As companies increase their presence globally, meetings abroad are becoming more common. While world travel is exciting and adventurous, it is important for planners and attendees to be prepared or a trip could be ruined before it begins. It is beneficial to partner with an experienced meeting planner who can provide valuable assistance with the many challenges that may arise with international destinations.
Communication with attendees is very important. Be sure to announce the event dates and destination as early as possible to allow attendees time to procure the appropriate travel documentation. Contrary to popular belief, many Americans do not own a passport. Those that do may find their passports have expired or may not be acceptable for travel. In some cases, countries may require that a passport be valid for six months after the trip has taken place. Others may require at least three clean passport pages in a traveler’s passport before an entry/exit visa can be stamped into it. The condition of the passport may also play a role in whether or not the passport/traveler will be accepted for travel in that country. Keep attendees informed on laws and regulations regarding passports, visas and medical requirements. Visit the Department of State website for specific information regarding passport applications, requirements and processing times at www.travel.state.gov.
Bear in mind that not every attendee traveling from the U.S. is an American citizen. Therefore, it will be important for them to know what restrictions and/or limitations may be imposed on them during travel outside the U.S. and re-entry. In addition, it is important for them to be aware of the requirements of the country to which they are traveling. Visas may be required prior to departure.
During the registration process request passport and emergency contact information – be aware of your attendees and what their needs might be regarding travel documentation. Advise them to make duplicate copies of their passport photo page – one copy to be left behind with a relative or friend and one copy (along with a set of photos) to take with them. These should be kept separate from their passport. This will make the process much easier should their passport become lost or stolen.
Stay informed with U.S. Department of State Travel Alerts and Warnings. Travelers may also opt to register with the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). This is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This will allow travelers to record their trip information so that the government can better assist in case of an emergency. For more information go to https://travelregistration.state.gov.
It is important for attendees to understand they are guests in a foreign country. They are subject to its laws and are under its jurisdiction. One can be arrested overseas for actions that may be either legal or considered minor infractions in the United States. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate offices do not provide legal assistance.
While it would be wonderful to learn the language of the country you will be visiting, it’s not practical and highly unlikely that you and/or your attendees would have the time to master more than a few common phrases. Pocket guides and translation books might be considered as part of the welcome packet. There have also been advances in applications for language assistance with both on and offline usage options. Although English may be widely spoken in other countries – do not assume expressions, gestures and/or innuendo will be understood.
Special consideration should also be given to those attendees with special needs that may extend beyond physical disabilities. While most will make note of their specific needs, dietary requirements and special requests on the registration form, some will not. One recommendation is to use pictures and images on meeting signage where appropriate. This will actually be helpful to all attendees – seeing a slash through an image of a cell phone is understood in any language.
Pass along tips for packing based on the local climate and expected attire for business meetings and functions. Additionally, certain hotels, restaurants, museums and places of worship may have dress code requirements. Recommendations to avoid over packing and to eliminate valuables such as jewelry will help to make traveling a more comfortable process along with the following:
- Check with the airline regarding luggage restrictions (size, weight and number of checked and carry-on bags).
- Do not lock checked luggage (except with TSA-approved locks). If a locked bag is selected for random screening and search, agents will have to break the lock to open.
- Liquids and gels may be packed in carry-on bags provided they are in individual containers not larger than 3.4 ounces. Each passenger is allowed one quart-size, clear plastic zip top bag.
For more information go to www.tsa.gov/traveler-information.
As your partner, the meeting and travel professionals at HMI will provide you and your attendees with important information regarding travel abroad and will answer questions regarding travel arrangements, appropriate documentation, as well as make recommendations for leisure activities, special purchases and local cuisine.
Considering an international destination for your next meeting or incentive trip? Contact HMI for expert advice and assistance.