The number of overseas meetings staged by North American planners plummeted this year. But according to IMEX’s International MICE (meetings, incentives, convention and exhibition) Outlook for North America study, those same planners insist demand for overseas destinations will increase as corporate clientele and association membership become more global.
The study surveyed 110 mostly American association planners; roughly 33 percent were corporate planners. In 2008, only 24 percent of those surveyed said they were annually planning at least 10 events overseas; in 2007, almost half of the planners (46 percent) expected to plan as much. The planers surveyed blamed the decrease of international events on safety concerns and, in euro-based countries, value concerns. The No. 1 reason planners gave for choosing international destinations was “to encourage a more global outlook within our organization.” The top three destinations for MICE events were Europe, Asia/Far East and the Caribbean.
According to the planners, one of the biggest barriers to staging meetings overseas is air travel. “There appears to be little interest amongst airlines in winning our business,” commented one participant. Others suggested airlines could improve by offering group sales departments; ceasing to charge high tariffs, fuel surcharges and baggage fees; and creating an industry standard of service.
MICE planners also said they’d like to see more objectivity from foreign tourism bureaus, especially in recommendations for vendors, restaurants and sites; a consistent level of service for global hotel brands; better security for meeting attendees in foreign countries; and appreciation for the potential business dollars events represent. “Recognize the MICE sector as being vital to the growth and vitality of your economy,” urged one survey participant. “Be mindful of the power of our industry — the largest in the world.”
IMEX also encouraged the MICE planners to offer one lesson, or tip, that would help planners new to staging international events. Here are their Top 10 suggestions:
- Always seek out and use reliable destination partners to make the planning easier
- Demand guaranteed pricing in dollars
- Think and act in a global manner
- Be prepared for unusual business practices and procedures — and delays
- Always leave more than enough time to get delegates to and from the airport
- Read the contract line by line — you are no longer in the U.S.
- Learn the culture and their business methods
- Read about the city and country and talk to others who have already held programs in that destination
- Always remember that you are only a visitor in another country
- Be open-minded at all times
Source: IMEX Global Data Exchange