Meeting planners are optimistic that in 2003 convention attendance will recover after the precipitous decline following 9/11/01. According to a study conducted by the Professional Convention Management Association, two-thirds of the 177 respondents projected attendance in 2003 increase by as much as 5 percent or at least remain stable.

The optimistic forecast follows two years of serious declines. After the terrorist attacks, attendance at association events for the remainder of 2001 declined by an average of 7.9 percent. One-third of respondents reported attendance levels were down 15 percent or more. The downturn continued into the first half of 2002, with respondents reporting that attendance declined by an average of 2.7 percent from 2001. The biggest drop was in international attendance: some associations reported international attendance dropped by 40 percent or more following 9/11.

The survey also asked respondents how the terrorist attacks have altered their meeting planning process. A large number said they would require attrition/contract concessions from hotels and aim to share liability risks with hotels and convention centers. They also expressed concerns over security and emergency response procedures at meetings.

In addition, planners are turning to alternative meeting formats; 31 percent of respondents said they were using videoconferencing and audioconferencing.