As we reach mid-May, Meetings Today's Sarah Kloepple checks in with Stephanie Glanzer, chief sales officer and vice president of MGM Resorts International, who delves into MGM's new Seven-Point Safety Plan for enhanced health and sanitation protocols at its properties. 

Glanzer also explains how meeting and event spaces specifically will look different, from exploring pre-packaged F&B, coordinating foot traffic flow, to helping planners put on a virtual component. Listen below.

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[Start transcript]

Sarah Kloepple: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this Meetings Today podcast. I'm Sarah Kloepple, content developer, destinations and features for Meetings Today. Joining us today is Stephanie Glanzer, chief sales officer and senior vice president for MGM Resorts International. Thanks for joining us today, Stephanie.

Stephanie Glanzer: Thanks for having me, Sarah.

Sarah: Last time you spoke with Meetings Today, which I believe it was in very early April, you had discussed how MGM Resorts employees, from sales to convention services, were still working full steam remotely. And you talked also about how the rebooking process was going, and I definitely want to check in on that later because early April probably feels like a lifetime ago for a lot of us.

But I thought we'd start off with some more recent news from MGM, which is that the company has announced a Seven-Point Safety Plan that will be in place as MGM properties reopen their doors. So now a lot of hotels and resort chains have released plans like this recently. And they're just kind of meant to highlight new health and sanitation protocols and just, you know, reassure guests and groups when they're traveling again.

In a statement in the MGM plan’s full report, acting CEO and president Bill Hornbuckle said that MGM Resort properties “will not look the way they used to for a while, and that's not only OK, it's critically important.” So, Stephanie, can you tell us a bit about how MGM properties will look different and how this plan came together?

Stephanie GlanzerStephanie: Sure. First off again, thank you for having me today. It's obviously important that we are telling the story of what we've been spending so much time on the past few months, not just internally but working with medical experts, the medical field, externally, a number of doctors and consultants. And again, it's how we came to create the Seven-Point plan and I think you know, what I'll talk about for a minute is not just obviously the physical changes that you'll see in the MGM resort properties, but also the customer journey experience, which I think is critical to go through.

So when we talk about what will be different, on the guest side, literally from the time that a guest enters the doors of the properties. You know, obviously a lot of the basic things such as you're going to see more cleaning taking place publicly than you normally would have, which will be a consistent SOP [standard operating procedure].

From the time you enter the building, you will be offered a face mask if you do not have one. And then from there, we have really taken a huge advancement in digital transformation and technology. And we'll be rolling out our mobile app check-in, which will do everything from your identity to paying to inputting things like arrival times.

It's been interesting because we're actually able to provide elevated service through a lot of this digital transformation that we've expedited due to the situation. There will be key dispensers in the lobby for those that don't wish to use their mobile device for their key. From there, again, everything from elevator capacities and social distancing, or I should say physical distancing, protocols that will be monitored from the time you enter the building, into the elevator, all the way on up to your room.

You may pass by sanitizing and hand-washing stations that were actually custom built throughout the properties for those high density areas that may not have a restroom close by. You know, one thing that I think is important is obviously in large resorts, typically employees are not allowed to use public facilities and washrooms and in this temporary new norm, that will be something that you may see. Again, pressing that hand washing is the number one way to deter the risk of the virus.

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There are a few differences in the rooms as well. We are removing collateral things like pens that have high touch. Your amenities that are brought up may be brought up in bags, again so that somebody doesn't touch the actual amenities. Things like linens are being changed less [during a guest’s stay]. The number of family members that can stick together but not be with other members that they're not traveling with in hallways, we'll all be monitoring. So again, that's just covering as you enter a property, getting to your room and you're in room.

And then of course restaurants, casinos, retail, the entertainment experiences will all look a little bit different. And you know, it's really, I think, about making sure that people understand that we can still provide an elevated guest experience with all of these safety protocols in play.

Sarah: That's great. I've read through the plan, it's very detailed. It's a great plan covers a lot of bases, and we'll be sure to put a link to that where this is posted so people can read it in full if they wish to.

Now our audience is obviously interested in all aspects of how hotels will change in the wake of this pandemic, but a hotel’s meeting and event protocols are some planners’ top concerns. So how will event and meeting spaces inside MGM properties be different and what should planners expect if they're looking to rebook or even book a new event?

Stephanie: Sure, I think it actually starts before physically being within the space like I mentioned earlier. So we are already in the process of making sure, from electronic facilities guides and virtual site inspections, that we are able to offer a planning meeting where you are in our space and not having to get on an airplane and come here, but still get as much done coordinating your convention services and catering teams.

