Post authored by Ping He,
Manager – Asia Pacific, Experient
When considering a meeting, there are
many factors to analyze. Choosing where to hold it is one of the most important. If you select the same site for your meeting each year, it becomes predictable and attendees may begin to drop off. Meeting planners are focusing on international settings as a way to break out of that predictability.
Open For Business
Many countries around the globe are open for business, so to speak, and are trying to incentivize bringing in meeting business to improve their own economies. Emerging markets, like Brazil or China for example, are seeing growth especially in the association market. There is correlation in the economic growth of these countries in part to the meetings and events industry because of free trade agreements and treaties.
These countries are also investing in infrastructure, including hotels and convention centers, which is attracting business and leading to a positive impact on the relevance of association business. Political alliances are also being formed which creates the need for events and meetings—for example global summits, discussion forums and exhibitions.
The next question is how to take advantage of these growth opportunities. It really depends on the association’s desire to go global and if it’s a priority. The meeting should be consistent with the economic trends of a particular sector, like government, automotive or pharmaceutical. In certain regions, like Latin America, there is a demand for events related to the global communications market as the region is allocating funds and resources to improve the transcontinental communications infrastructure.
Avoiding Potential Roadblocks
Don’t let roadblocks immediately signal a negative connotation. Planners must never assume that international business is done in the same manner as “back home” because this is rarely the case – even if this may seem so. Cultural differences impact business ideologies, business language and (local) business practices. Even dealing with a familiar “chain” may be different than you might expect or have experienced.
Working with customs is also something to be aware of for any organizer in the region they are choosing, regardless of the country of operation. Even if you would consider a country or region as “easy” it is always wise to involve a (local or international) customs broker or freight forwarder who knows what they are doing. The risk of “going it alone” is just too high. In some cases, the local national tourism organization or visitor’s bureau (CVB) can offer assistance.
Bi-Lingual Meeting Planners
English has become the “lingua franca” or spoken business language in many countries and territories around the globe. However, in many places – such as Latin America—Spanish and Portuguese (Brazil) are the first and preferred languages . Once again, it is important to never assume that the other partner will fully understand, even though English may be spoken. Simple measures such as confirmations in writing are always good business measures (anywhere).
There are some countries where the American dollar is the chosen local currency (such as Panama and Ecuador in Central America) while in most countries it is not. It is always important that a planner is completely aware of the currency of a country and puts a solid currency strategy in place. It is sometimes possible to negotiate fixed U.S. rates for meeting services payments, but this will always involve financial instruments being used (such as hedging – either by the service provider or the association itself)..
If you are considering going international with your meeting, make sure the strategy is aligned with your association’s strategy in terms of members within the region, how the association might be run, and impact on the structure of the association and its other meetings.
Do you have plans on taking your organization’s event global in the future?