When Discover The Palm Beaches sought to keep meetings and events happening in the early months of the pandemic and position itself as a preferred destination for the recovery, one realization guided its efforts: the customer journey.
The customer journey was now a health and safety journey, it realized. Therefore, the destination marketing organization (DMO) pursued the GBAC STAR™ destination designation, supporting venues getting accredited in cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention throughout Palm Beach County. The Palm Beaches were one of the first destinations in the United States and the first in Florida to pursue this designation and show its commitment to accreditation of hospitality businesses and for the safety of residents and visitors alike.
"For us, it was absolutely the right thing to do," said Kelly Cavers, senior vice president of group sales and destination services for Discover The Palm Beaches. "We felt consumer confidence had to be established as part of a return to travel."
Travelers arrive at airports, rent cars, stay in hotels, visit restaurants, and attend cultural and community events while they’re in the region for meetings. As well, the area’s “Between-the-Sessions” offerings for groups and meeting planners are strong selling points. Team-building at the world’s largest dedicated croquet facility, visiting a renowned sea turtle rehabilitation and conservation facility, and taking local food tours provide meeting attendees unique experiences they can’t get elsewhere.
The DMO decided to pursue the destination designation to include all of its top Palm Beach County tourism assets. Regardless of which venues and experiences planners choose, the accreditation at a wide range of facilities would assure them that attendees’ health and wellbeing were top-of-mind from the moment of arrival through departure.
Comprised of 39 cities and towns in Southeast Florida, getting the entire destination on board was no easy feat, but Cavers said it was worth it. We asked her to answer a few questions about its pursuit of a GBAC STAR™ destination designation and accreditation for facilities at a destination-wide level and the difference it has made.
What made Discover The Palm Beaches decide to pursue GBAC accreditation at a destination-wide level back in May of 2020?
From the onset of the Covid pandemic, The Palm Beaches wanted to ensure visitors and residents that health and safety were our #1 priority. In order to do so, we sought out the experts in safety protocols and assumed the financial responsibility for our partners throughout the destination to train and become accredited. We were the first DMO in Florida to become a GBAC STAR™ destination, identifying and supporting a broad spectrum of partners throughout Palm Beach County in creating consistent protocols at the airport, convention center, hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Visitors don’t just go to one place, so it was important for us to follow our customers on their journey throughout the destination. We want to show our commitment to their well-being from the moment they arrive at the airport and at every place along the way.
Why was it important to you to engage with a third-party association like ISSA?
GBAC STAR™ accreditation is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities and is the gold standard of prepared facilities. The program is designed by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of ISSA, the leading trade association for the cleaning industry worldwide. We didn’t want visitors to just take our word for it; we wanted to demonstrate that we were meeting standards set forth by the experts and backed by science. We provided our tourism assets with education and training by experts so they could implement these standards and offer third-party validation, creating confidence for residents and visitors to return safely.
Who manages the process, and how does it work?
Our Destination Services Team at The Palm Beaches worked with GBAC and ISSA to onboard 50 community partners who participated in the GBAC STAR™ program and received training for safe practices and protocols to combat the spread of COVID-19. To earn accreditation, facilities must comply with all 20 facets of GBAC STAR’s rigorous training and implementation program as well as undergo annual audits by the council. The Palm Beaches had 12 facilities receive accreditation, including the convention center, airport, and a number of hotels and attractions.
How have you found it to be a competitive advantage in securing events in The Palm Beaches?
Yes, absolutely. Leadership for conferences and events look for this gold seal to give reassurance to both their organization and their attendees. Because of its importance, this designation is a unique selling point that we proactively approach meeting planners with and use to set expectations about what our destination offers. It signifies to the planners, from the very beginning of our relationship with their organization, that we are committed to their health and safety.
The accreditation is good for a year. As the pandemic continues, what is the likelihood that Discover The Palm Beaches will continue to invest in this effort?
The Palm Beaches will renew its destination designation, and we are thrilled that all of our accredited facilities will also be renewing their accreditation. We are working closely with these partners and will continue to financially support this important undertaking. Wellness and safety will continue to be top of mind for travelers and may never go away. Much like TSA was created after 9/11, we believe this emphasis is here to stay and are actively creating a destination that incorporates health and wellness practices into its fabric.
GBAC is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation. Here is information about the GBAC STAR™ destination designation.
Header image provided by Discover the Palm Beaches