Orange County Convention Center Is First to Receive GBAC STAR Re-Accreditation 

August 19, 2021

The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla., has become the first facility of its kind to receive GBAC STAR Facility Re-accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association.

The OCCC was one of the first convention centers to receive initial GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation when the program was launched in 2020, and the re-accreditation comes following one year of successfully hosting events amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our GBAC STAR re-accreditation on outbreak prevention, response and recovery is another step to ensuring the center’s business continuity and as we continue to lead the economic recovery in the conventions and trade show industry,” OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester said.

The OCCC has always been committed to hosting safe events and prioritizing the health of all who enter the center, according to Tester. 

“GBAC STAR has been instrumental in helping us get to where we are today,” he said. “We are grateful for the ongoing support and flexibility of our clients and partners, as well as our guests and employees, as we continue to uphold the new standard of cleanliness.”

GBAC STAR Facility Re-accreditation is an annual process that builds on the initial accreditation to ensure that accredited facilities continue to evolve, improve, and advance with the performance-based GBAC STAR program elements. The elements are designed to help facilities establish a comprehensive system of cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention for their staff and their building.

With more than 1,000 facilities having achieved the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation in 2020, many are now beginning the process of re-accreditation with GBAC.

“We designed GBAC STAR to grow and evolve with facilities as new information and best practices emerge,” said GBAC Executive Director Patricia Olinger. “The re-accreditation process is a great way to ensure that over time, facilities continue to do everything in their power to prevent the spread of infection.”

Innovative Health and Safety Model

With its GBAC Star Re-accreditation, Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines, pioneering collaboration with Orlando Health and detailed planning efforts with each event, the OCCC implemented a unique model that it said has been the key to hosting events safely in the new era of health and safety protocols.

The protocols in its initial Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines were an important aspect of the OCCC’s original GBAC Star Accreditation. The OCCC completed 20 GBAC program elements with specific performance and guidance criteria, which enabled the center to establish and maintain a cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program to control and/or minimize risk associated with infectious agents for employees, guests, the community and the environment. The center also created a framework for communication and awareness of best practices for cleaning and disinfection. 

Additionally, all full-time, part-time and temporary Orange County Convention Center employees are now required to be fully vaccinated unless otherwise exempt due to medical, religious or covered reasons by Sept. 30. 

Through the GBAC Star standards and its Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines, the OCCC has numerous healthy and safety measures in place for its employees, service partners and facility overall, including the following:

  • Physical distancing based on CDC guidelines
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with CDC guidelines 
  • Hand sanitizers and hand wash stations
  • Cleaning and sanitizing of public spaces and communal front of the house areas
  • Front of the house health and hygiene signage
  • Recommended notification procedures in accordance with Florida Department of Health for presumptive cases of COVID-19
  • Proper employee health concern practices
  • COVID-19 safety and sanitation training for employees
  • Facility cleaning systems with proper sanitization 
  • Industrial grade scrubbing machines
  • HVAC systems that run 24 hours a day in front of house areas and 24 hours a day in exhibition halls when occupied
  • Strict health and safety protocols for all service partners

Meanwhile, the OCCC’s collaboration with Orlando Health provides personalized medical services and resources to all meeting and convention groups holding events at the center. Available services include customized medical plan guidance, direct access to PPE for attendees, medically certified communication materials, 24/7 medical concierge through Orlando Health’s Virtual Visit and on-site medical expert and medical advisory services for the event’s host hotels, transportation vendors and other significant partners through Orlando Health’s Business Ready initiative.

Safe Event Successes 

Since July 2020, the OCCC has safely and successfully hosted more than 100 face-to-face events with its vast list of health and safety protocols in place. The center never closed its doors and has been practicing the enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols for the last 18 months.

Additionally, the OCCC team works to accommodate the requests and needs of each show. Over the last 18 months, the center has placed additional hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations as requested by the client. Medical service providers have also given temperature checks through thermal scanning or other screening processes to ensure guests, exhibitors and attendees were fever-free. In Feb. 2021, MAGIC, OFFPRICE and WWIN show planners worked cohesively with the OCCC team to provide a safe and productive trade show environment, requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test on entry for all attendees.

The center has also done customized overhead announcements in the public space, in addition to the standard OCCC messaging that is played every hour on the hour throughout the concourses. OCCC Event Management also worked with customers to adjust floor plans to include dedicated entry-exit points for crowd management, including wider aisles to accommodate physical distancing. 

“The center will continue to focus on infectious disease prevention practices and work with all of our events based on their unique needs to give clients, attendees and exhibitors a sense of safety and comfort,” Lester said.

As of August 19, 2021, the OCCC has 52 contracted events planned throughout the rest of the year, which it said represents approximately 550,000 attendees and about $1 billion in economic impact to the community. The list includes 12 conventions, trade shows and sporting events that have relocated to the OCCC from other venues. 

In July, the OCCC hosted 19 events with approximately 152,725 attendees and a collective economic impact of more than $234 million. June marked a record-breaking comeback for the center, with 14 events and more than 167,000 attendees for nearly $240 million in economic impact.

“OCCC is a leader in the industry, showing how to hold safe events in the middle of a pandemic and beyond,” GBAC’s Olinger said.



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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? 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Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.