The New Rules of Force Majeure

In a recent Catalyst post, meeting professionals discussed how the force majeure clause has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion. Question from a Force Majeure Newbie In a recent Catalyst post, Selina Cooper, project manager for the Texas Floodplain Management Association, asked her peers if they had encountered the following phrase in the force majeure section of their contracts: “In the event of such termination, the group will in good faith attempt to rebook the next open year for this event.” Yes. My team has been seeing this statement in a few contracts now. This clause is dependent on the program and whether or not this statement even makes sense for your event. For instance, if you are booking a citywide [event] and have to cancel due to force majeure but the only available weekend in that year is Thanksgiving, then it is not fair [to make] you take that availability. Basically, hotels are needing to guarantee that you will stick with them to the best of your ability. In my opinion, and I am not a legal counselor, you need a caveat — “…book the next open year over mutually agreeable dates” or similar. Depending on how the verbiage around it reads, you just don’t want to back yourself into a corner. You could always redline it and send it back to see if they are willing to negotiate around that sentence. — Jared Chambers, Strategic Account Manager, Experient, A Maritz Global Events Company This is a quite common practice with venues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our clients are re-booking at their venue to avoid cancellation fees. To be frank, the definition of force majeure now has to be rewritten to include global health emergencies and the like. In my opinion, we, event industry professionals, were ill-prepared to untangle existing contracts due to COVID-19. Quite honestly, who would be prepared for this type of halt to the event industry? How do we proceed and secure our future business? Retaining clients for the future is an important element of the path through this economic crisis for all involved in the event industry. As an expo contractor, our first question to a client after their event is canceled is, “Can we re-book a new date?” If we can, then it eases the cancellation fee, if not voids it. — Diane McKone, Director of Sales & Marketing, Curtin Convention & Exposition Services Inc. I’ve had a lot of force majeure cancellations this year, and read a lot of new clauses regarding it. The hotels are just trying to protect themselves by adding this language. As you can imagine, force majeure allows groups to walk away with no penalty. It is in their best interest for you to rebook versus walk away entirely. However,

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In a recent Catalyst post, meeting professionals discussed how the force majeure clause has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.

Question from a Force Majeure Newbie
In a recent Catalyst post, Selina Cooper, project manager for the Texas Floodplain Management Association, asked her peers if they had encountered the following phrase in the force majeure section of their contracts: “In the event of such termination, the group will in good faith attempt to rebook the next open year for this event.”


Yes. My team has been seeing this statement in a few contracts now. This clause is dependent on the program and whether or not this statement even makes sense for your event. For instance, if you are booking a citywide [event] and have to cancel due to force majeure but the only available weekend in that year is Thanksgiving, then it is not fair [to make] you take that availability. Basically, hotels are needing to guarantee that you will stick with them to the best of your ability. In my opinion, and I am not a legal counselor, you need a caveat — “…book the next open year over mutually agreeable dates” or similar. Depending on how the verbiage around it reads, you just don’t want to back yourself into a corner. You could always redline it and send it back to see if they are willing to negotiate around that sentence.

— Jared Chambers, Strategic Account Manager, Experient, A Maritz Global Events Company


This is a quite common practice with venues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our clients are re-booking at their venue to avoid cancellation fees. To be frank, the definition of force majeure now has to be rewritten to include global health emergencies and the like. In my opinion, we, event industry professionals, were ill-prepared to untangle existing contracts due to COVID-19. Quite honestly, who would be prepared for this type of halt to the event industry? How do we proceed and secure our future business? Retaining clients for the future is an important element of the path through this economic crisis for all involved in the event industry. As an expo contractor, our first question to a client after their event is canceled is, “Can we re-book a new date?” If we can, then it eases the cancellation fee, if not voids it.

— Diane McKone, Director of Sales & Marketing, Curtin Convention & Exposition Services Inc.


I’ve had a lot of force majeure cancellations this year, and read a lot of new clauses regarding it. The hotels are just trying to protect themselves by adding this language. As you can imagine, force majeure allows groups to walk away with no penalty. It is in their best interest for you to rebook versus walk away entirely. However, it only states “in good faith,” because they may not have the dates/space you need or you may have other mitigating circumstances, like if your conference is already booked for the next open year. I don’t see a problem with signing it as is, but you can ask them to strike if it makes you uncomfortable.

— Kerry Kerr, Senior Director, Global Accounts, HelmsBriscoe

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