International destinations can provide new and memorable experiences, provide amazing “unexpected” delights, and allow your participants to enjoy an amazing event. However, you need to ensure that your chosen destination is both affordable and can meet the expectations of your group. Here’s a list of 10 things you should consider when looking at international destinations for your meeting or incentive program. To ignore these considerations may result in disappointed and unhappy executives and participants.
10. Travel Restrictions
Consider if any of your attendees will encounter legal problems attending your event. For example, if any attendees are from the United States there are numerous travel restrictions impeding their travel to Cuba.
A destination may be on your personal bucket list, but make sure the infrastructure is in place to handle a group before you sign your contract. Many new destinations aren’t ready to handle large groups.
8. Where your participants are based
Look at where your participants are from and how much time they will need to travel to your chosen destination. If many people will have to overnight going to and coming from your event, you certainly should look at other destinations if your actual program is only 2 or 3 days in length.
7. Customs & Shipping
If you normally send many items to your events, the cost of shipping and customs duties can add up quickly. There can also be problems in getting consignments through customs inspections (I remember having a conference shipment held because it included 2 baskets made in a country that was on my destination’s watch list). Ask your customs agents for advice if you are considering new destinations.
How adventurous is your group? I once planned a program to China only to find that some participants were unwilling to try foods they were not used to. If you are unsure, look for venues that can provide international style cuisine.
5. Service Expectations
Not all countries are used to providing North American style service. This can be a real challenge if your participants normally receive white glove service, as the program they experience will not meet their expectations.
4. Budget Breakdown
Look at the cost of travel as well as the costs you will incur at your venues. If you use up the majority of you budget in travel costs, you may not be able to afford the actual program components that will make your event memorable for participants.
3. Language Issues
Many travelers are uncomfortable if they can’t find anyone who speaks their language. This may not just apply in exotic destinations – we have found that a Spanish speaking staff member is a real asset when dealing with some airports and venues in Miami!
2. Air Challenges
Some destinations would make a great destination that most of your attendees have never been to, but getting a group there could be a real challenge. If the trip is too onerous for your attendees, the bad memories may negate any pleasure they experience on the trip.
1. Venue Limitations
Are the venues really ready to handle group business? Many properties in developing regions provide excellent vacation experiences but are not ready to service large groups. This can create a less than stellar meeting if the venue staff are not trained to meet the needs of groups.
Les Selby, CMP CMM
Event Spectrum Inc.
Vice President, Client Services