American Express Business Travel and BCD Meetings & Incentives are two companies among the CMI 25 that plan the most international meetings and incentives. We asked Christina Wilkes, meetings practice leader for advisory services at AEBT, and Scott Graf, president of BCD M&I, to share some of their thoughts on the international marketplace:
CMI: How fast is your international business growing?
Christina Wilkes: I would use the word rapidly. This year a lot of thought has been translated into action. We're certainly seeing an increasing number of our customers take their consolidated meetings to a global basis. Initially, it was the larger, more multinational companies. Now we're seeing it trickle down to the masses.
Scott Graf, BCD: What has happened in the past year is an increasing desire for our U.S.-based clients with a global footprint to look for services and solutions that they can deploy internationally. We have created processes, service models, and technology solutions that will help them to achieve those goals.
Like many of our peer agency organizations, our clients are continuing to scrutinize the escalating costs associated with international programs for North American-based travelers.
CMI: How much do you anticipate your international business will grow in the future?
Wilkes: If we follow what we've seen on the corporate travel side, we expect faster globalization to get traction in the meeting space.
Graf: We have several clients looking to deploy an international service solution. This is a growing area of our business, particularly in our EMEA and ASPAC regions. We have established a company goal to quadruple the size of business over the next five years. Our ability to provide a global solution for multinational clients plays a large part in achieving this strategy.
CMI: How has planning international meetings been complicated by the weak dollar?
Wilkes: The economy is making that a more expensive meeting. It makes companies think twice about traveling abroad and then only when it's critical to the meeting's objective.
Graf: Many of our U.S. customers are deferring international travel. On the other hand, we are seeing more activity into the U.S. from our global offices. We have several clients from our European offices doing major programs in the U.S. based on the value they can currently achieve.