When we launched the District Conference in July 2021, the world was slowly coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an air of optimism going forward with the vaccination programme expected to reach its conclusion in September.
However, what shape will the world be in next March by the time of our District Conference?
We want to put on a conference where delegates feel safe and confident about an event where there will be a large gathering of people.
In inviting you to book early before the end of October so that we can plan ahead, the District Conference team wants to be as transparent as possible about its plans. In the event of a further lockdown or restrictions next winter, it is important you know what the contingencies are, and how these would affect you:
The key points are:
- We are planning a safe conference, in line with Government policy and Rotary guidance.
- We would like delegates to pay before end October so we can manage cash flow.
- We appreciate some delegates will be nervous about booking ahead in an uncertain climate.
- We have a refunds policy which is clear, offering a risk-free approach to delegates booking for Oxford 2022.
- We want to reassure delegates that their safety and welfare is paramount. By booking and supporting the district conference, they will not lose out financially.
Oxford 2022 will be based at several venues across the city over the three days.
King’s Centre, Osney Mead
This venue will host the main conference events, including plenary sessions, the Rotary technology tournament and Rotary Village, on Friday and Saturday for up to 500 delegates.
Exeter Hall, Kidlington
This venue will host the Friday evening dinner theatre event for up to 200 guests.
Keble College, Oxford
This venue will host the Saturday evening St Patrick’s Day dinner for up to 300 guests.
Oxford City Centre
This will host a number of activities on Sunday, including an environmental challenge, organised by Rotaract, tours of the Oxford colleges by Rotary scholars, plus a tour of the Bodleian Library with coffee and cake.
Tour numbers would be 15-20 for each tour, and the environmental challenge could potentially host around 100 people.
They are also organising a Saturday evening social event at a venue in Oxford City Centre for up to 50 guests.
* The numbers for Exeter Hall and Keble College are based on venue capacity. The other guest/delegate numbers are best guestimates.
Each of the venues are all quite different, each with differing abilities to hold a socially-distanced event. For example, the King’s Centre is a large, spacious venue which would be well suited to staging a socially-distanced conference, with some modifications. Whereas a dinner at Keble College is likely to be impossible to host if new Government restrictions are in place, and the event at Exeter Hall might also be difficult to run.
In planning for Oxford 2022, we have identified key pinch points in the conference timetable. These are dates when we will be forced to make critical decisions about the viability of the event should Government and Rotary guidance change in the wake of a resurgence in Covid cases this winter.
It may be prudent to cancel one or more of the events if the Thames Valley region goes into another lockdown situation or new social distancing restrictions are in place. Also, we have to be prepared for the eventuality that the conference may be cancelled. In the event of the conference being cancelled, then provision is being made for an online district conference.
Cancellation and refunds
In the event of the Thames Valley region going into a Government-enforced lockdown this winter because of a resurgence of COVID-19, the following provisions have been made by the District Conference team:
- The key cut-off date for cancellation of the entire conference is Friday, February 18th, 2022. At this date or before, all monies will be returned to delegates and guests from registration fees at the King’s Centre, and tickets to both the evening events at Exeter Hall and Keble College.
- If social distancing measures mean the conference team cannot stage the evening events at Exeter Hall and Keble College – but the main conference can go ahead at the King’s Centre – then the conference team has until Friday, March 4th, 2022 to cancel Exeter Hall and Keble College. At this date or before, all monies will be returned to guests who booked tickets to the dinner-theatre and St Patrick’s Day dinner. However, registration fees for the King’s Centre conference would not be refunded, since this would still take place.
In the run-up to Oxford 2022, some delegates may be nervous about underlying Covid conditions, even though there have been no Government-enforced lockdown or restrictions. Equally, some delegates, or their partners, may be unwell, or because of important, unexpected commitments, they may be unable to attend.
As with previous conferences, anyone who has registered for Oxford 2022, and the evening dinners, who is forced to cancel for any reason, can do so with a full refund if they inform the registrations officer on or before 11.59pm on January 31st, 2022.
Any delegate choosing to cancel from February 1st, 2022 until March 4th, 2022, would be eligible for a partial refund at the discretion of the conference team chairman and treasurer. After March 4th, regrettably there would be no refunds – and we would hope Rotarians would understand why because of cost undertakings.
The conference team would have the right to cancel the conference if, because of a national state of concern, there was a lack of delegates registering or a large number of delegates cancelled prior to February 18th taking the finances below a break-even point. This would be a measure of last resort.
We hope Rotarians will continue to support the conference, bearing in mind provisions set out to ensure a safe environment for all conference events, closely following Government and Rotary guidelines, supported by a structured refund policy which recognises the uncertainty of COVID-19.
This document will be regularly updated according to the latest Government and Rotary guidance.