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March 25 2013

Why Your International Attendees Aren’t Happy

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

flagsThe meetings industry has been uncovering new opportunities in new markets around the world, but it looks like the United States is failing to present a very welcoming attitude to attendees from those emerging hubs of business opportunities.

In a new Consensus Research Group survey of 1,200 overseas travelers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, China and Brazil, 43 percent of respondents who have visited the US within the last five years indicate that they will recommend avoiding a trip to the US because of the entry process. Forty-four percent of respondents said that they will not return to the US in the next five years because of the entry process.

The results seem somewhat surprising, considering recent efforts to ease the entry process for many travelers. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it wants to attract more international guests to the US, highlighting the positive economic impact of the tourism industry.

SEE ALSO: Attracting International Attendees is Getting Easier

With recent sequestration cuts now in effect, some travel industry experts have voiced concerns over the potential for increased inefficiencies at border entry points, too. While the government has focused on efforts to reduce spending, the US Travel Association has released new figures that support an investment in hiring new Customs and Border Protection officers.

According to the USTA, an additional 1,000 CBP officers would cost an estimated $150 million, but the increase would help meet a 30-minute standard for processing international travelers. With a more positive entry experience, more travelers will be able to spread more positive reviews of the border processes in America, too. Those reviews can easily translate to more guests and of course, more money spent in American cities.

What Travel Challenges Mean for Meetings

As meeting professionals continue to work to capitalize on an emerging international audience, it’s important to remember that attendees can face big challenges when arriving in the US. While there is nothing that US-based planners can do to shorten lines at processing checkpoints, they can take steps to make those attendees feel more welcome. Here are four simple ways:

1)   Visa assistance - Before your meeting, provide visa letters and offer visa interviewing tips to guide them through the process.

2)   Translation services - If you’re aiming to attract attendees from a certain country, be sure to offer your annual meeting website in their native language.

3)   International reception - While they may have been forced to deal with less-than-welcoming border patrol officers, you can make the on-site arrival feel much more friendly with a special reception that honors your guests who have traveled so far to be part of the experience.

4)   Local guide - Wherever your attendees will call home for your next annual meeting, be sure to help your international guests experience the local culture with an insider’s guide in multiple languages.

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