More than a feeling: events return to Boston

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More than a feeling: events return to Boston

Since 29 May 2021, all pandemic restrictions have been lifted in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. As a result, the city’s two convention centres, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC), and the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center (Hynes), were able to resume hosting events and meetings at full capacity. 

Both venues did actually stay open throughout the pandemic. The BCEC hosted Boston Hope, a full-service medical facility operated in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center, and Beth Israel Lahey Health. The Hynes served as a vaccination centre providing up to 7,000 vaccinations per day. The venues also hosted exams, a school, a movie production company, and more.

Following the latest guidance from the State of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the BCEC and the Hynes no longer impose Covid-19 related restrictions on event organisers. Instead, they work on a case-by-case basis with organisers to define event rules. 

The latest Heart Rhythm Society conference, hosted by the Boston Convention Marketing Center (BCMC), a body of the Signature Boston agency, saw organisers handing out three types of lanyards to attendees, depending on their comfort level with Covid-19 precautions. Green lanyards meant any greeting is fine. Yellow lanyards indicated they’d prefer an elbow bump over a hug. Red meant keep your distance. Masks were not required for attendees, but event staff  were required to mask up. Chairs were set up with spaces to separate them, and panellists didn’t share microphones.

Facility upgrades

The BCEC has 47,938sqm of exhibition space, 82 meeting rooms, and a 3,716sqm column-free ballroom. It also has free Wi-Fi throughout the building and is located a handy three miles from Logan International Airport, the first North American airport to be accredited under the Council’s Airport Health Accreditation programme.

The Hynes has 16,396sqm of customisable exhibit space, 38 meeting rooms, a 4,000+ seat auditorium, and a 2,280sqm column-free ballroom. Hynes is also connected to over 3,100 hotel rooms and two shopping destinations under one roof.

Over the past year, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) has also invested over USD$14m in various capital improvements to enhance the user experience at the BCEC and Hynes. 

The capital improvements included escalator upgrades, new carpeting in all public areas, a renovated Green Room for speakers and performers, repaved parking lots and roadway around the building, and a new canopy from the nearest public transit station to the BCEC.

There have been upgrades in the Lutron lighting system allowing for better lighting control and easier monitoring of energy usage, and the installation of Show Network Firewall, designed to protect clients’ important Internet traffic.

Both centres also can improve airflow using HVAC system capabilities. This allows both centres to comply with the guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for HVAC usage.

Business slowly returning

The latest big event hosted by BCMC, Heart Rhythm 2021, was about 40% of its size in previous years and included a hybrid component. BCMC has said they expect the upcoming Fan Expo event in September to have good attendance as those attendees skew younger and are eager to get back out, but it’s unlikely that it will reach the same numbers as previous years.   

With regards to the industry’s recovery, BCMC says: “Current trends are pointing to a slow ramp back up, but the impact the Delta variant might have is still unknown. Meetings and events fall in the grey area between tourism and business travel, so it is likely for that segment to perform better than business travel, but probably not at the level that leisure travel currently is.”

BCMC concludes: “We no longer see the same volume of clients wanting to cancel or reschedule their Boston events thanks to high vaccination rates, low number of hospitalisations, and the overall handling of the pandemic in the state of Massachusetts.”

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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