SportsEvents Magazine

NOV 2016

SportsEvents is edited for those who plan tournaments or other sports events.

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www.sportseventsmagazine.com November 2016 17 "Since we have been coming to Flint the past few years for our tournament, I trusted Mona and her group to make sure we were safe," Mahoney said. "Overall, I think we made the right decision to keep [the event] in Flint." Overcoming perception with other groups remains a challenge. "Some groups have already made up their mind they are not going to come here," Mahoney said. "The media can do several things for you. Number one, it enabled us to receive an outpouring of help. It also put a little fire to the feet of state and local officials to get this rectified as quickly as possible. But there were also a lot of scare tactics." Zika In Puerto Rico Like a number of destinations in Florida and south of the border, Puerto Rico is facing the health crisis introduced by the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Milton Segarra, president and CEO of Meet Puerto Rico said that the region is taking its lead from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure the safety of visitors. "During the Zika situation, we hosted several large groups who, after conversa- tions with health officials, Meet Puerto Rico and hotel officials, they have come down and protected themselves according to the CDC precautions and had a great time and successful conference," he said, pointing to positive testimonials from groups such as the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology and Dairy Queen. Communication has been critical to the region's strategy. Segarra said that accuracy and clarity are the primary characteristics of the region's response. "We provide up-to-date information delivered to us by nationally and globally respected organizations that are leaders in the area in question," he said, adding that one-on-one meetings and conference calls with CDC officials in Puerto Rico are offered to equip sports events with the data needed to make informed decisions and put readiness strategies into action. The region also secures regular testimo- nials from clients in Puerto Rico to show "how things actually are" through video- taped and written communications. "Not one member videotaped during the Zika situation, for instance, saw a mosqui- to," Segarra said. Flooding In Baton Rouge While some disasters can be adequate- ly addressed to maintain sports events, others require that planners take a different direction. Zach Ebarb, sports and convention sales manager with Visit Baton Rouge, said that when prolonged rains produced catastroph- ic flooding in August 2016, there was no way to resolve the situation for one group. "In the event of a natural disaster, each group is handled on a case-by-case basis," he said. "The main priority is to keep the lines of communication open and let the group know what the condi- tions are in Baton Rouge and if they will be able to continue planning their event." Due to the conditions of the venue where the event was to be held, Visit Baton Rouge took action to help the event find a new des- tination. The group was moved to a nearby city and put in contact with the neighboring sports commission, which in turn, assisted with securing both event space and room nights for the group. "We try to keep events in our area or in the state by working with other CVBs and sports commissions when the groups have to move, and we make sure to keep work- ing with the group for future opportunities and hope they choose Baton Rouge when we are able to host again," Ebarb said, add- ing that this particular group was pleased with the outcome. "As a sign of their gratitude and to help with the flood relief in Baton Rouge, the group gave money from their total ticket sales." n SPECIAL Feature t Disaster-readiness Tips A crisis can occur at any time. Often, it's the response of a planner or destination that establish- es success or failure in dealing with a potential disastrous situation. Seasoned sports events professionals offer best-practice tips from the trenches. Bob Campbell, APR, Senior Communications Manager, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce: "Make sure you are plugged into the official sources of information, including the public safety community, the public information officers and others who have overall management of a particular situation. Have a single point of contact within your organization so information flows through one source and is vetted and clearly understood. Stay up to date on external news to anticipate questions and craft an accurate, clear response." Mona Murphy CMP, CTA, CSEE, sports sales manager, Flint & Genesee CVB "Be honest. No one is expected to know everything, especially in a crisis situation. If you don't know the answer to a question, say you don't know, then find the answer. Be resourceful. Is this a short- or long-term crisis? What are the boundaries of the crisis area? Are there safe locations in the community to continue business as usual? From whom/where can you obtain credible information to assist you in making informed decisions?" Milton Segarra, president and CEO, Meet Puerto Rico "Talk and have a conversation. Do not hide anything. Address the situation head on and pro- actively share what the destination is doing to protect visitors." Zach Ebarb, sports and convention sales manager, Visit Baton Rouge "Keep in constant communication with the CVB or sports foundation and check on conditions. Establish a proactive mindset, as opposed to reactive. " n

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