by Allan Lynch | May 01, 2017

Holding or attending a meeting outside the United States has become an increasingly valuable experience in the competitive world economy. Several leading international destinations—France, Scotland, Australia and South Korea—continue to be as popular for tourism as they are for meetings, an appealing combination for planners who want to convince delegates that the experience is worth the time and expense. And many new and renovated convention options sweeten the deal.

France has long been an enticing destination for both leisure and business. In 2016, Paris welcomed the events of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations, the International Association of Social Science Research and the International Titanium Association, to name just a few. And big programs on its calendar this year include EuroPCR, the world’s leading course in interventional cardiovascular medicine. Many groups convene at Palais des Congrès, the largest event space in Paris, located just west of the Arc de Triomphe. It has 34 spaces, including four auditoriums (the largest for up to 3,723 people) and the 59,632-square-foot Maillot Hall. The Palais is one of 10 venues operated by Viparis, which can also manage accommodation bookings and airport and railway welcome services. Another large option is Paris Nord Villepinte, near Charles de Gaulle Airport; this exposition center has eight halls, ranging from 161,000 to 538,600 square feet, as well as numerous additional meeting spaces. Or a unique option is the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground mall near the Louvre Museum. Its 76,692 square feet of space is spread out in six areas and can be configured to seat up to 2,200. Another truly memorable space is the recently opened Gustave Eiffel Room. Located on the first level of the Eiffel Tower, this dramatic room provides both great views and all the technology required for successful events of up to 300.

Vivacious Scotland, equally appreciated for its rich history and classic architecture, also attracts attendees and planners with its love of good times and adventure. In recent years, the Scots have thrown themselves into commercially developing their assets, of which there are many: distilleries, castles, hunting estates, resorts and modern conference centers. Building on the country’s history as a leader in medical training and research and as a significant energy producer thanks to North Sea oil reserves, Scotland hosts groups that include the Association of Pediatric Anesthetists of Great Britain & Ireland, the Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons of Great Britain & Ireland, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, the Energy Networks Association and Subsea UK.

Last year, Scotland hosted the International Special Events Society’s inaugural Global Event Summit at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC). In addition to meetings, delegates were treated to a gala dinner aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is permanently moored in a waterfront suburb of the capital.

They also enjoyed a visit to the legendary Gleneagles Hotel, located in Perthshire. Rated the best golf resort in the world, the 232-room Gleneagles has hosted both a G8 meeting and the Ryder Cup. Amenities include the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Scotland, three championship golf courses, a shooting lodge and falconry, stables, off-road driving opportunities and other country pursuits. Gleneagles has 14 event spaces ranging from intimate cellars to an opulent, 300-person Edwardian ballroom to the two-year-old Gleneagles Arena, which can host events of up to 2,250.

Among Scotland’s most anticipated developments is the $416 million second campus for the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre (AECC), which is being built near Aberdeen International Airport and will be managed by SMG. When the new AECC campus opens in 2018 it will feature a 12,500-seat arena, 20 hospitality boxes, 21 breakout rooms and 154,199 square feet of exhibition space as well as a 200-room, four-star hotel.

Australia continues to seriously invest in its events industry. The big news is the recent opening of the $1.09 billion International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney in December. It is the centerpiece of a new $3.4 billion waterfront business, events and entertainment neighborhood, Darling Harbour.

Designed to host up to three separate concurrent events, the ICC offers 376,736 square feet of exhibition space, 70 meeting rooms, a 58,819-square-foot event deck overlooking the water, 2,500- and 8,000-seat theaters, as well as Australia’s largest ballroom, capable of hosting up to 3,500 for a reception. For added convenience, a new hotel, the 590-room Sofitel/Sydney–Darling Harbor, is scheduled to open in November, while the nearby Four Points by Sheraton has opened a new tower, which raises its room count to 892.

The country’s other major venues include the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC), which is wrapping up a $303 million expansion. The first phase of the project was completed in 2015, which saw the opening of the West Building, a space that can host up to 4,000 people and features a retractable lighting grid that facilitates the adjustment of ceiling heights. The remaining East Building is on track to finish this summer and will house a 3,500-seat, divisible space. When fully complete, the ACC will have 32 meeting rooms and nine halls. It is adjacent to the 367-room InterContinental/Adelaide, with its own five meeting spaces. Or the Adelaide Oval is within walking distance and can accommodate special events of up to 3,000.

Among other projects in Australia is a $227 million expansion of the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre (MCEC). When completed in July 2018, this six-star Green Star–rated facility will have 753,473 square feet of meeting space, including 430,556 square feet of divisible exhibition space. The MCEC is attached to the 396-room Hilton/Melbourne South Wharf, which has its own meeting space for up to 220 people.

While Sydney has built new neighborhoods, South Korea has been crafting a whole new city for the last nine years. The 1,500-acre, $35 billion Songdo development, located 35 miles from central Seoul near Incheon Airport, is aiming to be the greenest, smartest, most sustainable new destination in the world. Already more than 70 percent complete, Songdo has married eco-friendly features to infrastructure other cities can only dream of; for example, 40 percent of the city is devoted to parks, there are some 90 miles of bike paths and an extensive public transit system. The bulk of its buildings, including the Convensia Convention Center, are LEED-certified and were designed with services like a pneumatic waste-collection system that eliminates the need for garbage trucks.

On the meetings front, the convention center offers exhibit space for up to 450 booths and meeting space for up to 2,000 people. The city’s innovation and central location have attracted more than 1,600 corporate organizations such as Samsung, Daewoo and Cisco, and 13 international agencies, including the Secretariat of the Green Climate Fund, all of which have offices in the city. The G20 Deputy Finance Ministers have held meetings in Songdo. The city has also welcomed the World Education Forum, Green Climate Fund annual meetings and the International Realtor Conference. And while the city is still very young, there are already plans to double the size of its convention center.

International meetings offer associations a sense of scope and inspiration that members can only benefit from. And with a growing number of new and improved convention options (some at landmark sites like the Eiffel Tower), the timing for a global gathering has never been better.