Going Global: Not Your Grandmother's International Program

By Elaine Macy Vice President of Group Sales, Preferred Hotel Group | September 13, 2015

Many years ago, the most popular cities for international programs were London, Paris, and Rome. While these three cities are still among the most in demand, today's planners are submitting more requests to Beijing, Berlin, and Istanbul than ever thanks to their strong infrastructures and for offering great financial value given the strength of the dollar and additional factors including incredible cosmopolitan centers of culture, politics, and media. Each culture has a particular way they run events, and it is common for planners from North America to experience resistance when requests are made to "Americanize" an aspect or require something to be done in a way that is truly never seen by the host destination.

If you try to change the culture or the way of operating programs in different countries, it will not only be considered inappropriate – your demands will likely not be fulfilled and your clients' expectations will not be met. Therefore, flexibility, understanding, and the willingness to adapt to local customs are keys to successfully planning an international gathering and avoiding anything getting lost in translation.

Whether your client is looking to cross the Pacific or the Atlantic for their next gathering, here are a few tips to consider for a smooth and culturally sensitive planning process.

Considering What Constitutes a "Normal" Workday

Each country has a unique way of doing business. In Italy and Spain, for example, meetings rarely happen before 9am and dinners rarely begin before 8pm. Be aware of the hours for working and dining to ensure you do not request appointments (phone or in person) during these times. Also, keep in mind that many sales directors at international hotels, especially in Europe, do not work after 5pm or on weekends. Given those schedules and the differences in time zones, never expect an immediate response to RFPs. It can be typical to wait at least five days to receive a response to an RFP and while this would be an extremely long time to wait in North America, planners need to be understanding. To best cater to your clients, it is your responsibility to consider the time differences and local holidays and clearly communicate to the hotel about what you believe would be a reasonable amount of time to wait for a response.

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