NAME: Myriam Conrie

BUSINESS NAME: Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour

POSITION: director of sales and marketing

What are you working on right now in anticipation of a return of events?

Welcoming, safeguarding and taking care of others is at the very heart of what we do and who we are at Accor and Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour. So naturally, the health, safety and well-being of our staff, guests, delegates and partners has been our top priority since the start of the pandemic.

With the launch of ALLSAFE, Accor’s global cleanliness and prevention label, we have implemented some of the most stringent cleaning standards in the world of hospitality. These standards have been developed with and vetted by Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing inspections and certification. They include reinforced cleaning procedures, with frequent hospital-grade disinfection of all high-touch areas such as the lobby, public restrooms and lifts. We are also a registered COVID-SAFE venue, fully complying with NSW government regulations.

We are now able to welcome everyone back into a safe, clean and trusted environment, ensuring our conference delegates don’t have to choose between safety, comfort, delicious food and world-class service during these uncertain times.

Similar to the rest of the event industry, we’ve had to be extremely agile and adapt our selling tools very quickly – drawing new Covid-safe floor plans, adapting our contracts to reflect current circumstances, creating new catering menus and developing new hybrid/virtual conferencing solutions with our AV partner, AV Dynamics.

We’ve also made good use of this quiet time to do some structural work in our award-winning Champagne Bar (allowing more space and social distancing for private functions) and conference floor, adding a new multipurpose venue to our facilities. Our second largest meeting room at 112 sqm, Byrne Room is ideally located in a corner of the building and allows plenty of natural light. It will be an ideal venue for mid-size events from day to night.

What’s one lesson you have learnt during the COVID-19 lockdown period?

Two things, if I may: the importance of agility, and the need for empathy and emotional intelligence.

Agility – because in an ever-changing environment where we’re dealing with fluid market conditions and safety requirements, it is vital to be able to keep an open mind, move fast and think outside the box.

Empathy and emotional intelligence – because it’s important to remember that we’re all human beings before being business partners. We’re all someone’s friend, partner, relative or parent, dealing with stress and uncertainty, and many of us have been affected by the current pandemic in more ways than one, both in our personal and professional lives. This is why our team has been very actively engaged with each other, with our clients and industry colleagues – regularly checking in, doing welfare checks and asking how we can be of assistance. We’re all in this together.

What do you value more now than you may have pre-COVID-19?

Human connection – 100 per cent! Especially in our industry, where we’re naturally wired for human connection and vibrant social interactions. This, and the joy of being able to travel in our incredible country and beyond. Who would have guessed this privilege would be taken away from us one day…

How do you think events will change in the future?

Our industry has just experienced a tectonic shift, and many of the recent changes are here to stay – such as the increased focus on health and safety, social distancing, and the need for superior technology to support hybrid and virtual events.

One of things we’ve been observing is the pent-up demand for wellness and health-enhancing offerings. The global pandemic has clearly illustrated that a strong and healthy immune system lowers one’s vulnerability to infections, and post-pandemic travellers and event delegates will be placing a greater emphasis on nutrition.

This is why, in addition to our already extensive vegan/gluten-free menu, we’re about to launch an exciting new offering in partnership with an Australian superfoods expert. This will include a series of deliciously healthy drinks and a new high tea, rich in wild caught marine collagen, WPI proteins, minerals and naturally occurring antioxidants to support the immune system and total wellbeing. In true Sofitel style, we think nutritious food shouldn’t compromise on taste and joie de vivre – so watch this space!

Another thing that is here to stay is our guests and clients’ increased focus on sustainability. Whilst sustainable concerns have taken a back seat to health and safety concerns in a Covid world, research is also showing that there is a strong correlation between sustainability and a traveller’s or delegate’s perception of superior health and safety standards. Earlier this year, in line with Accor Hotels’ global environmental strategy, Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic items from guest rooms, including individual plastic water bottles. We’re all passionately committed and will continue to explore every possible avenue to reduce our environmental impact.

Why are events important?

With so many of us working remotely, and the nature of nine-to-five work changed so significantly, events will be more important than ever in keeping employees, colleagues, friends and students engaged, connected and mentally healthy. People crave human connection and a bit of indulgence – be in virtual or in real life!