Your mission: Select a venue outside of the U.S. for the first-ever meeting or incentive for your organization. But there are hundreds of venues from which to choose. How do you decide which one is best suited for your event? We asked our panel of experts, three Certified Meeting Professionals (CMPs), with extensive international meeting planning experience, to explain the top five considerations for choosing the most appropriate site.
1.Budget.According to veteran meeting planner Ulla Buchner-Howard, managing director for UBH International, Inc. in New York City, budget is the foremost consideration when choosing a site abroad. If, for example, an organization is planning a trip to Portugal, but there are suddenly fantastic deals in Malaysia because of its devalued currency, the planner might want to consider a change in travel plans. In such a situation, the favorable exchange rate would significantly lower costs and could make a Malaysian trip that was previously out of budget range an option worth considering.
Margaret A. Moynihan, CMP, director of conferences and travel for Deloitte & Touche in Wilton, Conn., agrees that budget is the foremost criterion. She advises planners to remember that the expense of renting a meeting room outside the United States can be extremely high. "You pay for meeting space outside the U.S. by the hour," Moynihan reminds planners. Therefore, be careful to estimate the number of hours the meeting space will be used--3, 10, 12, or 24 hours--when calculating the meeting budget.
2.Program Objectives.Because different types of programs have diverse goals, planners should keep the specific type of meeting in mind when selecting an overseas site. Rodney E. Abraham, CMP, president of Professional Meeting Planners Network, based in Durham, N.C., points out that for a training meeting a planner might want to consider a facility near an airport and not one next to a golf course.
If, on the other hand, the planner is organizing an incentive trip, Buchner-Howard says, the challenge is to find what's "new." Whether it's newly opened Russian borders or a recently discovered historical site in Korea, new opportunities create more exciting incentive trips, Buchner-Howard notes. She recommends that planners always consider destinations previously visited by group members before finalizing new travel itineraries.
3.Space/Size.Does the facility have the meeting space that you require? According to Abraham, this is a key question to ask when selecting a site outside the U.S. Moynihan agrees, saying that the meeting room must be conducive to the type of program that is scheduled. She stresses that, especially in Europe, "things are on a much grander scale." So, a grand-style European hotel may not be the answer for a training meeting, but it might be perfect for an incentive program.
Related to the issue of meeting space is the issue of size. Moynihan explains that the sizes of tables, chairs, and control panels are all different overseas and organizers must plan for these differences when selecting an international site. She further specifies that because most hotel rooms outside the U.S. have twin beds, even the types of sleeping rooms comes into play when selecting an overseas location. If a trip is planned primarily for business people and their spouses, the organizer might want to research an issue as basic as bed size before committing to a site.
4.Accessibility to Airport.Planners should always consider a site's accessibility to airports. As Abraham explains, if the site is "two planes, a bus, and a camel" away, then the planner might need to consider an alternative location.
5.Hire a good. A destination management company provides many services, including setting up tours, local transportation, and off-site special events. Many also negotiate hotel rates. Buchner-Howard says it's critical to research and get references on a variety of DMCs and "to connect with a DMC that knows the area well."