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Onerous MICE Safety Guidelines – a Challenge

Observations of The Event Safety Council (ESC) – Re-opening Guidelines

Event Planners within the MICE sector are a unique ‘tribe’ of individuals irrespective of event type & capacity.  Whether on the African continent or located within the four corners of the world – there are prevalent similarities.

Some of these traits are: (1) constantly thinking beyond a current challenge (2) limited focus absorbing lengthy documents and (3) once a decision is taken there is a strong loathing to change.

The acronym MICE derives from ( Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) which is the accepted term for people gatherings – virtual & FtoF – with the distinct purpose of: expounding, decision-making, awarding / rewarding, celebrating, connecting and educating by way of a MICE undertaking within the economy’s private & public sectors.

The South African MICE industry is made-up  of 3 particular sectors::

65% corporate, 25% association and 10% public sector. 

Besides the actual planning requirements differing between the various sectors – the rule-of-thumb is that annually the corporate market has more events with lower capacities while the association market has less events yet high capacities. The public sector is a combination of both corporate and association sectors as far as extent and capacities are concerned.

Hence it was with some trepidation that The MICE Academy commenced perusing the 73 pages of the recommended Covid-19 Safety & Prevention Measures of the ESC (Event Safety Council) under the auspices of SACIA.

Without going into each section – some observations are indicated below.

  • Although repetitive in certain sections – the guidelines are comprehensive with simple English explanations;
  • The authors have thoroughly gleaned information and spent time in seeking effective information from, primarily the USA, with interpretation via SASRIA for the southern African region;
  • In accordance with SASRIA – the event organiser is deemed to be the ‘employer’ while the event site is the ‘workplace’. Within the MICE industry the overall event ‘employer’ responsibilities differ significantly, dependent on the type of event and the budget involved;
  • Unless the SASRIA has been updated – the Act applies to capacities of 2000+ not below. Within the MICE industry specifically – it is the minority of events that exceed 1000+
  • There are ambiguities such as: very low risk, low risk, moderate risk, high risk & very high risk. These various stages of risk are likely to cause confusion in the mind of the  event planner- whether salaried or independent – therefore a clearer and simpler explanation may be necessary.
  • A further challenge with the risk criteria is the likelihood – if strictly applied – in necessitating a lengthy time delay in accessing the plenary facility. The delegates / attendees having traversed various obstacles since leaving the sanctity of home / hotel are likely to grow impatient heightening the level of frustration resulting in a lack of focus on the event objectives and ROI.  The expectation of extensive time delays in ‘getting going’ will not be willingly undertaken by attendees and organisers alike a second time around.
  • The guidelines state one of the key control measures is the contact tracing of each attendee / delegate as well as all staffers, presenters, chairpersons et al. For the professional internal planner – this is a standard procedure within the Event Spec Guide undertaken for each event. 
  • Both the corporate and association sectors are unlikely to be willing to provide the total lists of their key clients, management executives, members et al for a variety of very real reasons.
  • Most necessary with a guideline of this nature are the Disclaimers & Legal Notices.

There is a section for internal protocol monitoring. Based on the extensive current guidelines the cost may prove unacceptable if undertaken by an external source.

A number of questions have been posed by the MICE Academy subscribers.

  • How many defined & experienced event planners have provided input on the Guidelines?
  • Is there not a concern that the virus safety protocols will be viewed as undertaken by both players and referees?
  • Can the protocols be broken down into manageable proportions – such as specific check-lists – for ease of internal implementation?
  • Will every effort be made to ensure the event decision-makers can undertake the safety protocols internally without the need for added expense of external experts irrespective of whether accredited or not?
  • Has cognisance been taken of the very different types of planned events which have varied consequences and requirements and hence may prohibit an actual event taking place due to the virus safety guidelines?

SACIA and the ESC are to be commended for a thorough set of virus safety guidelines. 

Presumably there will be further condensed updates and a variety of information forthcoming as we proceed towards the last quartile of 2020. 

/ends  (830 words)