The double-hitter of cost-cutting measures and an aversion to air travel since 9/11 has many companies keeping their meetings near home base.
“More of our clients are definitely meeting regionally,” says Traci Baxter, CMP, business development manager at Monumental Meetings, Atlanta. She cites as an example a major pharmaceutical client that had planned a large meeting in California; the company canceled it and held five regional meetings instead. The hotel chain agreed to mitigate cancellation fees if the client used other hotels in the chain, which it did.
Another of Baxter's clients has banned international incentive travel altogether because of security concerns. “Others are reconsidering overseas travel. Their employees' priorities have shifted, and they just don't want to be far away from their families for long.”
Doug Luciani, spokesman for seven Southwest Florida Meristar-managed properties, reports that Captiva Island South Seas Resort, which relies heavily on conference bookings, is attempting to augment lost business by targeting local businesses for meetings, holiday events, and incentive trips. And in Oregon, the state's tourism commission kicked off a $200,000 ad campaign last month targeting in-state travel for fall and winter, with the goal of keeping business and leisure travel local.
“Since September 11, hotels have been scrambling — shoring up contacts both near and far for meetings,” reports Maura Nelson, vice president of marketing for the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “The midweek lull in business travel has hoteliers nationwide hurting more than anything else.”
Luciani does predict a rebound on the horizon. “There's a big lull until after January, but for the second quarter of 2002, event bookings look very near normal, or pre-September 11 levels.”