Just when we think we’re nearing the end of COVID, cases start to rise again and we realise it’s still very much a part of our lives and the events industry.
Whilst government restrictions are largely removed, it still raises the question of how to create a safe event environment that will instil confidence in attendees to drive registrations and attendance.
Throughout the pandemic, the Australian Turf Club (ATC) never stopped operating its venues at Royal Randwick and Rosehill Gardens. For a period of time, it was one of the only major events businesses in NSW running regular events (racedays), demonstrating and advocating for COVID-Safe events.
So, when Omicron threw a spanner in the works threatening an important Christmas event, the ATC team sprung into action, drawing on their COVID-Safe events expertise to ensure the event could still go ahead, safely.
What was the event and who hosted it?
In December, Funktionality Events and Experiences, hosted their client’s Christmas party – A Lawn Fun Day – at Royal Randwick. The corporate party was booked for Friday 17 December, with 100 guests invited to celebrate the end of the year with colleagues, games and cocktails.
What was the biggest challenge faced?
At the start of December, after a period of quiet optimism following the end of the lockdown in October, the Omicron variant began circulating in Sydney. This outbreak grew quickly and whilst an official lockdown was not imposed, there was great hesitation to attend large group gatherings, particularly ahead of Christmas.
At the start of the week before the event, urgent discussions were held in light of the emerging Omicron situation. The ATC team liaised with Funktionality Events and Experiences, who were liaising with their client. A risk analysis was conducted and the ATC prepared COVID-safe solutions to enable the event to go ahead.
On Wednesday 15 December, just two days before the event, the event was confirmed as proceeding and new measures were required to be implemented.
What were some of the solutions implemented to overcome this challenge?
With a strong COVID-safe event history and the requirement for Rapid Antigen Tests to be conducted daily throughout 2021 to ensure the safe continuation of the racing industry at Royal Randwick, the ATC team were well-versed in this area.
ATC connected Funktionality with a trusted supplier who could set up a Rapid Antigen Test station on site. This supplier, a trained pharmacist, was engaged on the Wednesday (48 hours before the event) and was able to provide testing services on the Friday, as guests arrived at the event.
As the ATC team was able to coordinate this new element of the event at the last minute, the Christmas party could go ahead safely and all the guests could feel comfortable that additional precautionary measures had been implemented.
What was the end result?
The ability of the ATC team to identify this solution and facilitate the implementation at the eleventh hour ultimately saved this event from being cancelled. It resulted in a win-win: the client was spared the financial impact of cancellation – as it was so close to the event date and there were no official restrictions or lockdowns in place – and the guests were able to celebrate their end of year party in a COVID-Safe manner.
What does this mean for the meetings and events industry?
ATC has set the standard in COVID-Safe events and has demonstrated that in-person meetings and events can still go on, safely.
Early in the pandemic, the ATC team implemented safety measures to benefit the entire racing industry. The raceday protocols created by Royal Randwick were world-leading, and the strict biosecurity and participant safety protocols were soon replicated across Australia.
The ATC’s privilege to continue racing throughout the pandemic enabled the team to continue to hone their raceday events to deliver a smooth COVID-Safe customer experience with minimal disruption. Comprehensive whole venue COVID-19 plans were developed to adhere to strict COVID-19 government protocols.
All the learnings, experience, systems and procedures the ATC team have from continuing to host racedays throughout the pandemic translates into the knowledge and ability to host COVID-Safe meetings and events.
What was the feedback from the client?
“We managed a client event with the Australian Turf Club (ATC) in December and were able to work closely with their events team to create a covid-safe event with a rapid antigen testing (RAT) station on-site. This was coordinated with the ATC team so that the Christmas party could go ahead as planned and all the guests felt comfortable and safe.” – Funktionality Events and Experiences director, Tracy Wood.