News of meeting cancellations, especially those scheduled for this week and next, populated the MIM (Meeting Industry Mall) listserve on Tuesday and Wednesday. As did offers of help and advice.
"We had a meeting scheduled to start on Thursday in San Diego that has been cancelled," says Diana Gentry, S&D Productions, Inc.
"We have another meeting scheduled next week for airline executives that might also be cancelled."
According to Karl Nybergh, CMP, Meeting Consultant, American Meetings and Conventions, Inc., "Lumberman's Corporation cancelled their meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Sept 13 to 15."
Chuck Lane, assistant vice president public relations and meeting services for Humana, said his firm cancelled a business program in Green Bay, Wis., for 138 national sales managers that was scheduled for Sept. 13 and 14. Since people were coming in from across the country, Lane said, his firm was concerned attendees would not be able to get flights to Green Bay, a small air service market, within the necessary time frame.
Luckily, Humana suffered no financial penalities whatsoever from any of their vendors. "They all said they didn't want to profit from this tragedy," said Lane, calling it "unbelievable," considering how the loss could hurt local vendors.
Industry attorney Tyra W. Hilliard, Sumner & Associates, P.C., Suwanee, Ga. , reassured planners who had to cancel. "If there ever were an example of a ‘,’ this is certainly it. This kind of event is exactly the reason that ‘force majeure/termination’ clauses are put into meetings . Also, hopefully groups have event cancellation insurance so they don't lose money on meetings that can't be held. Hotels have insurance, too. Insurance is what will hopefully make the fallout from this tragedy a financial break-even, if not a win/win, situation for people in our industry."
The news that the Marriott WTC in New York was leveled, and the Millenium Hilton also suffered damage related to the attack, horrified planners. "Shock and disbelief doesn't even begin to address how we are all feeling," says MIMlist list mistress Joan Eisenstodt. "If you knew people at those hotels, staff or guests, say prayers.. this is an incredible nightmare."
The MIM list showed not only an outpouring of support for those affected by the tragedies, but also served as an important communications vehicle for people around the country and the world. People in the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas volunteered to call local or e-mail loved ones when relatives across the country couldn’t get through. And many offered their homes to friends or colleagues who were stranded in strange cities.
The hospitality community was doing their part as well. Joe Sebestyen, president, International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) North America, sent the following e-mail to conference center members:
In response to the incidents in New York and Washington, DC, you may want to consider some of the following: Assistance Centers for friends or family members who were impacted and in need of counseling, bringing guests to Red Cross Centers for donating blood, re-stocking ATM machines for stranded guests who need money, providing more laundry services for stranded guests, flying flags at half mast, and refueling transportation vehicles.