Attrition had never been much of an issue with incentive trips — until a year ago. Planners report dealing with concerned spouses, while others have seen families unwilling to let both parents be away from children at the same time. Add the lower numbers of qualifiers because of the economy, and you have the potential for serious attrition.

Michelle Novoa, vice president of sales and marketing, ADI Meetings & Incentives in Tempe, Ariz., says she is seeing clients booking smaller room blocks “and hoping the rooms are there if they go over. They feel better about moving up rather than back, even with 15 [percent] to 20 percent attrition built into a contract.”

David Ross, group sales manager for Sandals & Beaches Resorts, agrees that group sizes are smaller this year, but says his company has taken a more lenient stance on attrition. “We've revised our contracts in the last few months to allow for reasonable attrition. Most everyone fits into our guidelines [any attrition up to 180 days out; 15 percent from 179 to 90 days out; 10 percent from 89 to 60 days out; and 5 percent from 59 to 30 days out].”

John S. Foster, a lawyer with the Atlanta law firm of Foster, Jensen & Gulley, advises planners to take a more conservative booking approach and to seek more favorable terms on attrition, allowing a wider margin of error. If all else fails, he says, make sure that the hotel isn't asking for more than it's entitled to in damages.

“Hotels understand that the economy is down. That's all the more reason that they should be saying ‘Give us the money.’ Terrorist acts are a valid force majeure that prevents either party from performing. A sinking economy is not valid. It's up to the parties to build that expectation into the contract.”