InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Atlanta, (www.intercontinental.com) has taken an unprecedented move to spur bookings in an uncertain economy: Eliminate risk for its meeting clients. The hotel chain has done away with all cancellation and attrition fees for meeting contracts signed in February, March, and April that will take place before the end of the year in its U.S. and Canadian properties.

There’s no "small print" to the unusual offer, says Jeff Senior, InterContinental’s brand vice president, North America. "We’ve done this in a responsive way in the past," Senior says, noting the period after the September 11 terrorist attacks. "But what’s different this time is that we’re being proactive."

Senior says the new policy came about because of meeting clients’ anxiety. "There’s a lot of trepidation around booking, with concerns over the economy and the conflict in the Middle East," says Senior, who confirms that extremely short-term bookings are becoming increasingly common. "Significant meetings, say 150 rooms for three nights, are booking three weeks out. It’s been happening. … It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen in my [28-year] experience."

Jed Mandel, meeting industry lawyer with Neal Gerber & Eisenberg in Chicago, reminds planners to get the offer in writing. "You want it in the contract. Indicate that you’re waiving the cancellation and attrition clauses, don’t just delete those clauses," he says. "It’s a smart move on InterContinental’s part. They’re getting out in front. It’s almost like offering an insurance policy. They’re willing to take the risk for the business."

InterContinental’s 16 properties in the United States and Canada are participating in the program. Senior says there are no current plans to expand the offer to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza chain, another meeting brand owned by InterContinental parent company Six Continents Hotels Inc.