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by W. Daniel A. Lamey | August 01, 2011
Takeaways

Settle your hotel and vendor accounts before you leave the site. It is much more challenging to do so after you have left the country. In some cases, as with very complicated attrition clauses, you cannot underestimate the value of being able to deal with discrepancies face-to-face.

Consider hiring an interpretation company if the meeting will be bilingual or multi-lingual. To find a local firm, seek referrals from your local contacts or the CVB or NTO.

 

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Beyond choosing the destination and property, meetings held outside the United States present some unique considerations and challenges for meeting planners. Following are tips and best-practices for handling some of the finer details of international events.

Money matters Determine how you will pay for services and vendors. Credit cards or wire transfers might not be viable in some destinations. The local U.S. consulate can advise on local payment practices.

In South Africa, for example, hotels might want all costs to be prepaid. In China, some vendors require bills to be paid in the local currency. And in Romania, some venues only accept cash in the local currency.

• Banking. If your meeting requires numerous transactions and deposits, consider setting up a local bank account. However, keep in mind that establishing a foreign bank account can bring a lot more administration issues than the event warrants or the planner expects.

• Currency. Be sure to specify the currency that will be used (e.g., U.S. dollars, euros, etc.) in all contracts. (Note: It's advisable to have an attorney familiar with international law review all contracts and agreements.)

• Value-added tax. Many countries levy a value-added tax on certain meeting expenses (hotels, food and beverage, equipment rentals). Often, the U.S.-based sponsoring firm or association can claim a refund of the VAT. A number of firms specialize in VAT reclamations; many earn their fees by taking a percentage of the refund as payment. Ask local sources for recommendations.

Source Locally Consider purchasing goods and materials from local vendors, rather than shipping from the U.S. Sourcing locally can help you avoid hefty import duties, shipping costs and red tape.

To find reputable local vendors, get referrals from the convention and visitors bureau, national tourist office, hotel or destination management company. When evaluating potential vendors, specify your needs and budget. Once you choose the supplier, specify the price (and currency) and delivery deadlines in the contract.

Extra Precautions Follow the same security protocols and precautions you follow when planning a meeting in the United States. Work closely with the hotel or venue security teams to create and review a crisis plan for your event.

In addition, it's good practice to contact the regional security officer within the U.S. embassy or consulate (state.gov). This individual can provide a frank assessment of any local or regional threats.

Also, consider registering as a constituent with the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a division of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. OSAC promotes security cooperation between American business and private sector interests and the U.S. Department of State. As constituents, planners can access a variety of services and the organization's website, which has reports on overseas security and crime incidents; timely updates on incidents such as strikes or terror threats; and an interactive critical incident reporting section, where members can comment on their real-time experiences.