After a year of mostly virtual meetings, Marriott International recently hosted its largest in-person customer event since the start of the pandemic, The Exchange—All for One, 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.
The event was held at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in Orlando and brought together nearly 800 attendees—including corporate and association meeting professionals, as well as Marriott executives and sales professionals.
“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,” said Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International. “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 illustrated for customers how they can host in-person events, while prioritizing attendees’ well-being, as the COVID-19 landscape continues to evolve. 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 best practices first-hand, both before and during the event. Jerome Bruce, director, 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 resilience and perseverance of hotels throughout the pandemic and learn about the emerging trends and opportunities.”
Tammy Routh, SVP, global sales organization, 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. Along with Capuano and Routh, Marriott speakers included Stephanie Linnartz, president; Liam Brown, group president, U.S. and Canada; Erika Alexander, chief global officer, global operations; and Julius Robinson, chief sales and marketing officer for U.S. and Canada; and Tim Oldfield, VP, corporate & TMC Accounts, Global Sales, 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. Recently, more than 3,000 industry professionals experienced a series of Hybrid Event Learning Labs.