May 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   Planners React Quickly to War

Eugene Airport: Half of all its passengers fly United. The war in Iraq caused rumbles in the meetings industry, as planners braced for cancellations and international travel was disrupted.

Even before the war broke out, Austin, Texas-based Hospitality, Financial & Technology Professionals e-mailed registrants for its New Orleans conference, held March 24-25, asking them to reply within one day about whether they planned to attend. “We knew we had to act fast,” said education and meetings manager, Linnet Hosek. “Out of the 125, only 10 canceled.”

A spokesperson for CMM International, a biennial event for the pre-packaging industry held in Chicago in mid-April, said producers surveyed exhibitors and registrants about their plans. They learned several companies were paring down their buying teams. Show managers also were talking with managers of convention centers and hotels concerning any new emergency procedures. “We’ve been in touch with Javits and Boston to learn what they’re doing differently,” said Jeff Little, president of George Little Management in White Plains, N.Y. “We want to know what will affect our setup or attendees as they arrive.”

On the hotel front, properties were talking security with clients and reacting to potential dips in room blocks. For example, Brian K. Gilligan, director of sales at the New York Marriott Marquis, said he was taking rooms from sub-blocks consisting of international delegations and reallocating them to the main block.

Across the Atlantic, events came under greater strain, with heightened war tensions and people less willing to fly. Officials with the Reus, Spain-based International Tree Nut Council put a May biannual meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on hold until August.

“Now everyone is waiting to see what further developments occur in the Middle East,” said ITNC executive coordinator Goretti Guasch. The event draws more than 500 attendees from 50 nations.


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