For most planners, each and every destination represents a new kind of challenge. When planning a meeting outside the US, the challenges seem like they might increase exponentially. However, crossing borders can be a breeze if you’ve got the right information at hand and a great DMO partner to walk you through. I recently caught up with the talented team at Tourisme Montréal who shared their list of key considerations when planning a meeting north of the border. Here’s a look at some essential information that will simplify the lives of your team members, your exhibitors and your attendees.
1) Plan Early For Passport Applications.
It should come as no surprise that everyone from outside of Canada will need a valid passport, and depending on their country of origin, a visa. Pre-conference planning and promotion should include materials and applicable documents to encourage filing early as U.S. passports can take 30 to 60 days to process.
American citizens should know that there are new customs requirements in effect for their return to the U.S. And, of course, you and your delegates will surely have gifts and souvenirs to bring home. Be sure to offer attendees the most current customs limits and regulations before they shop.
2) Add A Customs Broker To Your Team.
You can smooth the customs process for your conference exhibitors, too. “Officially registering your meeting with the Canada Border Services Agency is a key,” says Diane Labbé Deegan, National Director of Sales for Mendelssohn Commerce. “In order to receive customs privileges for sending exhibit materials, appoint a customs broker that specializes in meetings and conventions.”
A customs broker should be used for shipping exhibits, programs, textiles and clothing, gifts and audio visual equipment. This includes shipping with FedEx or other overnight services. Be sure to include the necessary customs and transportation forms in your exhibitor manual for easy access. Educate your exhibitors on what customs forms are required for shipping.
3) Changing Currency Is Convenient (And A Win For US Planners In The Current Market.)
Your U.S. dollars are currently worth about one-third more north of the border, and changing US currency into Canadian dollars is as simple as a trip to the bank. “Exchanging currency is equally simple in the U.S. or Canada. Most Canadian banks are totally at ease in transferring or converting US dollars,” says Jean-Paul de Lavison, CMP and President of event planning company JPdL. “In many cases, Canadian suppliers will accept payment in US dollars as long as the rate is agreed upon in advance.”
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4) Be Smart About Cell Phone Use.
Before leaving for a meeting outside the US, check with your mobile provider to adequately prepare your device and avoid paying additional fees. Many plans offer short windows of time that allow for international calling at a small fee. If your cell phone is using data roaming or extended network service, remember it can drain your battery and your pocketbook. Even if you opt not to pay for international calling, consider turning off your roaming function and search out free WiFi hotspots to stay in touch with colleagues. Looking for more information to pass along to your audience? Check out these helpful tips from Tourisme Montréal.
5) Apply For Tax Rebates.
A non-resident sponsor or organizer of a foreign convention may often claim a rebate for the Good & Service Tax (GST), Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and the Québec Sales Tax (QST) paid for convention facilities and related convention supplies. Because the list of supplies is so extensive — from accommodations to transportation services — be sure to request the most current list of those things that qualify for a rebate. To claim your taxes, you must provide the required supporting documents with your rebate application.
6) Get To Know The Local Transit Options.
Exploring a foreign locale can be a bit tricky. Be sure you offer your attendees and exhibitors a complete directory of all the most affordable local transit options. For example, in Montréal, attendees can consider a ride with Téo Taxi, (a 100% electric taxi service) or gear up for some bike exploration with the BIXI bike sharing system. If you’re brave enough to navigate a new city, the car sharing service, CAR2GO offers a simple drive and drop option.
Do you have other questions about navigating rules and regulations north of the border? Contact the Tourisme Montréal meeting professionals at firstname.lastname@example.org to track down all your answers.
This informative article was brought to you by Tourisme Montréal. The cosmopolitan, multicultural and multilingual city consistently ranks as one of the top destinations for international meetings. Explore the Tourisme Montréal meetings blog to find out why the American Bar Association, National Women’s Studies Association, World Social Forum and other organizations are choosing Montréal for their events.