During the MeetingsNet webinar on June 28, Anna Link, CMP, CMM, HMCC, director of global sales, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, reassured participants that planning a global meeting will go smoothly if planners bear in mind the basics.
A 12-year industry veteran, Link sees five new trends in global meetings emerging:
1. Smaller programs
2. Shorter lead times between the contract signing and event
3. Longer approval processes for meeting planners to negotiate with hotels
4. Lack of availability with increased demand for venues
5. Shared options, or first come first served, becoming more common.
These trends put together mean that there is a high probability that if a meeting planner is looking at a particular destination on specific dates, other potential customers are, too. Link warned, “If you do find a space in a city that you want, I recommend that you move the contract quickly so that you don’t lose it.” Don’t be afraid to consider emerging meeting destinations. Link said that as hotel demand has increased in Western Europe, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe have become increasingly popular.
Link had this advice for contracting international projects:
Don’t just think about the holidays where your attendees live, consider the holidays in the destinations you are considering. You may want to avoid having a large event during a bank holiday in your host city. Another example is Dubai, and other Middle Eastern countries, where everything is closed on Fridays because it is the beginning of the weekend. Also keep that in mind during negotiations So, if you send a document on Thursday, you may not here back until the next week.
Remember that for the people you are dealing with, English may be a second or third language. Link can relate to this because English is her second language, and she said, “I know that the word-for-word translations of things don’t always come out right.” Link cautioned that a translation can also change the tone of what you are saying, so if you get a response back and it doesn’t seem right, always get clarification.
Two examples of differing terminology that could trip you up: The general session venue is often known as a plenary room outside the U.S., and breakout rooms are frequently called syndicate rooms.
Currency and Value Added Tax
Currency fluctuates, and that can work for you or against you. Link gave the example of the United Kingdom, which used to be very expensive for U.S. groups but is now more affordable because of currency depreciation.
In Europe, not all countries use the euro, even if they are part of the European Union. Sweden still uses the Swedish krona, for example. Link recommended using a currency converter app to help you stay on top of costs, and having some flexibility in your budget in case of currency fluctuations between your initial quote and when your meeting takes place.
Value Added Tax, or VAT, varies depending on the destination but here Link had some good news: In some countries you can claim a refund on VAT and that can be a great bonus at the end of your meeting.
Most international destinations use meters and centimeters rather than feet and inches, so keep that in mind when you are reviewing floor plans. Some hotels, knowing that they are receiving an RFP from the U.S., will change measurements to feet, but others will not. Make sure to check when you are comparing venues. There are also great free converters for that on the Internet for measurements.
Terms and Conditions
If you have your own legal language for clauses, remember that the person reviewing it speaks English as a second or third language. Keep it simple, and take out clauses that would only apply in the U.S. so your document is shorter to translate and less confusing. If you have a rooms-only contract, take out any clauses that relate to meetings and events to avoid misunderstandings.
If your destination requires visas for international attendees, often the hotel or convention bureau can help put together a visa letter for you. Consider both the destination’s document requirements and the locations your attendees are coming from, and plan for enough time for the paperwork to process.
Quotes from outside the U.S. will often specify a “day delegate rate” instead of a food and beverage minimum. In Europe, it is common to quote a standing lunch instead of a sit-down lunch. In Asia-Pacific countries, the F&B quote will be for the hotel’s restaurant. If you want a private room or sit-down lunch, specify that in the contract.
Contracting Hot Buttons
As with any contract, planners should carefully review the attrition, indemnification, and non-compete clauses, but Link highlights these contracting hot buttons of special concern.
Commissions. These vary globally. In the U.S., hotels pay commissions on guest rooms; in the Middle East and Africa, it is on rooms and meeting space. In Asia-Pacific countries, it is uncommon to quote commissionable rates.
Non-Compete. Make sure you list the companies that you consider to be competitors.
Dual Language Contracts. In some countries, such as Russia, the contract will be in two languages side by side. If you make changes on the English side, check that the changes were made on the Russian side so they match.
Link’s final advice for meeting planners was to think of global sales as a trusted advisor. She said, “We are able to assist every step of the way, from sourcing a meeting through the contracting process. We have relationships with many vendors and hotels, and are always available to help make it a smooth process.”