The incentive conference had been booked for two years at a resort in Cancun. Then reports of violence related to drug trafficking in Mexico began to surface, and then increase.
“Perception is everything with an incentive program,” says the company's meeting planner. “We have always felt it was better to be proactive with both our clients as well as attendees and try to head off any concerns.” So the company acted quickly to get specific information to pass along to attendees, then sent qualifiers this statement by e-mail, signed by a vice president:
“You’ve likely seen news reports that have chronicled increasing violence in Mexico. That situation has prompted the U.S. Department of State to update its Travel Alert. While the alert does suggest that American visitors take ‘common-sense’ safety precautions, it does not discourage U.S. citizens from traveling to Mexico.
“As we prepare for our upcoming conference, we have conducted an independent assessment of the situation. Among the findings:
“The warning is focused primarily on border cities such as Tijuana. It does not provide any specific warnings regarding other popular tourist destinations like Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun.
“The violence discussed in the travel alert primarily involves drug cartels engaged among themselves and with Mexican security services. “Cancun’s overall security rating matches other resort cities like Kingston, Montego Bay, and Santo Domingo.
Natural and man-made deterrents effectively isolate the conference property from the surrounding rural environment.
“It’s important to remember that our event is located in a gated community in the Mayan Riviera—an area with modern technology and security practices and staffing to help ensure that our event will be safe and enjoyable. Also, any off-site activities planned for our attendees will take place in established, secure tourist areas.”
The notice provided attendees with a link to the U.S. Department of State Web site, so they could get more information on the official travel warning, and invited them to contact the meeting department with any additional questions about the trip. Two incentive qualifiers elected to attend a lower-level conference at a domestic site instead of going to Mexico. But for those who attended, the conference went off without a hitch.