As in so many other industries, the trends in destination management have lately been consolidation and globalization. What does that mean when you're booking overseas? DMC experts — and lifelong pals — Patrick Delaney and Padraic Gilligan of Ovation Global shared with us their decades of experience with the DMC sector and what you can expect when taking your meeting outside your home country.

Beyond Borders: Will DMC consolidation and globalization continue? Does this make it easier for planners booking internationally or are we risking a loss of originality?

Delaney and Gilligan: DMC consolidation and globalization continue to happen as corporate customers alter their own global presences and look for a single-source solution at multiple destinations. Planners benefit from the convenience and time-saving perspective in that they are able to leverage existing relationships over multiple locations, and from a financial point of view in that they will work with fewer DMCs and expect better value. The actual services are still offered by local experts, with local contacts offering the best and most creative solutions.

BB: What are the most important services that DMCs provide for planners bringing meetings outside the U.S. and Canada?

Delaney and Gilligan: DMCs provide local knowledge, expertise, and contacts all over the world. They also provide crucial cultural and linguistic mediation where lifestyles and languages are different from a planner's own. U.S. planners, for example, used to a litigious environment, will always refer to the terms of a written contract, while in some destinations the personal relationship and the handshake may outweigh the contractual details. In some destinations DMC services can include assistance with visa applications and help with customs formalities besides the traditional services like meet and greet, ground transportation, off-property excursions, tours, and activities.

BB: What is the difference between a DMC and a PCO?

Delaney and Gilligan: A PCO, or professional conference organizer, offers turnkey service for association meetings. This often commences with the bid process (to win a large conference for a destination) and includes budget planning and full financial management, marketing and PR for the conference, delegate registration, ongoing delegate management, housing bureau, abstract and content management, venue sourcing, transportation, social program, excursions, sponsorship management, and exhibition management.

A DMC, on the other hand, offers a more narrow scope of services including itinerary planning, social programs, accommodation booking, transportation organization, sporting and leisure activities, gala dinners, and themed events. With access to unique venues, DMCs can create experiences travelers couldn't have on their own. For example, in addition to private performances by Van Morrison and members of Riverdance, our team has delivered an exclusive recital of Handel's choral masterpiece “The Messiah” on the site of its inaugural 1742 Dublin performance.

BB: What should meeting planners watch out for when choosing a DMC? Are there international DMC standards?

Delaney and Gilligan: To date, there are no internationally accepted standards for accreditation of DMCs. The Society of Incentive & Travel Executives offers its Certified Incentive Travel Executive program to individuals, and this designation indicates high levels of competence. The U.S.-based Association of Destination Marketing Executives has done the same.

Planners may also consider the company's level of engagement with associations such as SITE, Meeting Professionals International, International Special Events Society, Professional Convention Management Association, International Congress & Convention Association, and others. Special Events magazine publishes an annual “Top 25 DMCs in the World” survey, which is another indicator, as are industry awards such as SITE Crystal Award, MPI Paragon Award, and the ICCA Marketing Award.

BB: How can DMCs help meeting planners keep within their budgets when planning international meetings?

Delaney and Gilligan: DMCs can help to find wonderful value for international planners in the sourcing of hotel accommodation, for example. While chain hotels can be sourced quite easily via local or regional sales executives and GDS systems, nonchain hotels are frequently difficult to find. Being in the destination, the DMC will have both the knowledge and the relationships to drive the value proposition here.

BB: What are the different payment schedules used by DMCs and PCOs in different countries? What specific payment-related questions should meeting planners ask when researching DMCs?

Delaney and Gilligan: PCO business and DMC business have little in common when it comes to payment. In the association space, the PCO may even be a “partner” in the conference, with a share of profits comprising part or, indeed, all of its fees. The PCO sometimes provides seed money to get the event off the ground or even to fund the initial bid. This will be recuperated once the conference account is in funds.

DMCs, typically, act as a one-source payment solution for the corporate customer by handling all third-party invoicing in accordance with a staged payment system. Once the contract is signed, a 10 percent to 25 percent deposit is paid and then disbursed by the DMC to the suppliers. Usually the DMC receives 100 percent of the pre-program pro forma prior to the event with any on-site expenses, drinks overages, and the like settled no later than 30 days after the meeting.

BB: How early should planner contact a DMC?

Delaney and Gilligan: We always say, “Call us first!” If we are brought into the process early enough, the full benefits of our expertise and local knowledge can be realized.

A good DMC will provide a lot more than mere logistical backup in a destination. A good DMC will engage from the get-go and provide creative input so that the destination is presented aligned with business and corporate objectives.

Based in Dublin, Patrick Delaney and Padraic Gilligan are joint managing directors of Ovation Global DMC. Ovation Global offers services in Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, Spain, Switzerland, the Gulf States of the Middle East, and the U.K. Both Delaney and Gilligan have long relationships with SITE. In 1991 Delaney was international president of the association while this honor now falls to Gilligan 17 years later.