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Combating COVID at Trade Show and Event Facilities with ISSA’s GBAC STAR Program


CHICAGO — The Global BioRisk Advisory Council (GBAC) today officially launched GBAC STAR, an accreditation program that assesses cleaning and disinfection practices, and infectious-disease prevention.

According to GBAC, it is the industry’s only accreditation for outbreak prevention, response and recovery, establishing requirements to control risks associated with infectious agents, such as the virus that causes COVID-19. Hyatt Hotels Corp., McCormick Place, the Las Vegas Convention Center, United Service Companies (TSE’s parent company), the Orange County Convention Center and Hard Rock Stadium (home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins) are among the many companies and venues that have already registered for GBAC STAR accreditation.

GBAC is recognized as a leader in training and accreditation in bio-risk management, decontamination and infection control. The council is a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association. ISSA partners on the Informa-owned ISSA Show North America, a longstanding Trade Show Executive Gold 100 show.

“Going through the accreditation gives an organization, employees, clients and customers another layer of assurance,” said Patricia (Patty) Olinger, GBAC’s Executive Director. “When visitors see the GBAC STAR seal as they enter buildings, it will give them confidence and peace of mind that they are entering a clean, safe and accredited facility.”

Related. Read TSE’s Q&A with Patty Olinger on Cleaning for COVID and Other Infectious Diseases HERE.

Ideal for facilities like restaurants, hotels, airports, convention centers, stadiums and other public venues, the GBAC STAR program assesses a facility’s preparedness and provides staff with training for bio-risk prevention and containment. The program also establishes a framework for communication and awareness best practices.

“We are pleased to be part of ISSA’s GBAC STAR accreditation program. We value the opportunity to demonstrate to our customers that the cleaning standards we have adopted at McCormick Place will be verified by an independent third-party organization as important as ISSA/GBAC,” said David Causton, General Manager, McCormick Place.

A safe return to business is top-of-mind as the ecomomy reopens. “The health and safety of our employees and our visitors is always the top priority for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and our facility, the Las Vegas Convention Center,” said Brian Yost, Chief Operating Officer, LVCVA. ” We are grateful to the GBAC STAR program for creating the industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation, and we’re proud to be among the first wave of leaders to pursue this accreditation. Demonstrating compliance will be an important step toward showing the world that Vegas means business, and when the time is right, the Las Vegas Convention Center stands ready to welcome our business travelers back.”

That reassurance is what top execuitves from the Miami Dolphins management team were also looking for when it chose the GBAC STAR accreditation for the team’s home venue. ”When our fans, players and staff are able to return to Hard Rock Stadium, we want them to have peace of mind that we’re doing everything we can to create the safest and healthiest environment possible,” said Tom Garfinkel, Dolphins CEO/President. “We didn’t want to create our own standard. We wanted to be accountable to the most credible third-party standard that exists. Working with the GBAC ensures compliances with critical guidelines for the highest standard of cleanliness, and it is our hope that other venues will follow suit as we navigate through these unprecedented times.”

Hyatt Hotels Corp. is the first hospitality brand to announce plans to commit to GBAC STAR accreditation, which will include detailed training at more than 900 Hyatt hotels worldwide starting this month. The GBAC STAR accreditation is part of the brand’s multi-layered Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment. “What’s unique about our commitment is that it examines the entirety of the hotel experience — from health and hygiene to food and beverage safety to technology and even how spaces are designed and used. We are taking decisive actions — like committing to third party accreditation across the portfolio, appointing Hygiene Managers or Teams at every property and working closely with medical and industry professionals from companies like American Airlines and Gensler — to make sure our guests feel confident that everything we do is with their safety in mind,” said Frank Lavey, Hyatt’s Senior Vice President, global operations.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the GBAC STAR accreditation program “is exactly what facilities need to confidently reopen and keep staff, customers and communities safe,” said ISSA Executive Director John Barrett. “The way the world views cleaning has changed overnight,” Barrett added. “To effectively recover from this crisis and prepare for the next, it’s essential that businesses take these necessary steps — and we’re thrilled to have a stable of top organizations that have already committed to the program.”

ISSA reports that these Industry organizations are among the first to commit their support for GBAC STAR accreditation:

  • Informa Markets
  • Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority – Las Vegas Convention Center
  • McCormick Place in Chicago
  • Visit Dallas, Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District hotels and Dallas city-owned visitor venues
  • International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and its 12,000 members in 50 countries
  • International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) (7,000 member facilities globally)
  • International Facility Management Association (23,000 members worldwide)
  • The Professional Beauty Association (100,000 members)
  • Global Market Development Center, the premier trade association for the retail industry
  • Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (400 hotels)
  • The Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity
  • Go LIVE Together, a coalition of leaders from the live events industry that represents more than 4,000 companies
  • United Service Companies

All-Encompassing Accreditation
To achieve GBAC STAR accreditation, organizations and facilities must demonstrate compliance with the program’s 20 elements, which range from standard operating procedures and risk assessment strategies to personal protective equipment and emergency preparedness and response measures. Facilities will apply online and provide all documentation and supporting evidence with their application. The GBAC STAR Accreditation Council determines the status of all GBAC STAR facilities.

Related. Learn more about GBAC’s 20 elements and accreditation at

The GBAC STAR accreditation has been likened to a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which rates a building’s sustainability efforts and infrastructure. Unlike the LEED program, however, the GBAC program does not offer different levels of certification.

“At this point, there is not a level of accreditation option,” Olinger said. “In response to the coronavirus and the need to assist buildings and facilities to reopen and be safe in re-opening activities, we created the current model, which is intensive and all-encompassing. That being said, in the future we may consider different levels of accreditation, depending on the need.”

As facilities start to re-open, establishing confidence with employees, clients and customers will be imperative, she added. “For facilities taking part in this program, achieving the GBAC STAR accreditation shows their commitment that proper cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention practices are in place and implemented. A GBAC STAR facility also becomes a member of the GBAC community. We learn from each other and we are all safer together.”

Look for our indepth article about this groundbreaking initiative in our June issue.

Reach Patty Olinger at (847) 982-0800 or; John Barrett at; and Frank Lavey at; David Causton at (312) 791-6155 or

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