One of the biggest risk factors for meeting professionals is inaccurately gauging meeting attendance and, as a result, having to pay attrition damages for not filling a contracted room block. In today's economic climate, the risk is heightened as companies cancel and cut back on meetings to save money and project a more austere public face. The good news is that some hotel companies are working to drive business by becoming extremely flexible on attrition issues.

Eye-catching, “attrition-free” promotions have been issued by Omni Hotels, Palace Resorts, and a variety of other chains and properties. Here's a sample:

  • Across its 40-property brand, Omni is waiving attrition fees for new meeting contracts with up to 150 peak room nights. The meeting must be booked by June 30, 2009, and take place before the end of the year.

  • At the 11 Palace Resorts in Mexico and the brand's newest property in the Dominican Republic, a new attrition-free policy applies to meetings that use up to 25 percent of a property's room inventory. Meetings booked by July 31 for travel before December 25, 2009, qualify for this program.

  • Rosen Hotels has an attrition-free policy at three of its seven Orlando properties — Rosen Shingle Creek, Rosen Centre, and Rosen Plaza Hotel. Groups must book 400 or more room nights to qualify, and the meeting must happen by the end of the year.

  • Marriott's new Meetings Matter Promotion doesn't go as far — the allowable attrition rate is 25 percent — but the company is also including a 2 percent rebate off the master bill for meetings with at least 100 paid cumulative room nights, and other incentives. The program runs through March 2010 at hundreds of participating hotels.

  • San Diego's Rancho Bernardo Inn introduced an attrition-free meeting program for new bookings for groups that have a valid history and plan to meet by the end of the year. It's also offering percentage discounts off the master account, depending on the size of the bill.

  • Ten independent hotels and resorts in The Kessler Collection are offering attrition-free meetings to groups booking by the end of May 2009.

If your meeting hotel of choice isn't on this list, don't be afraid to negotiate hard for a favorable attrition clause. In general, hotels are hungry for the business, and many are willing to reach out to help lessen your risk in this difficult business environment.