While planning a meeting or incentive/recognition program at a location outside of North America can be an appealing and exciting challenge, it also might be quite daunting. There are often more things to coordinate and to consider for global programs, when compared to a program within the U.S.
To help address this, here are some very helpful tips for planning programs outside of the U.S., courtesy of Leslie Zeck, CMP, who is the Director of Meetings for the American and International Associations for Dental Research, and is responsible for planning annual conventions for up to 7,000 attendees, as well as regional conferences around the world:
- Provide as much detail in your RFP as possible, including using photographs to define specifically what you envision
- Spell out dates rather than using numerals, to avoid date-format confusion (i.e., 4/12/15 is certainly different from 12/4/15)
- Do not use abbreviations or acronyms in communication and contracts
- Outline deadlines for responses back from the hotel in your final contract
- Write your own cut-off dates for booking in your contract or RFP
- Expect to pre-pay 100% in advance, or have strict deposit guidelines
- Recognize that containing your meeting to a hotel or resort is a plus, since they will adapt far more easily to where your group is coming from
- Every Customs Patrol is different. Understand the rules for getting materials through to YOUR destination
- ALWAYS hire a reputable customs broker
- Be in the know on the political and economic climate of the destination. Read destination news in the months leading up to your program.
- Know the Visa requirements early and communicate the time it will take to obtain documents, if necessary (VisaCenter.com)
- Know what immunizations and inoculations may be required
- Know and/or work with a resource to understand VAT (Value Added Tax) for your destination
- Use local organizing committees as a resource to save you time and money
- Familiarize yourself with important culture and customs of local people – get a guidebook
- Utilize the internet, where resources are abundant
- Know your options for telecommunications, IT and connectivity, especially in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) (bric.com)
- Consider the impact time zones will have on your program schedule, attendees and travel. It may require amending the “typical” event or session times.
Other Beneficial Resources
Another valuable resource is the “Global Events” section on the MeetingsNet.com website. Among the helpful tips provided:
- Site inspections are a “must” when working overseas, in order to see how the infrastructure works and to experience the destination
The MeetingsNet website also provides a useful list of “9 Must-Ask Questions For Global Venues,” such as “Do you have a history with meetings of our size and complexity?”
Other helpful resources on the site include an article on “VAT (Value-Added Tax) Basics,” as well as articles on shipping/logistics, and an impressive list of “Online Resources for Global Meetings and Travel,” which includes links to the sites.
So if you are planning any programs outside of the U.S., take advantage of these helpful hints and valuable resources. In doing so, planning Global programs can be very exciting, rewarding, and successful – and not so daunting.
David Gabri is CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), the leading independent Global Sales Organization serving the North American meetings and incentive marketplace for its membership of over 170 Four- and Five-Diamond quality hotels and resorts worldwide, plus 9 luxury cruise ships, and 100 DMC service providers in over 65 countries. Contact your nearest ALHI Global Sales Office, or call the “ALHI Group Desk” toll-free at 866-303-2544, and visit www.alhi.com .