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Attracting International Attendees to Your U.S. Meeting

25 June 2012 No Comment

By Fun Lee
Director, Meeting Planning
Cardiovascular Research Foundation

My organization, the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, produces an annual meeting with an audience of 11,000 attendees –  of which 60% are international.

As a meeting planner I am always asking – Where is the growth?  How can I generate more revenue for our organization?   Acknowledging our domestic attendance has plateaued recent years, our highest potential target opportunity is the international audience.

After attending “Convene Presents: Attracting International Attendees to Your U.S. Meeting during the PCMA Education Conference on June 11, I discovered that my organization should be focusing outside the U.S., specifically, growing economies like Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC).  The economies in these countries are growing steadily and the middle class have resources to travel.

An average international traveler spends about $4,000 on their trip to the US.  In total, travel supports over 14.4 million American jobs and contributes $1.9 trillion to the economy.

Obama recently mandated a national marketing priority, “Brand USA.”  This brand will promote and market the U.S. as a major business and travel destination.  The government has completed many changes to allow for easier entry for our international guests.  For example, the visa processing time has been shortened from 120 days to one week for China and Brazil.  Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil are the top countries targeted to facilitate making travel easier.  The next docket of countries targeted is Germany and India.  For the latest updates, please go to poweroftravel.org and travelcoalition.org

Can CVBs assist in my efforts?
Currently, there are CVBs that have offices overseas.  They may be members of ICCA – International Congress and Association.  The members of this association are committed to attracting international delegates to their city.  They have the support of the city, homeland security, air lifts, people who speak the language, and local community resources.  They can offer assistance in visa letters, in country promotions in key markets, and even a special line at immigration when they arrive to make travel easy.

What can my organization do?
If your organization has the funds to travel or market your meeting internationally, you can host a local trade industry press dinner to solicit support.  A cost effective way would be to provide allied associations comp registration, comp rooms for the delegate leader, access to the exhibit hall or to a special lounge, or assist them in marketing your meeting to their members.

Your organization can provide visa letters and visa interviewing tips to help make attendee’s arrangements easier, host a special international registration area or international reception,  and provide interpreters  or a registration discount for those attendees that are not from a visa waiver country.  All these efforts will show your international attendee that your organization wa

nts them at your show and you will make their visit special.  They have enough challenges with language barriers, long flights, different cultures and food, that it is a welcome surprise for them if your organization takes the time to make their experience special.

For more tips, watch “Convene Presents: Attracting International Attendees to Your U.S. Meeting” on 6/26 at 1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. CDT. Register here

You can also check out Welcome to the U.S.  from Convene Magazine.

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