The Ghost of Christmas Past Christmas season in New York City had always been a great time to book a meeting--a time that garnered the association great hotel rates, says Shelley E. Griffin, CMP, conference manager with the Archaeological Institute of America in Boston. But two years ago the trend changed. New York at Christmas became "a destination."

The result? At her 1996 meeting, Griffin was called to the hotel registration desk to deal with the 180 attendees who had gotten their walking papers, and with the other attendees stuck in long, long lines at check-in. The conference attracts about 2,500 participants. "I went down ready to have people screaming their heads off," Griffin recalls. "But archaeologists are the most patient people in the world. They were chatting with colleagues on line. No one was happy, but they dealt with it better than almost any other group [would have]."

The experience, says Griffin, "taught me a valuable lesson. Now we take steps to make sure that we are protected." In her hotel contracts, Griffin adds a walking clause. "We want to be notified as soon as a hotel is in any sort of overbook situation," she says. "Even if [the hotel is walking] only a handful of attendees, we'd rather get a heads up first thing in the morning rather than find out at 5 p.m."

If the hotel's walking policy isn't up to her standards, Griffin strengthens it. "We want to make sure [the hotel] pays for transportation between the two properties, provides a phone call home [for people who are walked], and informs the switchboard as to the whereabouts of those attendees so that their colleagues can find them." Griffin also makes sure she still earns her comp rooms on people who are walked.

Have you faced one of those "planner's worst nightmare" situations? We want to hear about it! Contact Tamar Hosansky by phone (978) 466-6358, or by fax (978) 466-8961; or send e-mail to