The number of hospital rooms overfilled with COVID-19 patients is directly related to the empty hotel rooms event professionals are desperate to return to. Two industry leaders have combined resources and brainpower to find a way to cure both challenges through the cultivation of public-private partnerships and strategic alignment of a cross section of industries.
Tracy Judge, founder and chief connector of Soundings Connect, and Rachel Vass, CEO & founder of Syzygy Cities, recently launched the Hospitality + Events Fight Back coalition. The goal is to pool talents across industries to further combat the novel coronavirus and, at the same time, put many displaced event professionals back to work doing what they do best.
Judge and Vass have developed a plan that would essentially convert closed hotels into mixed-use rehabilitation centers for COVID-19 patients. Event professionals would assist in the transition, using their skills at repurposing venues meant for one activity for another.
This, in turn, would help free up hospital beds and staff to perform elective surgeries and other operations that are revenue generators in the medical industry, without worrying about COVID-19 protocol, as these cases would be segmented in a separate space away from the main hospital.
“We’re basically solving one industry’s problem with another,” says Judge. “We have hotels that are available for use and then we have a whole workforce in the hotel and event industry that are the best people to really mobilize and create spaces quickly.”
Realizing HEFB-20’s conversion plan is addressing only a few problems, the coalition will launch a hackathon to surface additional problems and solutions. Registration for the first round of the hackathon is now open. The competition will take place from June 8-12, 2020. The Pitch Competition is open to the public and will take place as a live virtual event on Friday, June 12 from 3-4:30pm PT.
“The business events industry’s role in the economy, and the world, is to bring people together to drive business and enable change. We are contributing to society in the most authentic and impactful way we can—by creating a platform that encourages cross-industry discussion to solve the complex problems caused by COVID-19,” says Judge.
The pair have a grant in place and are looking at starting in one city—Detroit, perhaps—to demonstrate their proposition’s value. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that hotel rooms will be far cheaper to house recovering patients than hospitals.
They note that field hospitals, including converted convention centers, were well-intentioned but were costly expenditures and many patients were not comfortable going to those cities over a hospital.
Vass, who secured global partnerships for TED Conferences previously, has held discussions with several hotel operators and says she has “passed the sniff test.” Approval, she says, would normally take anywhere from 30-60 days but she guesses operations could be up in a month if the right pressure is applied.
With many states re-opening for business, albeit on a limited scale, Vass notes the plan is forward-thinking.
“There are some cities that can benefit from this plan immediately. Our obsession with driving the initiative forward is based on the ‘What if there is a second wave or future pandemic?’” she says. “We’ve already got a blueprint in place.”
While there’s no guarantee the coronavirus will return in the fall, as many medical experts predict, it’s better to be prepared, the two argue.
“This is an insurance policy with a relative low cost and a long-term benefit,” Vass says.