Marketing and Sales Professionals…know what meeting planning companies and event companies have known for decades…Considering an International Meeting? Do your homework first!
Rome, Paris, Rio! Ever think about going global? Would you enjoy taking your group to an international destination? While it sounds fun and exotic, always be sure to cross your T’s and dot your I’s before you take on this exciting proposal. So corporate meeting planners of America take this valuable advice when you are planning your next international event.
Over the last twenty years with the globalization of the world, trips abroad are becoming common place, but it is interesting to note that fact finders have found that only about only 20% of all Americans own a passport, so going global takes some extra planning and experience. Corporate Meeting Planners,
First and foremost, let your attendee know as early as possible regarding the latest regulations of international travel. A real-life example of how this can go wrong was on a recent trip to South America. An attendee was turned away at the international terminal for having a slightly damaged passport. Needless to say, the trip was ruined before it even started and regardless of whose at fault, blame always seems to fall on the planners. They were not allowed to board the flight and had no way to get a new passport! New laws are very strict for obvious reasons. News has been buzzing recently about the new passport restrictions that have been implemented, then postponed and then implemented again. The recently implemented Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is now requiring passports to Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America. New laws regarding passports, visas and travel are ever changing and it is important to give your attendees plenty of lead time to research their specific travel needs.
Additionally, not every attendee traveling from the U.S. is a U.S. citizen. It is important to know what requirements their own countries have for traveling internationally from the States, as well as the requirements of the countries to which they are traveling. Visas may be required and the attendee will need to take extra steps to ensure they have the visas prior to their departure.
Having a special section on your website will answer a lot of frequently asked questions regarding international travel and a blog will allow attendees to ask frequent questions regarding the ups and downs of international travel.
Even before informing your attendees all global meeting planners know that being prepared from a meeting planning perspective is key. Currency exchange, shipping and cargo restrictions and personal security needs are different for every destination. Contract negotiations, governing law and governing language will be different for each company. Give yourself at least 9 months to a year to plan an international destination. This will give you enough to react to unforeseen circumstances and delays. Contracts, negotiations and travel planning are all extended with an international destination. Don’t be afraid to gain assistance from an experienced meeting planner or travel agent. The investment will be worthwhile with the amount of challenges that can arise when planning an international destination.
¿Hablas español? Parlez-vous français? Don’t forget about having an interpreter available either through your venue or a private firm to assist you in sticky situations. While most modern countries are English friendly, you will soon learn that having an interpreter with a larger group is a huge benefit. From assisting with prescription requests to finding a nice dinner location; being able to communicate in the language of the country will make your experience much easier. It’s also helpful to provide common phrases to your attendees for quick reference. Even consider providing a translation book as an amenity item for their trip.
In addition to a translation book, to ease the culture shock for your attendees provide to them a guide with a quick reference currency converter, a brief description on how to dial in the country(s) to which you are traveling, and the location and contact information of the nearest US embassy or consulate should they need assistance. Also, don’t forget about electrical plug information and if your attendees are busy business folks how to obtain an international cell phone. Finally, provide your attendees with any cultural differences they should be made aware of prior to traveling. For example did you know it is considered rude to not accept food from a Japanese host or s that if a German asks you to go our for a business dinner, they may not offer to pay? Your attendees will thank you for these quick tips.
Now that your group is prepared to go, don’t forget to plan some fun. While they may be going for business, they are going to want to stay for fun! It is important to plan time for site seeing, excursions and activities. Nothing is worse than attending a business meeting abroad and only seeing the inside of a ballroom. We always recommend using a local destination management company (DMC) to manage on-site ground and tours. It will make your job much easier and often provides unique opportunities to get local advice on entertainment, sightseeing and venue ideas.
Finally, request physical copies of your attendee’s passport, important medical records and emergency phone numbers to ensure if luggage is lost, important documents are maintained. If plan ahead, inform your attendees and keep apprised of travel restrictions, you will have a fantastic time away from home. Good luck and safe travels!
Andy McNeill is President and CEO of American Meetings, Inc. – AMI, is a global leader in event marketing and meeting management. Andy and his team have developed programs, conferences and symposia for over three million attendees around the world. The American Meetings team works with firms, associations and Fortune 500 companies world-wide to help them develop successful event strategies. The firm is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.americanmeetings.com