Operators of conference centres and other facilities in Canada are joining a global trend to be certified pandemic-resistant as they compete for billions of dollars in economic benefits for their cities. A passenger walks through Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Friday, July 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canadian conference centres, airports, stadiums join rush for anti-pandemic status

Facilities must follow specific criteria to show compliance with the program’s 20 elements

Operators of Canada’s conference centres, airports and stadiums are joining a global rush to be certified as pandemic-resistant while they compete for events and visitors that will bring billions of dollars in economic benefits for their cities.

In recent weeks, convention centres in Edmonton and Calgary, B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver and the Trudeau International Airport in Montreal have reported achieving GBAC Star accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of international cleaning industry association ISSA.

“It’s important when the messaging goes out that it is that ‘Calgary is a safe destination for conventions,’” said Kurby Court, CEO of the Calgary Telus Convention Centre, who said he is fielding booking inquiries for events three or four years in the future, potentially long after a vaccine has been developed for COVID-19.

“When you’re comparing destinations, this will be one of the deciding factors moving forward. Safety and biorisk is not going away.”

The accreditation is designed to show that training has taken place and there’s a proven system of cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention for staff and buildings to head off biohazards like the novel coronavirus.

Facilities must follow specific criteria to show compliance with the program’s 20 elements, which range from standard operating procedures and risk assessment to personal protective equipment and emergency preparedness and response measures.

On Friday, Illinois-based ISSA unveiled a searchable database on its website for its growing list of accredited facilities.

“The GBAC Star program has more than 250 facilities accredited and 3,000-plus committed to accreditation in more than 80 countries, with additional facilities added daily,” said GBAC executive director Patricia Olinger.

The accredited list includes more than a dozen Hyatt hotels in locations that range from Danang, Vietnam, to San Francisco, along with airports, industrial sites and retail buildings around the globe.

“People spend a lot of time inside our terminal building when they travel, the same way they do when they go to a convention centre or a stadium,” said Anne-Sophie Hamel, spokeswoman for Trudeau International, adding it has also been certified under the Airport Health Accreditation Program offered by Airport Councils International.

“Those accreditations prove that (the airport) will be ready to welcome more passengers in the terminal, as soon as the borders open, and shows our deep commitment to keeping people safe and confident for their future travels.”

She said the airport is expecting about 71 per cent fewer passengers this year than last year.

The pandemic has hit airports and convention centres particularly hard because of border lockdowns that prevent people from travelling, along with local bans on large indoor gatherings.

In Calgary, the convention centre’s main ballroom was used to temporarily house up to 300 homeless people per night in April, May and June as a measure to enhance social distancing at the downtown Calgary Drop-In Centre shelter.

The room, which can accommodate as many as 4,000 people, has since returned to its usual role of hosting meetings and conferences but business has been less than brisk and the staff count has fallen by more than half.

Some customers have postponed bookings more than once, some events have gone to a “hybrid” model with a mix of in-person and online participation and many events have been cancelled entirely.

“It’s in the hundreds of events that have moved,” Court said. “It has a tremendous economic effect for the city.”

The BMO Centre at Stampede Park in Calgary, which also handles conventions, has also been certified by GBAC and the united front is important for Calgary’s reputation as a safe place going forward, Court said.

Certification involved preparing a exhaustive submission and paying a “nominal” registration fee of about $1,000, he said. The certification is to be reviewed annually.

Because of travel bans, no one from the association actually travelled to Calgary, he said.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

airportsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
More than 12,000 mail-in ballots received from Parksville Qualicum voters

Elections BC to report final tallies after Nov. 6

The Town of Qualicum Beach to remove St. Andrews Lodge from the waterfront property that will be turned into a public park. (Town of Qualicum Beach photo)
Town of Qualicum Beach to remove old St. Andrews Lodge building

Staff: Cost for renovation could be more than a brand-new house

City of Parksville released a community COVID-19 update, dated Oct. 26. (NEWS file photo)
City of Parksville releases COVID-19 update for community

New provincial health order limits gatherings in homes to immediate household plus ‘safe six’

Retiring local politicians Carole James and Andrew Weaver will receive annual payouts estimated at $87,000 and $34,000, respectively, under the pension plan for outgoing MLAs in B.C., according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. (Black Press Media file photos)
Taxpayer watchdog howling over outgoing MLAs’ pension payouts

Carole James, Andrew Weaver among Island MLAs whose pensions are calculated by taxpayers federation

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Most Read