Conference in Jeopardy Due to Ebola Outbreak: What Would You Advise?


This morning I saw a comment on an article about attrition and force majeure that made me want to weep for the meeting planner. He said:

I am in the situation of having booked and contracted into a hotel in West Africa for a Summit high-level gathering. Delegate attendees and executives that were coming to the Summit NOW say, "Actually, I would rather not" due to concerns over health with outbreaks of Ebola growing in the region. My staff are also concerned and the whole event is in jeopardy. Hotel states it's business as usual and cannot cancel or refund 10% deposit paid.

Of course, we don't know the details of the contract or how its force majeure clause is worded or whether the hotel is part of a chain or independently owned and operated, but do you have any advice for this planner? If so, please leave a comment below or e-mail me. I keep thinking about meetings happening when the SARS outbreak was in the news...maybe this article on cancellation and force majeure in the SARS era would be useful?

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Aug 19, 2014

Hi Sue. I am based in Southern Africa and the risks associated with this disease are very real. If the hotel is part of a chain perhaps the event can be moved to another property in the chain but in another country where the deposit can be transferred? Failing this, then forfeiting the deposit will probably be the result. But when one considers that this disease has no cure then this loss may be more palatable. It seems the hotel is simply being intransigent. Delina. Zimbabwe

on Aug 20, 2014

If there is a force majeure clause, I would read that carefully (and get a legal opinion on it, if necessary) because that really is the only no-liability out in this situation. If there is event cancellation insurance, ask them whether this situation fits the policy. This is akin to the cases of SARS in Toronto when a group chose to cancel their conference. It was damaging to the city and hotels of Toronto, but the group felt it could not hold the event.

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