Beyond Borders: When is the right time for a planner to contact a DMC?
Padraic Gilligan: When meeting planners view a destination management company as merely one of many vendors supporting program delivery, they typically engage with them when it’s too late for the DMC to provide meaningful input into program design. This is a pity. However complex a meeting’s objectives, DMCs will have ideas on how their destination can be used to deliver on those objectives. Besides asking about attendee demographics and past meeting experience, we always ask what success looks like for (a) the attendee, (b) the planner, (c) the budget holder, and (d) the company.

BB: Aren’t DMCs mainly booked for incentive programs? How do they add value to other meetings?
Gilligan: DMCs specialize in creating unforgettable experiences for incentive qualifiers, but can be indispensable with regard to creative and transformational meeting design too. For educational meetings, you need a balanced combination of form and content, medium and message. DMCs will be able to suggest new, unexpected, and challenging venues and spaces in which to conduct your meetings. An unusual venue can be crucial to the overall success of the meeting. DMCs will also know the AV and production companies that can best deliver your key messages. Typically DMCs will work with professional speakers, teambuilding specialists, and local theater groups in the development of creative meeting content. Discussing such needs with the DMC can save considerable time and money and ensure that all program elements are integrated and “on message.”

BB: How have DMCs been affected by the backlash against luxury travel in the corporate world?
Gilligan: U.S. companies traveling overseas have been “flying under the radar” for some time now, and DMCs have developed new ways of providing due qualifier recognition without the need for pomp and ceremony. And, increasingly, Gen X and Gen Y qualifiers—unlike their baby boomer precursors—are happier with the low-key approach. DMCs are focusing more on qualitative, meaningful program inclusions aligned with corporate objectives, as opposed to braggadocious bling. First-class treatment is now about quality and authentic engagement with new people and places.

BB: How are international DMC pricing models different from those of U.S. DMCs?
Gilligan: Most DMCs operate a flexible pricing policy. Some clients require cost transparency, so the DMC works to an hourly or fixed management fee. Other clients require line-item prices that include the DMC’s margin. In broad terms, EU DMCs tend to work to lower percentage margins than their U.S. counterparts, but often handle more program elements, sometimes even including accommodation and venue sourcing. The language barrier can be a compelling reason for a U.S. planner to route all destination requirements through the DMC. What an EU DMC loses on percentage margin, it sometimes makes up in volume.

Padraic Gilligan is managing director of MCI Ireland and vice president of Ovation Global DMC, which operates in more than 60 destinations in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.