The good news is that 2002 is a go.
That was the word in late September from a gathering of 65 meeting organizers at the Sheraton Palace Hotel, San Francisco, discussing the impact of 9/11 on their companies. There was bad news, too, from the hotel and convention bureau representatives: group cancellations, no shows, and the virtual disappearance of business travelers.
Eleven days after the terrorist attacks, panelist Dan Gannett, business development manager, McGettigan Meetings Plus, said his company was flooded with cancellations for the 30- to 60-day period after September 11. However, he reported no cancellations for 2002. “There will be a period of grief, but travel will pick up again. … Meetings are going to continue,” he said. He predicted that some customers will opt for local gatherings, some will go regional, and others will move readily back into familiar cross-country patterns.
Like McGettigan, Maritz Travel Co. has seen cancellations for the third quarter of 2001, but none for 2002, according to panelist Anette Falkner, senior account executive for Maritz's business group travel. She reported “substantial” international cancellations in Europe and Turkey, but she said other overseas destinations were maintaining their bookings.
According to Sally Henderson, director of convention sales for the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, her city had some initial cancellations, but other scheduled events were being held. “Companies are coming, but we are seeing cuts in attendee numbers,” she said. She also expects an even larger drop in accompanying spouses and family members.
Suzanne Parsons, vice president of conferences and events for Wells Fargo Bank, is cutting down onby adapting to travelers' concerns. Because of flying fears, she is pushing alternatives, including bus charters and carpools. “There is no way to assure customers there won't be future problems, but the situation will only get worse if planners, suppliers, and destinations don't keep the industry moving,” said Parsons.
Pacific Agenda, a San Francisco meeting and event company, organized the summit.