Professional event coordinators are ‘more than ready’ to work amid pandemic
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
The Puerto Rico Professional Event Coordinators Association (ACEP by its Spanish acronym) presented on Monday their post-COVID-19 protocol guide for weddings and events, and called on Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced to reactivate the wedding and event industry as they are “more than ready” to continue working safely amid the pandemic.
ACEP President Rafael Ramos said the document, which took recommendations from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is a “live guide” that will determine how professional event coordinators will organize future events and care for their guests during the pandemic in accordance with the executive orders enacted by the governor.
Some of the main points from the guide are requiring both wedding planners and industry providers to certify and educate on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, promote the proper use of restaurants and lounges, urge guests to be tested 72 hours prior to the event, ensure that churches, temples and other ceremonial spaces comply with safety measures, and hire public health personnel to supervise such events according to CDC recommendations.
“The wedding and event industry provides a significant economic injection to the local tourism and destination sector. We recognize that the Puerto Rican wedding industry is the most affected group as great financial losses have been estimated due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ramos said, while suggesting that professional event coordinators should focus on intimate settings. “For this reason, it’s important to get back to work with thoughtfulness; therefore, we request the reopening of such events to up to 50 percent of [venue] capacity.”
Meanwhile, Leonardo 5th Avenue owner Leonardo Cordero said the island wedding industry, which produces from $300-500 million a year and “generates thousands of jobs and keeps local microbusinesses alive,” has had to postpone and cancel events, which has made workers “work more and earn less.” He added that the industry “needs a map so that, little by little, we recover enough funds to support Puerto Rico’s economy.”
“We want to invite the government to recognize our work, focused on phases, focused on order and safety in order to reactivate our sector and the economic welfare of thousands of Puerto Ricans,” Cordero said.
Likewise, D’Royal Bride owner Damaris Díaz told members of the press that she feels “a lot of uncertainty” as she fears that her 30-year-old bridal fashion enterprise on Roosevelt Avenue is at risk of closing as she has seen her colleagues’ businesses paralyzed due to the pandemic and some have had to shut down or move off the island.
“How can I not be scared if we have no [sense of direction], if we don’t know what’s going to happen? My business is operating with the due requirements by law, but my colleagues in the industry are paralyzed and I don’t want to keep hearing about failed attempts, I want to keep hearing stories of successful employers. Many of them have lost their homes, cars, and even had to give back the keys to their venues. This is our time to recover,” Díaz said. “If we don’t do something to activate our sector, many of us will be unable to survive. What is the difference between going to a restaurant to dine with my family and going to a wedding, when you can do exactly the same? What’s more, I feel safer at a wedding because I know I can count on highly capable personnel who can safeguard the guests’ welfare.”
Members of the industry are expected to meet with the governor today to negotiate the terms of their reopening as they estimate that losses have gone up to $300 million since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.