Even now, incentive planners report dealing with concerns by spouses who travel infrequently, while others have seen families who are unwilling to let both parents be away from their children at the same time. Add to that lower numbers of qualifiers because of the tough economy, and you have the potential for some serious attrition.

Michelle Novoa, vice president of sales and marketing for ADI Meetings & Incentives in Tempe, AZ, says she’s seeing clients booking smaller rooms blocking "and hoping the rooms are there if they go over. They feel better about moving up rather than back, even with 15 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 attrition that is fairly reasonable. 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, an attorney in the Atlanta law firm of Foster, Jensen & Gulley, advises planners take a more conservative approach in booking future incentive trips and to seek more favorable terms on attrition, allowing a wider margin of error. If all else fails, he says, make sure 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."

His other message to planners: Know the person you’re dealing with.

As Ross says, "If somebody’s brought us a good piece of business, we don’t like to hold them against the wall and mug ‘em."