Destination Irvine, Irvine Hotels Partner to Advocate for State Guidance in the Reopening of Business Meetings

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Main News Photo

Leaders from Greater Irvine Chamber and Irvine hotels met with Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan at the Irvine Marriott on March 16 as part of the California Hotel & Lodging Association’s hotel demo program advocating for state guidelines on safe reopening of business meetings.

“Every other state released protocols and has been safely holding meetings during the pandemic, but California has prohibited meetings of any size since the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect on March 19, 2020. As a result, other states are exploiting California's lack of guidelines for meetings and poaching business intended for Irvine,” said Wendy Haase, vice president of Destination Irvine, a division of the Greater Irvine Chamber.

General managers Diane Blake (Sonesta Irvine), Dianne Markis (Marriott Irvine Spectrum), and Kandee Anderson (Irvine Marriott) together, described the impact that the lack of state guidance for the reopening of business meetings is having on both the hotel industry and the local economy. 

“When meetings come to Irvine, everyone benefits. The dynamic face-to-face industry creates jobs, generates commerce, and creates far-reaching community impact,” said Bryan Starr, president and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber and Destination Irvine. “In 2019, meetings in Irvine generated $7 million in economic impact to the local community. Meetings help to drive Irvine’s economy.”

Anderson showcased the hotel’s recent upgrades and capabilities in place to accommodate for safe gathering, including ballroom and meeting area configurations for groups of 50 under the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines, safe kitchen protocols, and specially designed bathroom sink faucets with individualized no-touch soap, washing, and drying stations.  

“California Meeting Guidelines are essential as we are in direct competition with other cities and states for group business. We are losing current and future group business without giving guidelines to our customers. The ‘new normal’ may evolve and change over time to reflect government guidance and new societal expectations. What will never change, though, is our commitment to keeping hotel associates, guests, and customers safe,” Anderson said.

Haase added, “Irvine hotels are following COVID-19 protocols and the safety standards established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH). They are ready to welcome groups back to their properties.” 

Meetings Mean Business tracker shares the latest state-by-state protocols for in-person gatherings—including occupancy limits, mask requirements, and travel protocols. Haase said approving or releasing these, or similar guidelines, is desperately needed to signal Irvine is ready to compete for and win back future business, jobs, and revenue that California is currently losing to other states.

Mayor Khan was urged to sign a coalition letter written by the California Travel Association (CalTravel) requesting reopening guidance from Governor Newsom. 

Mayor Khan issued a statement through a video made during the March 16 visit, “Irvine is committed to providing you with a safe environment that aligns with expert protocols for hosting your next meeting or event. We invite you to meet safely in Irvine.” The statement will be incorporated into a Destination Irvine promotional video targeting meeting planners. 

The proposed safe reopening California guidelines were submitted to the state’s administration in June 2020 by a diverse coalition of organizations and are the guidelines being referenced by CalTravel in regards to the request for reopening guidance of business meetings. The guidelines are for hotel meetings as well as convention centers. 

For more information on group meetings and other things to do in Irvine, visit

Pictured: Diane Blake, General Manager, Sonesta Irvine; Dianne Markis, General Manager, Marriott Irvine Spectrum; Paul Simonds, Chair, Greater Irvine Chamber Government Affairs; Irvine Mayor Farrah N. Khan; Bryan Starr, President and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber; Wendy Haase, Vice President, Destination Irvine; Kandee Anderson, General Manager, Irvine Marriott.

Category: Economic Development, COVID-19, Destination Irvine, Greater Irvine Chamber