7 Tips for Planning Events in Asia
Asia is the world’s largest, most populous, up-and-coming continent. With some 51 countries—whose MICE industry maturity levels vary greatly—it can be misleading to use a broad brush when characterizing various geographies. While there can be similarities in cultures, mindsets, and customs, tremendous differences exist in business practices from country to country.
The differences, however, make Asia an exciting prospect for groups. Planners who effectively incorporate local elements into a program’s design and delivery create a unique and lasting impression in the hearts and minds of guests. By understanding the markets in deeper detail, at a local level, you can unlock opportunities that achieve your program objectives and more. Following are some tips to consider when planning events in Asia:
Take necessary precautions
As with travel to any foreign country, it is important to understand the destination’s political stability. Conduct necessary risk assessments on the destination where you intend to hold your event.
Keep an open mind
Contract terms will depend on the country you do business with and its “culturally accepted” practices. For example, Japan is a country ruled by the notion of law and order. Discipline is part of the Japanese DNA, and can often be perceived by non-Japanese as inflexibility. If you were to submit a single name for a double occupancy room, for instance, your request would be rejected. The Japanese would rather let the room stay empty for the night than book it with just one person. By using informed empathy and respecting the cultural business norms, you’ll build a much better outcome. Familiarize yourself with business terminology and procedures. Acquainting yourself with the business terminology (even in translation), and understanding exactly what you are buying is essential. In addition, it is important to learn the culture and business procedures of the country. Ask many, many questions and assume nothing. While some countries operate in a similar fashion to the United States, many do not.
Ask the experts
Local knowledge and expertise is key to understanding the best way to navigate your way around Asia. Ensure you get local advice from the best possible source—never go at it alone. Hotels, CVBs, destination management companies, and local chapters of such industry associations as MPI, PCMA, ICCA and IAEE can often recommend trusted partners.
Embrace cultural diversity
In order to create the most memorable experience, build in a program to educate attendees on the culture of the destination. Whenever possible, take advantage of activities and events that showcase the culture. For example, Japan offers such cultural festivities as Golden Week in late April through early May; Cherry Blossom season in late March or early April, depending on location; Obon in mid-August; and the Kobe Luminarie, held each December to commemorate the Great Hanshin earthquake. These can lend a special experience to programs. However, be aware that these festivities can also inflate hotel and travel costs.
Pay attention to the details
Local taxes, entry formalities (such as visas and customs), and local business law should not be taken lightly. Both local taxes and business laws are extremely complex and always prevail over U.S. laws. Nothing should be done without expert advice. Also, ensure that necessary visas and entry formalities for both delegates and goods being shipped to the event locations are checked and processed correctly. For value-added taxes (VAT) or goods and services taxes (GST) when shipping, it is recommended to use a VAT/GST and customs broker. You may pay a little up front, but you will gain much more in the end.
Consider the time of year
Many Asian destinations have tropical climates and experience the monsoonal rains. Since monsoon-season dates vary from destination to destination, make a point to learn nature’s trends and consider them carefully when planning outdoor activities or offsite events. In any season, Asia is a uniquely wonderful destination. By working with local experts and respecting the varied cultures and customs, Asia can provide many exceptional, memorable experiences for event guests.
Ping He is a well-respected global leader in the travel and hospitality industry. In her role as global general manager of Asia Pacific for Maritz Travel Company, which consists of Maritz Travel and Experient, she is responsible for developing strategic partnerships in the region, providing cultural insights to enhance client program experiences, and enriching Maritz Travel Company’s market presence, team leadership, and knowledge base in the industry.