Rethinking Special Events

Rethinking Special Events


Key Contributors: Tyson Baker (Interior Designer), Ashley Edelbrock (Architect), April Neal (Designer), Teague Peak (Architectural Designer), Tiffany Rawson (Architect), Jess Solomon (Graphic Designer), PJ Tamayo (Designer), and Amanda Yates (Lead Designer, Brand Experience)


The Challenge

While the pandemic forced destinations to temporarily close their doors, it sparked a rush of innovation as teams worked tirelessly to transition something – anything! – online. The fight to stay heard amid the virtual noise of the first few weeks proved challenging, but also gave destinations the opportunities to test run new avenues for special programming and events.

Now, as doors cautiously start to reopen, what can these programs and events look like? How can a destination leverage its unique location and spaces to create some awesome guest experiences that are both clever and safe? Can you combine real locations with virtual experiences? What are the special skills and talents of your staff and where can they plug in?

We asked our team of experts to consider how destinations could maintain separation while encouraging people to celebrate and learn together.


Stay Away, Stay in

Prior to the shutdown, no special event brainstorm was complete without someone bringing up a 5K or group yoga class. Races and classes that offered exclusive running courses and locations were hugely popular events for many destinations and organizations. Fitness (especially in light of gym closures) remains high on the list of public interest and concern. When thinking about virtual and real-time fitness events, how can we elevate the experience and camaraderie?

Could your location serve as an awesome running route for an hour every day before or after opening to the public? This concept imagines adding amenities, like a mobile digital clock that not only shows the runners’ progress but also their overall place among all participants. Could your destination be viewed as a training course for achieving personal goals and fostering a sense of community?

On-site yoga continues to be popular, so why not take it online? Stream the best backdrops your location has to offer and utilize local instructors. This could be a way to do yoga in spots that are too small for large groups and allows you to stream live classes to off-site participants who don’t yet feel comfortable venturing out into public.

What other forms of fitness have yet to be tapped? What about the fitness needs or preferences of your audience? Check out this study on fitness trends from gym schedule platform MindBody, to find data to help tailor your offerings.


Wide Open Spaces

Many destinations have gorgeous locations with gardens, animal exhibits, attractions and more! As the reopening process rolls on, food & beverage and entertainment may seem limited due to physical distancing restrictions within existing locations. We’ve come up with multiple concepts to spread out these amenities, create even better guest interactions, and potentially increase the revenue through creating more immersive and exclusive experiences. If you have a great outdoor space, flaunt it!

How might your destination continue its yearly music festival and maintain social distance? With a nod to Brooklyn’s Domino Park, create a series of themed social distancing shapes. Instead of circles, how about flowers for a botanical garden, as seen in the image above? Guests can have fun picking their shapes while also being treated to a fun detail.

Space might be something we learn to work into our adventures for quite some time. What if your outdoor event included a socially-distant picnic blanket themed to an important story? This themed item could be available for purchase or included in ticket price. Having an item like this means the guest will be taking it to many future outings where safe space is important. Who needs to lug around four beach towels when a Super Blanket is a better option?

During shelter in place, many people have used their time discovering new culinary skills. Why not cater to this trend and make your next fundraiser a low-key, outdoor affair? Consider creating fire pit “tables,” where guests can sit around a fire pit and grill their own meals. Each fire pit would have a food kit delivered, complete with hot dogs, foil packs of veggies, and of course, s’mores! Want to fancy it up? Have a personal chef cook up a fireside gourmet dinner for each group.

But if luxury is a little more your speed, check out this idea from a restaurant in Amsterdam. These pop-up greenhouses provide a magical setting and offer a special experience for a night out. These sketches show two different ideas that provide an exclusive, quiet, and safe group experience on your grounds, while adding in elements of brand or story. Use graphics to theme the greenhouse panels and have your docent teams wander from greenhouse to greenhouse telling stories.


The Wrap-Up

It might feel overwhelming to think about events and special programs at a time when you’re trying to figure out so many basic operational processes. But using events as a means to target new audiences and keep your organization top of mind during a time when competition is high is important. The increase in accessibility to all, as well as generating revenue, are both important to the missions of global destinations. As we approach an unusual summer season, we look forward to seeing the innovations and community connections crafted by your teams.

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