Issa Jouaneh is the Vice President and General Manager, American Express Meetings & Events. “American Express Meetings & Events” is a service provided by American Express Global Business Travel (“GBT”). GBT is a joint venture that is not wholly-owned by American Express Company or any of its subsidiaries (“American Express”). “American Express Global Business Travel,” “American Express” and the American Express logo are trademarks of American Express, and are used under limited license.
A number of major world events occurred in the past few years, creating a slew of new, unique conference and event spaces available for use in business. Seasonal sporting events drew hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world, both to developed countries such as London, which hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics, as well as to emerging regions in Brazil, which hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup, leading to better hotels, upgraded airports, improved infrastructure and innovative facilities. With these options in mind, there are many additional factors to consider when selecting your next meeting destination, whether it’s domestic or international.
One of the most important considerations in destination selection is air travel. In particular, performing an event travel analysis as part of the planning process can help planners to select the best location. The first item to consider when evaluating destinations from an air travel perspective is accessibility. Be sure to determine the airport location in relation to potential hotels and venues to get clarity on ground transfer time to the meeting location.
Another key consideration is ease of travel, specifically the average flying time and number of direct flights from key locations. Flight time should be considered as part of the attendee experience, especially for situations where attendees may need to transition into meetings immediately upon arrival. Also, a limited number of flight choices could result in the number of attendees per flight exceeding organizational guidelines. Furthermore, security issues vary country to country, and it is essential that planners are up to date on security in emerging countries. The U.S. Department of State site (www.travel.state.gov) is a great resource for ensuring your meeting is in a location that meets the required security needs. Many countries also require a visa for entry. Applications can be lengthy, so keep this in mind when evaluating potential meeting destinations.
Finally, booking flights as early as possible is highly recommended as prime departure times in cities with summer concerts/festivals or other large corporate meetings/events can fill up quickly. Booking a flight weeks or months in advance can reduce costs and relieve the stress of booking last-minute.
Evaluating and understanding past travel experiences and issues can help planners make recommendations for future events. With these components of destination evaluation in mind, organizers can reduce budgetary impact from the initial stages of planning. Integrating air travel management as part of planning allows planners to manage the budget in a comprehensive fashion. If not controlled, air travel can easily consume a significant portion of an event budget. However, savings achieved through proper management of air travel can provide funding for other important areas such as food and beverage.
Airfare cost comparisons can have a major influence on the destination choice. In the case of two similar destinations, a significant difference in air cost can be the deciding factor. However meeting planners should research airline promotions that offer reduced fares for new aircraft or for new or focus destinations.
If there was ever a time when planning a corporate meeting simply involved choosing the perfect location and coordinating guests, that time has passed. Today, meeting planners are becoming increasingly aware of complex compliance standards as regulatory pressures on multinational corporations have intensified, especially when operating in foreign jurisdictions. Due to such pressures, meeting planners are facing increased scrutiny around third-party outsourcing, information security, data privacy and corruption-related risks.
Emerging markets, which often equal high-risk jurisdictions from an anti-corruption perspective, continue to present challenges for many global corporations, where growth opportunities and the need for in-person training or conferences can be greater. When planning meetings and events in emerging markets, internal compliance is often called upon for final approval to ensure compliance is being met. Compliance teams are now monitoring meeting activities, and it is not uncommon for them to review spending, attendance and other key metrics after each meeting or event.
Considering the fact that compliance is an integral part of any meeting planning process, meeting planners and internal compliance departments should work together to develop an integrated approach to planning meetings to accomplish their goals efficiently and within the bounds of regulatory compliance.
Ultimately, meeting planners must decide what makes the most geographic sense for each individual client. According to the American Express Meetings & Events 2015 Global Meetings Forecast, there is a continued push to stay close to home and host meetings where the greatest number of attendees live. For those attendees who want to stay close to home or may not be able to attend a physical event, hybrid solutions can enhance and expand the value of in-person meetings by connecting with new audiences online. Organizations can complement their face-to-face, onsite, physical meeting with simultaneous online viewing over the Web.
“Meeting planners who organize domestic meetings will frequently turn to Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlanta and San Diego in 2015.”
Meeting and event data from 2013 and 2014 provide destination projections for the coming year. Meeting planners who organize domestic meetings will frequently turn to Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlanta and San Diego in 2015. Additionally, the Forecast examined international meeting destination trends to determine the top international cities for meetings in 2015. London tops the list in Europe, accompanied by Singapore in Asia Pacific and Rio de Janeiro in Central/South America. However, as new meeting destination opportunities arose recently in London, Russia and Brazil, meeting planners should keep an eye on worldwide sporting events that will provide new possibilities in coming years across the globe, specifically in South Korea, Rio de Janeiro and Japan. C&IT