Many HARDI member companies have customer and company meetings and events planned throughout this Spring. They are also likely sharing HARDI’s frustration that comes with the COVID-19 uncertainty while weighing whether to cancel, postpone, or proceed with their scheduled events.
PCMA, the Professional Convention Management Association, has compiled a host of resources for meeting planners and event professionals to assess their options and the best ways to deal with such uncertainty. Any organization dealing with meeting or event decisions right now should visit PCMA’s special resources page specifically for COVID-19:
Here is a short checklist of considerations your team should consider when making decisions about your Spring events:
- Do you have a contract with the host venue or hotel? In most instances you do in which case:
- What are the terms for cancellation and is the hotel intending to enforce the cancellation terms (never hurts to ask)?
- Is there an attrition clause for unused sleeping rooms if you do not cancel?
- If so, is the hotel intending to enforce the attrition terms?
- Should the answer be “yes” to both, could fees be avoided if you agreed to rebook the event or meeting at a later date?
- Many hotels are waiving attrition fees but still enforcing cancellation clauses so be sure to clarify
- Most event venue and hotel contracts include Force Majeure clauses that eliminates all liability if triggered and the event is cancelled so you should inquire whether your state’s COVID-19 policies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statements or travel restrictions, or any other impacts of the virus outbreak are being accepted by your venue as a Force Majeure trigger.
- Did you purchase event cancellation insurance? If so, does it cover an instance such as the COVID-19 issue?
- If the venue or hotel work with you to postpone your event to a later date, try to get specific language in the contract allowing for penalty-free cancellation if the conditions haven’t changed considerably, or have gotten worse, than they are today even if there isn’t stronger action by CDC or your state.
- Most airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees for travel at least through March and hotels are generally being forgiving on late and last-minute reservation cancellations so investigate those things on behalf of your attendees.
- If you choose to hold your event or meeting, be sure to have the venue or hotel document the mitigation measures and emergency response plans under which they are operating so you know and can assure your attendees.
- Further, have you established your own emergency plans should COVID-19 affect your event or meeting while it’s happening (and this includes your own staff)?
Again, I’m encouraging members dealing with event and meeting decisions to carefully study PCMA’s resources, which include a webinar series on several relevant topics. The above checklist is an abbreviated one but intended to help members not let anything fall through the cracks during this confusing and frustrating time. Whatever you decide to do, be open and transparent in your communications with your attendees and team. The safety of your team and attendees is always the first priority but meetings and events usually have significant financial implications so be sure you are fully armed with the necessary knowledge to protect your organization.