An article we ran online last week, MPI PEC-Europe: Passover Problem in 2008?, caused a lot of chatter on the two meetings industry listservs. Most, if not all, who talked about it were shocked and appalled that MPI would schedule its Europe conference over Passover, but believe it or not, it seems to be fairly common to have events scheduled over holidays of one sort or another. Not saying it's right, just that it happens.
As the stuff hit the fan last week, I found out about two other events for meeting professionals coming up in the next year that fall over religious holidays. It wasn't meant as a slap in the face in either case. It was more a matter of those dates being the only ones they could get during the time window and price point they needed. Both organizers were worried about how to handle it, given that they really couldn't change the dates. This isn't an excuse, but it is the reality some planners have to deal with.
Call me crazy, but I think a little transparency and thoughtfulness goes a long to mitigate the fallout from a scheduling snafu. If the organizers explained the situation, apologized, promised to do better in the future, and asked what they could do to accommodate those who would like to attend but still want to celebrate their holiday (it could be as serious as a religious holiday or just something like the Superbowl), attendees would likely be at least a little more forgiving.
That's what the organizer of my hometown's annual fall festival just did when she inadvertently scheduled this year's Grotonfest over Yom Kippur. She wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper apologizing, explaining, and promising to do better in the future.
To prevent future faux pas, planners can check with the numerous holiday calendars out there, including Earth Calendar and the International Holiday Calendar. I know that sometimes you just can't help but do it when faced with unmovable dates and inflexible rate needs, but there's no excuse for just not knowing your dates fall over a holiday.