Many chains have announced policies that extend beyond the immediate weeks after the tragedy. Among them:

Hilton Hotels Corp. — No cancellation charges or penalties will be imposed for any group, social, or other event between September 11 and October 31.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts — Cancelling reservations upon request and waiving cancellation fees for individual guests until further notice in situations where customers are not able to get to their scheduled destinations. Waiving all cancellation and attrition fees for groups that would have actualized within 30 days [of September 11].

Loews Hotels — Allowing cancellations without penalty to all groups who cancel before October 31, with the provision that they rebook within one year.

Ritz-Carlton — For those companies directly affected by the recent tragic events, all business is being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Wyndham International — Working with group bookings on a case-by-case basis.

Companies that cancel upcoming meetings shouldn't have too much to worry about — at least in the short term, according to meeting industry attorney Tyra Hilliard of the Atlanta-area firm Sumner & Associates, P.C.

A “force majeure” refers to an event that cannot be definitely foreseen or controlled, and includes, but is not limited to, acts of God. “Like so many things in law, there isn't a quick and easy definition,” says Hilliard. “Whether the facts and circumstances surrounding each scenario amount to a force majeure has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”