Two months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Insurance Conference Planners Association held its biggest annual conference ever. Nearly 500 insurance and financial services meeting planners and industry suppliers showed up for the meeting, held at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas from November 11 to 15.

The overall mood of the meeting was one of cautious optimism. Planners reported that their company’s meetings and incentive programs were still on track for 2002 and beyond, although some were re-thinking international meetings. "In the middle of negotiating for Spain in 2003, we decided to change to an Alaskan cruise," said Robin Hulsey, assistant vice president, administrative services, National Western Life, Austin, Texas.

While leads for its New York City properties were scarce, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts got at least four "buyable leads" at ICPA’s supplier marketplace, said Jennifer Chapin, New York-based national sales manager for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. One of those was a canceled European program that rebooked in Boston. Chapin also reported that Fairmont properties in Scottsdale, Vancouver, and Bermuda got a lot of interest from planners. She expects Fairmont’s New York properties to get much of their near-term group business from New York area companies who are pulling their meetings from elsewhere in order to support the city.

Planners and suppliers cited the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico as prime meeting and incentive destinations post-9/11. "We have not cancelled our 2002 incentive program to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico," said Alison Barnes, administrative coordinator, Allstate Insurance Co., Irving, Texas. Michael Murphy, area director sales & marketing for Renaissance Orlando Resort at Seaworld, reported solid leads for his hotel and also for other U.S.-based Renaissance hotels.

Much of the conference’s educational content touched on post-9/11 issues. This ranged from "Sixty Second Seminars," on topics like safety and security produced by Ken Kirsh Productions Inc. and meeting host Michael Weber; to an entertaining and illuminating final keynote by Steve Rizzo called "The Spirit Lives On," presented by Andrea Gold, Gold Star Speaker Bureau.

"What I learned was to make sure we have real group emergency plans and contingency procedures in place," said Barnes. "We need to inform attendees about safety and make sure they know we are in control."—Regina Baraban