In early February, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Atlanta, announced thatsigned in February, March, and April for meetings that will take place before the end of the year in its U.S. and Canadian properties would not face any cancellation or fees. Two weeks later, Hong Kong — based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts announced a similar policy: In the event of war, groups will not be charged cancellation or attrition fees for meetings booked at any of its 39 properties, all in Asia. There are no time constraints on Shangri-La's policy, and it applies to any meetings scheduled during a war period, regardless of when they were booked. However, the offer goes into effect only if war is officially declared.
Jeff Senior, InterContinental's brand vice president, North America, says that there's no “small print” to his company's unusual offer. “We've done this in a responsive way in the past,” he says, noting the period after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “What's different this time is that we're being proactive.”
Senior says the new policy is a result of meeting clients' anxiety. “There's a lot of trepidation around booking, with concerns over the economy and the conflict in the Middle East.” He also confirms that short-term bookings are becoming increasingly common. “Significant meetings, say 150 rooms for three nights, are booking three weeks out. … It's not like anything I've ever seen in my [28-year] experience.”
Jed Mandel, a meeting industry lawyer with Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg in Chicago and a CMI columnist, reminds planners to get the offer in writing. “You want it in the. Indicate that you're waiving the cancellation and attrition clauses; don't just delete those clauses,” he says. “It's a smart move. They're getting out in front. It's almost like offering insurance. They're willing to take the risk.”
InterContinental's 16 properties in the United States and Canada are participating in the program.