Experience Columbus leads initiative to prepare city for eventual return of mass gatherings

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In preparation for the return of larger gatherings as the country begins to reopen, Experience Columbus is coordinating an effort to help its partners to pursue the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s GBAC STAR™ accreditation, which is the cleaning industry’s gold standard of prepared facilities and the only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities. The organization will be one of the nation’s first to lead a collaborative, citywide effort toward partners securing GBAC STAR, and at least one partner in every one of Experience Columbus’ industry sectors – event venues, transportation, lodging, attractions – has already committed to securing the accreditation, demonstrating the city’s commitment to health and safety in the new normal. Additionally, the city’s public bus system is the first in the country to commit to pursuing the accreditation.  

This is Experience Columbus’ latest initiative under its new “Live Forward” marketing campaign, which launched earlier this month and is focused on helping the destination rebuild during and beyond COVID-19. GBAC STAR accreditation, administered by GBAC, a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, will be a level two component of the “Live Forward Pledge,” a commitment that more than 85 Central Ohio organizations and businesses have made to put health and safety at the forefront now more than ever. Partners who have signed the pledge, especially those that typically host larger events and meetings, will be encouraged to pursue GBAC STAR accreditation to take that commitment to the next level.

“Our city has already taken great strides toward making residents and visitors feel safe in this new era,” said Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus. “This GBAC accreditation will further prepare us and our partners to welcome more people back into our city.”

The GBAC STAR accreditation process requires facilities to comply with the program’s 20 elements, which range from risk assessment and mitigation strategies to personal protective equipment and infectious disease prevention practices. Several of the city’s primary visitor touchpoints have already committed to pursuing accreditation, including John Glenn Columbus International Airport, Greater Columbus Convention Center, Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), the Hilton Columbus Downtown, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Hyatt Place Columbus/OSU, Courtyard Columbus OSU, The Grand Event Center and Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

“When we launched the ‘Live Forward Pledge,’ we immediately saw the overwhelming commitment our partners were ready to make to put the health and safety of their customers and guests front and center,” said Sarah Townes, Experience Columbus vice president of marketing. “As many of our partners prepare to eventually reopen their doors to large events, particularly in the meetings and conventions industry, they will be able to do so in a way that inspires confidence in visitors by securing this global gold standard in cleanliness.”

“GBAC STAR provides third-party validation for facilities to demonstrate that they implement strict protocols for biorisk situations,” said GBAC Executive Director Patty Olinger. “As organizations across Columbus achieve GBAC STAR accreditation for their facilities, they will help distinguish Columbus as forward-thinking and prepared to foster clean, safe and healthy environments for visitors and residents.” 

To learn more about how to get involved with the “Live Forward” effort, visit ExperienceColumbus.com/LiveForward or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.


Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus' blend of neighborhoods; dynamic nightlife; noteworthy music scene; arts and culinary experiences; events; attractions; and accommodations are all made unforgettable by the diversity of its outgoing locals who eagerly await warmly welcoming visitors. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at www.ExperienceColumbus.com. Visitor information is also available on Facebook: facebook.com/ExperienceColumbus, Twitter: @ExpCols and Instagram: @experiencecolumbus.

About GBAC, a Division of ISSA
Composed of international leaders in the field of microbial-pathogenic threat analysis, mitigation, response, and recovery, the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a Division of ISSA, provides training, guidance, accreditation, certification, crisis management assistance, and leadership to government, commercial and private entities looking to mitigate, quickly address, and/or recover from biological threats and real-time crises. The organization’s services include biorisk management program assessment and training, Forensic Restoration® response and remediation, the GBAC STAR™ facility accreditation program, training and certification of individuals and consulting for building owners and facility managers. For more information, visit www.gbac.org.