Evolving Events: A Scientific Approach

Kavin Schieferdecker, Senior Vice President of the Convention Division for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, sat down with Tempest to share how PHLCVB is preparing Philadelphia for the future of the events industry.

Kavin Schieferdecker, Senior Vice President, Convention Division at PHLCVB

1. Tell us about the conversations PHLCVB had with community leaders in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. How did you identify what event planners and visitors would be looking for in the post-pandemic travel era?

Similar to all DMOs, we were in close contact with our local officials to ensure we understood the decision-making process with regards to travel and tourism. And, we kept our customers close. We continued to engage with them –even as the cancellations came rolling in.

Collaboration is the name of the game. We tapped into our customer advisory board, and did a lot of listening to understand exactly where our customers were, what their fears and concerns were and we have to continue to keep them updated on our local regulations.

2. You created the PHL Health Pledge in 2020. Tell us about that program and what it’s designed to do. 

The PHL Health Pledge is designed to tell Philadelphia’s recovery story and to showcase the new travel experience in Philadelphia. 

https://www.discoverphl.com/phl-health-pledge/

The PHL Health Pledge has three main components: 

  1. Resources for safely traveling and visiting Philadelphia: Highlighting the efforts being undertaken to keep them safe and healthy throughout our tourism ecosystem – from the moment a visitor lands at the airport, to checking in at their hotel, visiting a museum or attraction, dining in a restaurant, and attending a meeting at the Convention Center.
  2. A Commitment to implementing clean and safety standards: We created a resource center for our 800+ members where they can access the latest health and safety information and we asked them to sign a pledge to adhere to the latest public health safety standards
  3. Expert Advice and Guidance from our amazing medical community: We named Dr. David Nash, Dean Emeritus of Jefferson’s College of Population Health, to serve as our Chief Health Advisor working alongside a 20-person subcommittee of our PHL Life Sciences division that we refer to as our PHL Health Advisors.
Dr. David Nash, PHLCVB's Chief Health Advisor

3. How did the idea to create the PHL Health Advisors come to fruition?

We are fortunate that 30 years ago, leadership at the PHLCVB recognized the important role our world-renowned medical community could play in our business and created our PHL Life Sciences division. They certainly never imagined the coronavirus pandemic, but they had the foresight to create a division within the PHLCVB focused on leveraging the resources we have as a medical, academic and pharmaceutical hub to help grow our convention business.

Through PHL Life Sciences, we have a 50-person advisory board comprised of leaders across a number of medical and life sciences disciplines - so we already had the bones in place to quickly identify a 20-person PHL Health Advisors to help keep us updated on the pandemic and the local efforts underway to develop a vaccine and to keep both residents and visitors safe.

And, with Dr. Nash serving as our Chief Health Advisor, he’s working directly with our meeting planner customers to provide advice and guidance on how to create safe and healthy meeting spaces and he also provides regular updates and answers questions through webinars we host.

4. Tell us about the upgrades being made to the convention center in light of the coronavirus and if the local medical community helped shape or encourage any of these improvements.

The Pennsylvania Convention Center certainly used this down time wisely and took into consideration the advice being shared from our local medical experts
The PCC, like many large venues, also became GBAC Star certified and implemented ASM Global’s VenueShield protocol and added in additional health and safety standards that will serve us far into the future like:

  • Replacing HVAC air filters with higher efficiency MERV-14 filters
  • Advanced plasma air purification technology for larger spaces and UV fixtures for smaller spaces
  • KONE UV Light Sanitization system escalator handrail installed to kill viruses.
  • Aramark developed their “EverSafe” program in partnership with Jefferson Health (same institution that Dr. Nash is from) to ensure safe delivery of food.

5. Do you have any advice for destinations looking to implement a similar program in their communities?

Draw on the expertise that exists in your own back yard. This worked for us because it’s authentic to the Philadelphia experience. We have a huge medical and academic community here and we leveraged those assets.

Find the thing that your community excels at and figure out a way to bring those industries into your work. During a crisis, people want to help. It’s an opportunity to develop advocates and bring new partners to the table. 

There’s no better advocate for tourism in Philadelphia right now than Dr. Nash. He took this as an opportunity to learn how our industry supports the growth and development of the city overall, and he now sees how that’s a benefit to his academic institution. The vibrancy of our city matters to Jefferson’s success. And while we wish it wouldn’t take a pandemic and the complete and utter collapse of our industry for people to see the value we bring to our local communities, we can still emerge from this situation stronger and with better advocates at our side to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.

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