Are you ready for the Turnaround?

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    How is your company or organization handling your meeting and event planning? Are you happy with the way things are, or are you looking for ways to make it easier, faster and better to get things done?

    From speaking with and listening to customers, the period of companies focusing on simply surviving is nearing its end. Organizations are now, once again, shifting their focus onto retention, motivation and growth.

    Are you prepared for the increase in business when things turn around and you suddenly find yourself inundated with planning upcoming meetings and events?

    One thing I have noticed, when working for Marriott International and now with HPN, is that more and more companies and organizations are, or are considering, outsourcing the site/venue selection of their meetings and events.

    This makes perfect sense in today's environment, as it is often a tedious task. As several companies have down-sized their organizations, the remaining staff members who have to do more with less are truly stretched to the max. Outsourcing the site/venue selection and, thereby, also getting assistance with the rate and contract negotiations, frees up time for meeting and event planners, so they are able to better focus on other important tasks. Outsourcing can also result in achieving considerable cost savings... all of this without giving up the control of your program.

    For those of you who are booking overseas meetings and events, there are several other things to consider as well.

    One very important aspect pertaining to cost savings is the Value Added Tax (VAT) reclaim that is available for many corporations. Rules and terms vary by country; it is extremely important that contracts are drawn up the right way, and it can be somewhat difficult to do on your own. However, with that said, the savings potential of VAT reclaim is substantial. If you are not familiar with the process, I highly recommend that you speak with a VAT Reclaim Specialist who can assist you.

    In relation to rates and contracting, negotiation styles differ in various cultures, and language might also come into play. There is also a great possibility that you will have to prepay when dealing with international venues.

    Technology requirements and availability might be different compared to what you are used to, so make sure to double- and, preferably, triple-check that all is in working order prior to a group arriving at a destination.

    I would also strongly recommend working with a Destination Management Company (DMC) for all your non-hotel related services at the destination you have chosen. DMCs are the local specialists who can make all the difference in providing a most successful program for your attendees. Many times, they can "open doors" with local contacts that might not otherwise be available.

    In closing I wish you much continued success in 2010!