, highlighting positive stories from around the community and creating a Spotify playlist with local music to enjoy while social distancing.
—Kevin Kurtt, Meet Minneapolis
Coastal Mississippi Casinos and Dining Services Rally to Help Community
Some positive stories coming out of Coastal Mississippi during this time:
—Anna Roy, Coastal Mississippi
Education Services and Free Meals for Impacted Hospitality Professionals in The Palm Beaches
In an effort to help hospitality and tourism workers directly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Boca Raton-based Florida Atlantic University is offering its Executive Education Certificate in Hospitality & Tourism Management (usually $900) for free.
Additionally, Subculture Group owner Rodney Mayo, who operates more than a dozen restaurants in The Palm Beaches, has spearheaded his own community group to feed those in need following thousands of layoffs caused by the pandemic. In partnership with other nonprofit organizations, the Subculture Group formed Hospitality Helping Hands, which serves out hot meals with vegetables, side salads and a roll of toilet paper from its Howley’s Restaurant location in West Palm Beach.
—Gina Kramer, Discover The Palm Beaches
Dubuque, Iowa Meeting and Event Venues Support Local Community
Dubuque, Iowa’s meeting venues have been hard at work supporting #WhereIowaStarted since COVID-19 related shutdowns began hindering much of their usual business. Five Flags Center and Q Casino donated truckloads of food to Project Rooted, a non-profit connecting kids to healthy food from the ground up. This donation, along with others across the community, was prepared into healthy sack lunches for children with limited or no access to meals.
Hampton Inn & Suites has offered medical and emergency service workers a deeply discounted room rate to provide a place to stay as they come into the community or for those looking to stay away from their homes during this time. The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium began offering daily enrichment videos and activities via their Facebook page. This has included cooking lessons from their historic Mathias Ham House Site as well as visits to curious critters throughout the museum and aquarium.
—Taylor Cummings, Travel Dubuque
Visit Tampa Bay Fights Hunger With Destination Culinary Journal Discount
With many people out of work or working reduced hours during the COVID-19 crisis, Tampa Bay has reached a crucial time for food insecurity in the community. Visit Tampa Bay is stepping up to help.
Visit Tampa Bay launched the Feeding Tampa Bay program by giving 100 percent of the proceeds from sales of its twin culinary journals—Tampa’s Table and Tampa With A Twist—to assist local families in need of food aid. The limited-time #TourismStrong bundle is $20 (plus $3 shipping), which is a 50 percent savings, and is available at Visit Tampa Bay’s online store: shop.visittampabay.com.
“Both journals were developed with the help of dozens of Tampa Bay’s most creative chefs and bartenders. Due to social distancing restrictions, many of those same people are now finding themselves out of work or working shortened hours through no fault of their own,” said Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, in announcing the program. These beautiful books are a way for the community to offer them and others our support—and enjoy their wonderful food in our own kitchens until they can get back into theirs.”
- Tampa’s Table was developed in conjunction with 50 local chefs and includes 60 recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts. It also includes stories exploring Tampa Bay’s unique culinary history, including the origins of the Cuban sandwich and the guava pastry.
- Tampa With A Twist carries that idea behind the bar, documenting the city’s rich history in Prohibition as well as the top-shelf bartenders who are leading the evolution of Tampa Bay’s thriving cocktail culture. Its pages are filled with Florida-inspired cocktail recipes, wine and beer discoveries, and bar bite recipes.
—Stephanie Fred, Visit Tampa Bay
Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association Sets Up Pantry for Hotel and Restaurant Workers
The Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association is putting into place a food and supply pantry for more than 10,000 members of the organization. As with destinations throughout the world, since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak conventions and meetings have been cancelled in Philadelphia and surrounding counties, resulting in industry workers being laid off and a decrease in hours available.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney had strongly urged non-essential businesses across the state to close for at least 14 days to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The request protected employees, customers and suppliers, and seeked to limit the spread of the virus through personal contact and surfaces. Governor Wolf has since issued a statewide "Stay at Home" order.
As one of the primary member associations for the hotel and restaurant industry, we are coordinating efforts with partners, like the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Convention Center and many others.