When talk about the planning of these events, we will be working with planners on things like ensuring electronic or pre-registration badging. Again, everything from minimizing the risk within the meeting space or crowds of people together. Things that we've never talked about such as coordination of traffic flow between groups is something that is talked about. It's going to be a little bit more strategically of if we have multiple groups, ensuring that we know the paths that the attendees will be taking as they disperse from their meeting rooms and head back to the guestroom. Those are all things that we, again, want to make sure that we're working through every single group. And obviously I think planners will understand the importance of it.

We are already working and have done our revised capacity grids based on limiting occupancy as well as you know, whether it's one per six or two per six, or where we end up within meeting spaces of all of our properties to be able that we can accommodate all of the groups but in larger spaces.

From a food and beverage standpoint, we are working on more creative pre-packaged options. Of course, we are eliminating any self-serve buffets, for the time being. So everything would be employee-served or packaged for the guests to get on their own.

We released the full Seven-Point plan last week that did cover a number of meetings specifics. We are working still on a lot more detail into those things. And I think as an industry, and as we wait on more state and federal regulations, those are going to be the things that we continue to enhance as a part of the meeting expectations—to still be able to provide a great in-person experience but ensure that we are doing it in a safe way.

The last thing I would talk about is while we certainly want face-to-face meetings to be back, we understand that there is going to be a virtual component, a hybrid component. So we also have a solution for that within MGM resorts with our MGM Resort events and productions company within MGM Resorts to offer a hybrid virtual meeting solution for those groups that are meeting within the spaces.

So again, those are just a few of the most important things, of course from cleaning and sanitation, everything from the electrostatic sprayers to high touch areas like escalator railings, and we will be controlling elevator capacities within meeting spaces. We will have back of house and front of house employee protocols for if there is an incident, how that is communicated and dealt with as far as isolation areas, as well as ensuring that the guests of the groups in house are safe. So again, I think that some of the more important ones, of course, a lot of things being done on top of those.

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Sarah: I like the idea of the virtual offering you mentioned. That's obviously a sector that is growing exponentially in the wake of this. So last time you spoke with Meetings Today, you mentioned that the MGM sales team was hard at work, you know, rebooking groups who had events in March and April. So can you give us an update on how rebooking and maybe even booking new business is going now that we’ve reached mid to late May?

Stephanie: Sure, we’re still on the same path that we were headed back in April. I'm very, very happy that, you know, over half of the groups room nights that had to cancel due to the closure or at their choice, over half of them have rescheduled or postponed for later, whether it be later this fall and winter or into next year.

The other thing, and I think I mentioned this last time, is on top of the half, we also have many groups that are multi-year groups. So they're already scheduled for next spring, and obviously it doesn't make a lot of sense sometimes to do a fall meeting on top of a spring meeting already scheduled. So just continuing to work with the groups on what makes most sense for them. I think we've continued to be flexible. For us, it is all about the long term partnership in business and ensuring that we're working together to come up with the best solution.

We still have a number of small groups contracted for the end of June, July and August. And actually as we get into August and September, even some larger ones, and of course, as we wait for additional guidance on, you know, mass gathering capacities in all of our state properties that we have states, we will work with all of those groups as well.

Months in the fall we, again, volume and pace are still up. And then especially as we look at 2021, the majority of the groups are hanging on as contracted. And again, we'll continue to work with them on alternate and flexible spacing guidelines as well as what the [inaudible] looks like.

Sarah: That's great. Are there any updates you want to give on Las Vegas in general? I know you had mentioned in your last podcast with us that MGM was kind of, you know, in contact with other Vegas resorts the past few months during the pandemic, as united front for the city. So what's the general feeling there about reopening and welcoming back business?

Stephanie: First of all, yes, we do continue to work as a city together to get our groups and our guests back to Las Vegas. I think we would all agree that we are be ready for face-to-face meetings to be back when the time is right. I think that we all agree that we want to do it safely and right the first time.

And yes, we're communicating. We're talking. And again, just excited to see what the future holds. And I think that we would all agree that we know face-to-face meetings make a difference and are a necessity. And again, we just want Las Vegas to continue to be that destination that attendees wants to come to.

Sarah: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Stephanie. We really appreciate your time. I know many of our readers are excited to get back to MGM resorts and back to Las Vegas, so thanks again.

Stephanie: Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah: And thank you listeners for joining us today for this Meetings Today podcast. Feel free to head over to MeetingsToday.com where we have a number of podcasts with industry thought leaders on a variety of subjects, including managing the coronavirus crisis. Thanks again, and have a great day.

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