While an estimated 75 percent of meetings, conventions, and trade shows scheduled for September were either cancelled or postponed, there is plenty of good news on the horizon.
For example, all of the conventions scheduled for 2002 in the city of Philadelphia, including 27 citywides, are holding to their schedules, according to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. Of the four that cancelled in September, only one—scheduled for September 13 to 15--cancelled outright. Another, scheduled for September 15 to 20, voted to hold its convention, but had to cancel when attendees could not get to Philadelphia due to air travel interruptions. The remaining two already have rescheduled their meetings in the City of Brotherly Love.
And Philadelphia is just one of many cities reporting similar stories. According to Sally Henderson, director of convention sales with the San Francisco CVB, while her city did have some initial cancellations of meetings held at the time of the attack, other planned events still are being held, and no cancellations have come in for meetings scheduled for 2002. Even in New York City, where most events planned for September and October have been rescheduled, all but one have been rescheduled before the end of the year."
So why is the news about the hospitality industry so unrelenting bad in the general press?
"There’s a serious disconnect between reality and what the mainstream media is reporting," says Steven Hacker, president, International Association of Exhibition Management. "The public media doesn’t understand the difference between business and leisure travel. Plus, business was already down before September 11, and some sectors were already restricting travel, while others were not. It’s something you have to look at with a scalpel rather than a sword."
Also, he says, one has to ask what kind of condition events that cancelled and didn’t reschedule were in before September 11. "Some of it may just be a tragic acceleration of their normal lifecycle."
"The negative news out there just feeds on itself," agrees Mary Power, president and CEO of the Convention Industry Council (www.conventionindustry.org). "People say that because everyone else is cancelling, maybe they should cancel too. But everybody else isn’t canceling."
Power says that the trend she’s seeing is that the major shows and expositions are holding strong, while some—but by no means most--of the smaller shows that are easier to cancel and rebook may be canceled short term. "The Association Management Group has 19 associations, and all of their meetings are being held. Even their smaller and mid-sized meetings are going forward," she says.