In this issue, we've taken the pulse of the industry in one of its most turbulent periods ever. We spoke with the airlines, a leading hotel industry analyst, the heads of major meeting and incentive associations, and our readers.

“What's in the cards for 2003?” we asked. “Where are we going from here?” Although the consensus is that companies are moving forward with their meeting and incentive plans, there's a sense out there that everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“These days, you're rolling the dice when you choose an international destination,” said John Sasen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, World Medical Inc., at a recent panel discussion at The Society of Incentive & Travel Executives' Annual Conference in Miami. “An incentive is supposed to be a reward — but it can feel like a penalty if the winners don't believe they're safe.”

Yet one of Sasen's distributor groups just returned from Cannes and Rome, and he's checking out Africa and Thailand for future programs. SITE spokesman Joe Carbonara reported that, across the board, members are continuing to use international destinations in 2003, especially because there's been a pent-up demand from trips that were canceled for 2002. Our own annual Incentive Trends Survey (see page 28) found that 73 percent of our readers were planning international trips for this year.

On the meeting side, cover subject Kevin McNally, co-president of the Society of Corporate Meeting Professionals and convention services director at the Westin Chicago River North, is grappling with meetings not making their projected numbers, downsized corporate meeting departments, and customers with slashed budgets. In his candid style, he summed up the next year more humorously than anyone else we spoke with: “Our customers are looking for more value for the dollar, and you've got a lot of hotels looking for a bigger piece of the same pie. I always like to say, ‘Take human bites.’ We used to just dig in, and now we're all going on diets.”

And hoping the other shoe doesn't drop.

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