I heard a rumor the other day that a major corporation is pulling its meeting out of one of the Texas cities that has stepped up to take in a huge amount of Katrina evacuees. The thinking, as I heard it, was that it would be unseemly to have conventioneers partying near where the evacuees were taking emergency shelter, having lost everything.
While I understand that emotion, please think twice before cancelling, relocating, or rebooking a near-term meeting from one of the helping cities. Just when they're incurring more expenses to take these folks in, let's not punish a good deed by pulling meetings out. Conventioneers, like every single one of us, want to help in some way. Conventions that come to the cities everywhere from Texas to Massachusetts that are taking in evacuees not only bring in much-needed cash in a time of need, but they also provide a unique opportunity to partially assuage that ache so many of us have right now to be able to do something more than open our wallets (though of course, that's what people really do need right now).
Still, while I'm sure it would vary from site to site and city to city, I'm also sure there's something your attendees could do to contribute something to the relief efforts, from a blood drive to handing out lunches to, I don't know, maybe helping out on some non-related projects that are now short-handed due to the relief efforts. This could be an opportunity to provide real meaning for your attendees, and real help to the city. Contact your CVB and ask them how your meeting could be a part of something good, rather than just a good time.
Update: Hmm, and then I read this article in today's New York Times about how Houston is cashing in big time on all the new businesses relocating either temporarily or permanently to that city. While the article seems to be a little harsh on Houston for getting an economic boost from its neighbors' catastrophe, I like that some realtors are giving breaks to people whose businesses were wiped out by Katrina. I feel the same way about cities and hotels that are offering deals and discounts for displaced meetings.
Are they being predatory, or good neighbors? I think the latter, but I've heard some say otherwise.