10 Tips for Planning Events in Europe
Over the past couple of years, the travel industry has seen a slow increase in the use of international destinations for incentive travel programs. A recent Maritz Travel study, the International Destination Index, revealed that many European destinations provide the luxury and adventure that participants particularly value in incentive travel.
As Europe continues to be a choice destination for participants and planners alike, planners should consider some of the challenges they may encounter, including language barriers, varied currencies, time differences, differing legal terms for contracts and insurance, additional holidays, and more. Here are ten tips to keep in mind when planning meetings overseas.
Research public holidays and major events in your European destination and how they might affect your group. For example:
- Going to Paris during the final leg of the Tour de France or Paris Fashion Week will increase your room rate. It may also affect off-site activities due to road closures.
- If a group has leisure time during May Day, a European bank holiday, clarify what attractions are open and closed to help determine the extent of the impact on the guests’ experience.
- Keep in mind, August is very difficult from a planning perspective as it is common for many Europeans to take monthlong holidays.
Brush up on cultural courtesy—it goes a long way. As a hospitality professional, we need to pay attention to cultural nuances. It will help personalize interactions and foster better working relationships to learn a few key terms in your contacts’ respective languages. Keep merci, danke, and gracias in your back pocket to use when thanking them.
Understand the hotel or supplier’s proposal and contract. Since language and legal terms vary by country, always clarify unclear terms and conditions. For example:
- Check the currency used on quotes. Some countries will include multiple currencies in RFPs and hotel contracts.
- Check if the value added tax (VAT) is included in your room rate, and if it can be recovered for your meeting.
- European hotels often quote in military time rather than standard time. Your dinner in the ballroom from 7:00 to 9:00 may be shown as 1900 to 2100 on the agendas/function-space tables.
Be aware of legal and insurance variances. For instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply in Europe.
Remember that flexibility and open communication are key, regardless of the culture. Establish a friendly phone relationship to help get win-win solutions for your guests and suppliers.
Be mindful of your approach when planning for large meetings that require convention center space or multiple hotels. If you’re engaging ground suppliers or tourist boards to help with sourcing, determine whether there is a charge for services and clarify roles and responsibilities up front.
Use eRFP tools. Some of these tools help map hotels in the destination city and offer searches based on key criteria, such as largest ballroom, second largest ballroom, or total meeting space. They will help you format RFPs to require specific responses that you can compare side-by-side.
Consider bedding configurations. They are often different in Europe. For share-with programs—two acquaintances sharing a room—you’ll want to have a clear understanding of the hotel’s bedding configurations. Most hotels in the United States with two beds in a room often have a nightstand separating them (and therefore at least two feet between the beds). Some European hotels have only a few inches between two beds. So if planning a share-with program, always clarify the distance between beds.
Watch for daily delegate rates (DDR), a separate package from a negotiated room rate. Frequently used in Europe, DDRs are typically set in price. Be sure the hotel lists exactly what is included in the package. It usually covers meeting room use, morning and afternoon breaks, lunch, and sometimes basic audiovisual equipment. If your hotel has a separate DDR, keep in mind that you may encounter room rental charges for equipment holds and setup days.
Partner with an intermediary to tap local expertise in new regions. Local DMCs, CVBs, and other meeting travel specialists can be invaluable in navigating unfamiliar areas.
While European planning presents hurdles, it also offers a unique and rewarding experience for participants. Whether you’re planning a trip for 10 or 10,000 guests, following these easy tips will help create a seamless experience.
For nearly 20 years, Heather Heidbrink has helped Maritz Travel clients design unique, participant-focused meetings, events, and incentive travel experiences. As director of sourcing for Maritz Travel, Heidbrink leads a team of 25 buyers who negotiate, book, and contract with hotels, both domestically and worldwide, to ensure that clients receive exceptional experiences and program value.