International travel continues to grow every day; from more available flights to cheaper options, there are more opportunities for travelers and groups to discover new, exciting destinations. In a Smart Meetings exclusive webinar, Catherine Chaulet, president of Global DMC Partners, shared eight safety tips for your next intercontinental meeting.
Put Safety First
Whether you are planning a domestic or international meeting, attendee security is the top priority. Before the event, do a pre-assessment. Go beyond the headlines to talk to people who have been there. Staff on-site can tell you the real situation on the ground. They will be your partners if you decide to book there.
Just because a destination seems obvious or is famous, doesn’t mean it’s the right destination for your group. Be clear about your goals to determine what destinations or venues will be the perfect fit and the right time of year—summer in the U.S. is not the warm season in Australia.
International contracts for vendors and venues could require different negotiation tactics than in the U.S. Learn the “law of the land” and the country’s requirements where your program is happening. International venues will often require your group to pay up-front to guarantee the venue for the dates needed.
Contact the Authorities
Reach out to your country’s ambassadors. Embassies and consulates are eager to know who is traveling and usually have a plethora of information ready to give you. They are great resources to have as they can introduce you to venues or contacts that will be beneficial to your group. Additionally, if anything happens to your group, the consulate or embassy will know your group is in their destination and have you on their top priority list so communication will be instant.
Establish an Emergency Plan
An action plan doesn’t have to be complicated; a basic document with only the necessary information will be more helpful than a complex and confusing one. Your event safety plan should be comprised of an event summary, event crisis management team, pre-planning checklist, local emergency contact information, rally points, map of the local area, facility or venue site inspection safety questionnaire, crisis management checklist and an incident reporting form.
It is also wise to consider a communication plan for when technology isn’t available. You may want to rent a satellite phone to use if phone lines are down or there is no internet.
Hiring private security in some destinations may be necessary; it allows you to have peace at mind and reassures your attendees that they are being taken care of.
Capture attendee information early, including emergency contacts. This should happen during registration. Keep it with information for the local police, pharmacies and hospitals, including which hospitals have doctors who speak English.
Smart Tip: Be mindful of oversharing information with outsiders. This includes information about your attendees (Hello GDPR), Wi-Fi information and passwords, signage throughout the event and titles on name badges during offsite events/tours.
At the same time, get prospective guests comfortable with the destination by sharing information about the destination and venue in advance. This will put their minds at ease and counter any misleading stories that might be circling on the Internet.
During the event, keep tabs where your attendees are at all times. Being able to connect with them regularly is of upmost importance. Work with local Destination Management Companies (DMCs), vendors and tour guides to choose a point of contact for each group so you can always reach your attendees.
Get Everyone Home Safely
It’s not enough just to make sure everybody is safe at the hotel. In case of evacuation, establish a relationship with the local DMC, which can help secure ground transportation and possibly private jets.
Embrace Undertouristed Destinations
Oddly enough, undertourism is possibly the result of overtourism. Cheaper, more readily available flights have allowed more travelers to go to certain destinations. And social media sharing hasn’t helped either. All those Instagram selfies in the most popular locations have boosted the appeal of certain destinations while leaving others out of the spotlight.
Seeking out those hidden gems could be the ticket to a better meeting. Under the radar local economies are eager welcome your group. Bringing your group to these destinations opens the door to exciting places; secondary destinations worth looking at now include Malta, Morocco and Costa Rica. It doesn’t hurt that social responsibility is big in these lesser known countries; sustainability and helping the economy have huge impacts on these communities.
Local DMCs have in-depth knowledge and access to unusual tours and activities to help discover these new places based on your groups’ specific needs.