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The international difference.

Editor's Note: in this set of stories, one association executive and four international convention bureau representatives discuss CVB service.

More than 35 years ago, R. Tom Sawyer, then a board member of the International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI), Atlanta, envisioned a truly international exchange of jet engine information and technology. For the visionary Sawyer that meant holding a meeting overseas for the first time, and in 1966 IGTI did just that in Zurich, Switzerland.

Today IGTI holds two meetings a year: the ASME Turbo Expo--Land, Sea, and Air and the ASME Cogen Turbo Power congress and exposition. Each year, we hold one of the meetings in the United States and one in a foreign destination. Since we hold an overseas meeting every year, IGTI staff have worked with convention bureaus in many foreign cities and countries, including Nice, France; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Montreux, Switzerland; Toronto, Canada; and Cologne, Germany. In some ways, the services of international bureaus differ from those services provided by bureaus in the United States. Here is a look at some of those differences.

Size. The staffs of overseas convention bureaus are generally smaller than U.S. bureau staffs. U.S. bureaus often have 50 employees or more, whereas international bureaus usually only have a handful of people to perform their services. So while the enthusiasm of international bureaus is probably as great as that of U.S. bureaus, foreign bureaus are limited in the quantity of convention services they can provide.

Taxes. When a U.S. association holds an overseas meeting, it quickly learns about the value-added tax, the European version of a federal sales tax. Companies that exhibit in an exposition, for example, pay up to a 20 percent tax based on the cost of their exhibit space. Although companies located outside of the country must pay the tax, they get part of their money back if they apply for a refund following the event. I'm not aware of any similar tax for a U.S.-based meeting.

In the early 1980s, when we were planning a meeting in Amsterdam, IGTI staff knew little about value-added tax. That's where the convention bureau came in. To help educate our staff about the tax, the Netherlands Convention Bureau hired a tax consultant in The Hague. Following our visit, the tax consultant convinced Dutch tax authorities that the tax was unnecessary since IGTI's exhibitors would receive part or all of the tax back anyway. The waiver meant that the Netherlands would not charge IGTI exhibitors a value-added tax on their exhibit space. It was particularly important because most of our exhibiting firms were located outside of the Netherlands. Thus, our non-dutch exhibiting companies didn't have to bother with reclaiming the value-added tax, and IGTI was able to charge less for exhibit space. This made our exhibition more appealing and resulted in greater exhibit sales.

Hotel bookings. I can't think of a convention and visitors bureau in the United States that won't book hotel rooms for delegates. But that is not always the case when you're working with an international bureau. For example, the Nice Convention Bureau, France, and the Montreux Convention Bureau, Switzerland, booked rooms for IGTI, but some other international bureaus have not provided such a service.

If a bureau cannot book hotel rooms for your delegates, however, it may be able to offer another hotel-related service. For example, when IGTI felt hotel rates for its congress and exposition in Amsterdam in 1988 were unreasonably high, the Netherlands Convention Bureau set up several 30-minute appointments in its offices so that we could meet with hotel managers. The appointments enabled us to meet with the appropriate people in person in one day. And we were able to negotiate better hotel packages.

Sister organizations. When an association is thinking about hosting an international meeting, the bureau often tries to set up a meeting between the organization and a counterpart from the country. A local counterpart usually provides the association with information about speakers, the local industry, and so forth. When an Austrian bureau recently learned that IGTI was thinking of holding an upcoming meeting in its city, the bureau arranged a meeting between IGTI and a representative of a local gasturbine counterpart organization. Since our first meeting, our new acquaintance--who is from a technical university in Austria--has supplied us with enough information--on gas-turbine markets in Austria and surrounding areas--to determine whether a meeting in his city would be a success. The market information looked good. Hence, IGTI'S meeting would be a success. He also obtained a sizable subsidy from Austria's government if IGTI decides to hold its meeting there.

Questions to ask. How do you know what services a bureau will provide your organization? We've found that asking bureaus the following questions up front gives us a good idea of their services.

* What venues or facilities can accommodate our event?

* Can you locate our association's sister organization in your country? Do you know if there are user groups of my industry's product in your country?

* Can you send information on related industries in your area?

* Can you furnish dates and locations of similar events in your area?

* Can you inform us if registration fees or exhibit space sales are subject to value-added tax or other special fees or taxes? If so, how much are the fees?

* Can you recommend a tax consultant who handles value-added tax refunds for my association and exhibitors?

* Can you furnish the names of hotels and current convention rates?

* Can you serve as a hotel booking agent for our delegates? If not, can you recommend destination management companies that could perform this task?

* Can you send information on air and ground transportation to the city and ground transportation within the city?

* Can you arrange for the mayor to welcome our delegates during our plenary session?

* Can you arrange a site-investigation trip to your country?

IGTI has had a positive experience with every international convention bureau with which it has worked. Our strong relationship with these foreign convention bureaus have made us eager to face the new challenges of an increasingly global market.

Donald D. Hill, CAE, is managing director and chief executive officer for the International Gas Turbine Institute, Atlanta. IGTI is an arm of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York City.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Allies Abroad; international conventions
Author:Hill, Donald D.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:A conversation with Quincalee.
Next Article:Our form and structure.

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