It’s the most influential event in the travel and tourism industry: World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual Global Summit.

The highest-level industry leaders meet with government representatives to take action on the most important issues across the travel industry. More than 600 delegates from 40 different countries were arriving at the Moon Palace Resorts in Cancun, Mexico in April 2021 to “discuss key issues to develop a path out of this pandemic,” said Andrew Brown, regional director of World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The summit was also the first in-person international event since the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020.

Coronavirus Protocols and Preparation

WTTC worked with Global Rescue, a global expert in travel risk and crisis management, to deliver the world’s first international event safely and successfully.

“We knew Global Rescue was the best in the field and we had no hesitation reaching out to ask for help with this world-leading event,” Brown said. “On our staff call, you could see the relief in everyone’s eyes knowing Global Rescue would be on the ground and the safety, health and hygiene processes were in place so nothing could go wrong. And if something did go wrong, we had a safety net behind us.”

Safety preparations started months in advance. WTTC and Global Rescue reviewed the global requirements and recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the UK Government and the Government of Quintana Roo. Strict health and safety protocols were designed and sent to attendees in advance of the event.

Weeks before the conference, Global Rescue deployed a team to Mexico to gather local medical knowledge, evaluate health care capabilities and build relationships with hospital administrators.

“Senior Global Rescue paramedics deployed to Cancun two weeks prior to the main event to vet the medical infrastructure locally,” said Scott Hume, vice president of operations at Global Rescue. “The team met with the hospital’s medical directors and assessed the capabilities of all the private hospitals in Cancun. This was also done with hotel clinics, ground ambulance and air ambulance providers.”

Global Rescue was also on-site for the duration of the event to provide medical and travel advisory services, medical evacuation and logistics oversight, and field rescue for injury or illness, including COVID-19.

During the conference, Global Rescue stood at the ready with an on-site operation center to manage, monitor, support and respond to any medical event.

“Two on-the-ground senior paramedics were on call 24/7 in case of emergency,” Hume said.

Global Rescue monitored coronavirus testing, which ran like clockwork. Circular Lab by Klincore was the official arrival testing provider for the summit bubble and Palace Resorts laboratories provided the antigen arrival tests and PCR and antigen departure tests. All event staff took an antigen test on arrival and re-tested every 72 hours. Delegates were tested on arrival and, only on receipt of negative test, were able to check in and collect a summit badge.

Security for Dignitaries and Executives

Health wasn’t the only travel concern. Security was critical for senior-level attendees that included CEOs, founders, directors, chairman, ministers of tourism and government dignitaries.

“WTTC members are by invitation only, industry leaders and government representatives at the highest level,” said Brown.

“This convention is world-wide,” said Rene Herrera Ruiz, services director of conference services for Moon Palace’s Quintana Roo properties. “When we hold big international conferences, we need to be aware of the group’s needs to prepare in advance. When the convention arrives, we want a plan for all of it — from the catering to the security.”

Global Rescue was on hand to provide the security support WTTC needed. The Global Rescue operations team — experts with military special operations backgrounds, combat experience, the ability to perform missions in difficult environments and global travel experience — conducted a security assessment in liaison with hotel management and security before the event.

“The process starts by liaising with organizers to review, assess and assist with development of medical and security protocols,” said Harding Bush, associate manager of operations at Global Rescue. “We visit the site and look at all the involved entities: airport, transportation companies, hotels, various restaurants, hospitals, emergency services and police capabilities. This includes surveying locations, assessing routes and finding points of contact.”

It may sound excessive, but it is smart business.

“If something arises during the convention and we need to proceed with our protocols, we need someone to arrange logistics,” Ruiz said. “I can take care of catering, security within the hotel, I can take care of the ball rooms, but I cannot take care of what happens outside Moon Palace.”

This is where Global Rescue security experts are critical. “We’ve made the appropriate relationships with everyone involved to identify and avoid any escalating security situations,” Bush said.

Once the risk assessment was completed, the Global Rescue security team met with executive staff at all venues to discuss logistics and communications plans, ensuring coordination in an emergency situation. The team remained on the ground throughout the duration of the conference.

“It’s very important to have security professionals who know things like the law, procedures, flights and knowledge of the countries where the conventions are taking place,” Ruiz said. “We felt really confident knowing there’s a company here that knows the things we don’t know.”

Safe and Successful

Close to 1,500 PCR and antigen tests were administered during the event. Social distancing was strictly enforced — mask wearing was mandated in all indoor venues and all seats were a minimum of 1.5 meters apart throughout indoor venues.

The result? Only two individuals tested positive on arrival and were declined admittance.

One individual tested positive prior to departure but, due to enhanced health and safety protocols, no further positive cases were reported 10 days after the summit.

Global Rescue also remained on hand for security purposes, supporting WTTC event staff, maintaining contingency communications and transportation capabilities, and integrating WTTC delegates into Global Rescue services as required.

“Our Global Summit was proof that testing — along with enhanced health and hygiene measures, mandatory mask wearing and complimented by the global vaccine rollout — is the key to safely reopening international travel,” Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president, told Travel Press. “We truly believe we have shown the world how international events, and indeed international travel, can take place by observing the latest health and safety protocols.”

“The initial result was peace of mind for the 600 participants, on-site staff and journalists traveling to the event. The final result was that the conference was run safely and successfully, proving it can be done — even before many are vaccinated,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue.

Your Organization in Partnership with Global Rescue

With coronavirus and security concerns completely managed, WTTC’s Global Summit attendees could focus on the task at hand: restarting travel.

“I was extremely happy to see Global Rescue here,” said Antonio Del Rosal, an event attendee and founder and CEO of Experiencias Genuinas. “It gives you added peace of mind that an event like this is being backed by a professional team. It was incredible for attendees to know that if anything were to happen, they could find a way back home safely.”

Global Rescue’s travel risk, crisis management and response services empower organizations to host an event, knowing every detail has been carefully examined and every precaution taken. We bring in the highest pedigree of medical and security experts to help you make the wisest decisions for your organization, even before your event begins.

“Normally clients don’t think about this type of service until they need it,” said Ruiz.

Providing safety and security takes research and preparation. That’s why Global Rescue’s experts are available to help from planning to execution. 

“My company holds a yearly event and emergency planning is not our strength,” Del Rosal said. “Other events would definitely benefit from Global Rescue support. It takes the edge off risk assessment work and provide the peace of mind organizers and attendees need.”

“This has been my first time working with Global Rescue and, after seeing what they do and how they interacted with my clients for this event, I can highly recommend Global Rescue for all conferences and events being held post pandemic,” said Margarita Luna, corporate director of conference and events services for Moon Palace Resorts.