The New Rules of Force Majeure

Author: Convene Editors       


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

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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