by By Loren G. Edelstein | August 01, 2010

NLR0810 Column chartThe disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has necessitated some difficult decisions for meeting planners. Of those who responded to a recent M&C poll, 37 percent had events on the books for this year in the affected areas, and another 15 percent weren't sure whether the oil would spread to their chosen destinations.

Of those whose meetings might be impacted, 58 percent were undecided about what to do as of early July, when the poll was conducted. Among actions taken by others: 19 percent renegotiated contract terms and/or attrition clauses, 15 percent changed to another destination, 15 percent secured a "clean beach guarantee" from the hotel or venue, and 12 percent opted to cancel or postpone the meeting.

Planners are divided in their outlook on bringing future meetings to the Gulf's coastal towns. Fully 28 percent said they are more likely to meet in the area as a show of support for the local economies, while one in four said the issue will not influence their decision, 34 percent are somewhat less likely to meet in the area and another 13 percent definitely will not go there with a group.

Of those who will not go to the Gulf Coast destinations now, most respondents (73 percent) acknowledged that it's impossible to predict the depth and duration of the problem and therefore cannot predict when they might return to the area.

Just 10 percent of planners aren't at all concerned about the long-term effects on key meeting destinations. Forty-two percent are extremely worried, and 48 percent are somewhat concerned.

Interestingly, planners admit that they don't know for sure which coastal areas have been marred by the disaster. Just 34 percent claim to have a clear understanding of where the oil has come ashore.


Thinking Ahead