A survey by the Meeting Professionals International Foundation released in early November reveals both the profound blow dealt to the meeting industry by the suicide hijackings of September 11 and hope for a relatively quick recovery.

The MPI online survey drew responses from 110 meeting planners. In just that small slice of companies and associations, respondents reported cancelling more than 100 meetings that will never be rebooked. Those meetings represented a loss of about 17,300 room nights and nearly $4.8 million in spending.

Fortunately, deciding not to rebook is not the norm. In fact, 62 percent of respondents' canceled meetings have been “partially to completely rebooked,” and most aren't postponing for a long period. Thirty-five percent of the rebooked meetings will take place before the end of the year, 25 percent during the first quarter of 2002, 20 percent in the second quarter, and the remainder later in 2002. More than two out of three respondents are rebooking all or most of their cancellations at the original venue.

A third of respondents expect their rebooked meetings to be the same size as the original, while 46 percent anticipate an attendance decrease of up to 20 percent; and 21 percent predict worse, expecting attendance to be down by more than 20 percent.

One of the most positive findings of the MPI survey, which was conducted at www.mpiweb.org October 17 to 24, was how few planners have canceled 2002 meetings. While only 13 percent of the respondents canceled no meetings between September 11 and October 31, and 55 percent canceled no meetings in November and December, 74 percent reported no cancellations for 2002. The vast majority of those with cancellations in 2002 say they're canceling between one and five meetings.

Other findings:

  • 54 percent of respondents are considering using technology to augment or replace their physical meetings.

  • When asked about what hotelier action would best promote rebooking, respondents were equally enthusiastic about “cancelling attrition clauses” (38 percent) and “creating less stringent cancellation policies” (38 percent) for the period from November 1 to the end of the first quarter 2002. Sixteen percent said a decreased room rate would encourage them to rebook. Eight percent said nothing would persuade them to rebook before next summer.

  • One in three respondents pick “more local and regional meetings” as the most pervasive industry trend at the moment. Another third say the leading trend is “fewer meetings over the next 12 months.”