Hot Tips When Considering an International Meeting

January 03, 2012

 Rome, Paris, Rio! Ever think about going global and hitting an international destination for your meeting?  Yes, it sounds fun and exotic, but the first question to ask yourself should be “Is an international destination best for your organization?”  

Educating your attendees about international logistics and travel is imperative; however, long before you begin the process of reaching out to your attendees, being prepared yourself from a meeting planning perspective is key.

Hot Tip:Give Yourself at Least 9 Months to 1 Year to Plan for an International Event

This will give you enough time to react to unforeseen circumstances and delays. Contracts, negotiations and travel planning can all be expected to be extended when planning an international destination. Don’t be afraid to gain assistance from an experienced meeting planner or travel agent. The investment will be worthwhile based on the amount of challenges that can arise when planning an international destination.

  • Did You Know?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 30% of all Americans own a passport.   So, going global may take some extra planning and experience. 

Hot Tip: Start Early When Reaching Out to Attendees

First and foremost, let your attendees 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.  They were not allowed to board the flight and had no way to get a new passport! Needless to say, the trip was ruined before it even started and regardless of who was at fault, the blame always seems to fall on the planners. 

Most recent changes: Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)  requires 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. 

  • Did You Know? Even though you might have 4 or 5 months until your passport expires based on date, you may still be denied entry to some countries. There are many countries that require you to have at least 6 months remaining on your passport before they will grant you entry.

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.  Use this helpful website link to learn the specifics about the country to which you’ll be traveling.

http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

Hot Tip: Give Attendees a Place to go for International Travel Questions.

 Create a special section on your registration website addressing FAQs (frequently asked questions) regarding international travel which will allow attendees to find answers to their questions regarding international travel.  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.

 Hot Tip: Make an International Travel Checklist Available to Attendees

Remember, your attendees are busy business folks.  Assist them in their preparations by providing a checklist regarding easily overlooked items such as the right adaptor for electronics and 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 that if a German asks you to go out for a business dinner, they may not offer to pay? Your attendees will thank you for these quick tips.

Hot Tip: Provide a Translator

¿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 make a call to and from 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.

Hot Tip: Use a Local Destination Management Company

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 the hotel 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 photo copies of your attendee’s passport, important medical records and emergency phone numbers to ensure that even if luggage is lost, important documents are maintained.

 Plan ahead. Inform your attendees. Stay apprised of travel restrictions

Good luck , safe travels and Happy Planning!

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 andy@americanmeetings.comor www.americanmeetings.com