Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Travel Optimism!

This year we have seen earthquakes, tsunami’s, and uprisings around the world; yet amid tragedy and uncertainty, corporate travel is strong. According to The Pegasus View, advanced corporate bookings grew in August by 10.2% over the prior year. Also noted was that although corporations are being more stringent on spending, they are still permitting employees to take trips. For additional information, go to http://tinyurl.com/7m52og4

Friday, November 25, 2011

Get Your Attendees' Brains Cookin’!

Get your meeting attendee’s brains cooking at your next meeting or conference by feeding them “Brain Food.” Brain Food is a new idea developed in Sweden’s Radisson Blu Hotels by Swedish nutritionist Christain Bitz, the food is made up of healthy ingredients designed to keep meeting participants sharp, full, and focused. Brain Food includes menu items consisting of fish, whole grains, eggs, fruits, and vegetables and contains less that 10% fat content and added sugar. The new menu items are designed to increase brain and physical energy by keeping a stable blood sugar and providing as much nutrition as possible. Sounds like something we should be doing for ourselves on a daily basis!

Here are some tips from the Radisson Blu for feeding yourself and your meeting attendees Brain Food:

The Six Brain Food Principles

1. Lots of fish, whole grain products, fruits and vegetables
2. Primarily fresh, locally sourced ingredients
3. Pure ingredients with minimal industrial processing
4. Less meat and always a maximum 10% fat content
5. Natural sweeteners and never more than 10% added sugar
6. Focus on good taste and satisfying the senses

Using fish instead of other fatty meats helps participants stay full while not wanting to take a nap after lunch. Also, adding more vegetables and whole grains and having less meat in the meal keeps attendees from becoming tired throughout the day. Fruit for dessert instead of artificially sweetened desserts keeps attendees feeling sharp, healthy, and on top of their game during long meetings.

If you want to try one of Radisson Blu’s Brain Food ideas, check out the recipe below for an easy but yummy salmon dish with the perfect mixture of protein and healthy fats.

Salmon Pastrami

450g Norwegian Salmon
130g Salt
70g Sugar
15g Coarsely ground black pepper
15g Coarsely ground fennel seed
15g Coarsely ground mustard seed
15g Coarsely ground coriander seed

Marinate salmon in salt and sugar mixture for 20 minutes
Wash off the salt and sugar mixture of the salmon with cold water
Roll the salmon and wrap three times in plastic wrap so that it is wrapped solid
Poach the salmon at 60 degrees for 20 minutes
Unwrap the salmon in the remaining ingredients
Slice in

For more information click here and here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What’s up with VAT? A helpful guide to understanding the Value-Added Tax.

International meetings can be quite complex to organize. Time differences, language barriers, and currency conversions are just a few of the obstacles meeting planners face when planning a perfect meeting abroad. The most confusing aspect of international meetings for many planners is the Value-Added Tax, or VAT, that exists in more than 140 countries outside the U.S. It can be compared to a sales tax, as it is the cost added to goods and services. However it is quite daunting to planners because there are no universal standards for administering the tax.

Every country has its own VAT rate, rules as to what it is applied to, and procedures regarding filing and deadlines. Although this can perplex many planners, experts say that there are basic steps meeting planners can take to find out what refund they are entitled to as well as ensure they follow correct protocol during the planning process.

The first step in mastering the VAT is to do preliminary research before planning a meeting. It is important to find out which countries offer rebates and which do not. Most European countries do, with Italy and Spain being the exceptions. The best way to obtain the most up to date information on VAT rates in specific countries is to check the country’s tourism website.

Remember that all VAT countries offer different rebates, so it is very important to research rates before creating a program budget. There are also some countries outside of Europe, namely China, India and Central and South America that charge VAT but do not offer rebate recovery. Japan, Australia and South Korea offer limited rebates, but their requirements and documentation is very tedious and complex.

The next step in the international planning process is to decide what type of meeting will be held. In many countries, rate eligibility depends on the type of event. For example, Ireland does not rebate VAT costs associated with an incentive program, however the U.K., France, Germany, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands (and a few others) do. Before choosing a country for a meeting, it is important to check its tourism website for information on rate eligibility.

So, you’ve done your research and chosen a destination for your meeting. What’s next? Collecting paperwork and filling out forms. I know, it doesn’t sound very fun, but the benefits are worth it. Experts stress the importance of keeping the necessary receipts and invoices and completing the filing forms. This form is usually supplied by the hotel, and all invoices should be filed under the same name. Make sure you know when the deadline is for submitting the forms – every country has a different deadline.

If the Value-Added Tax is too complex or too tedious to planners, there are many resources available to ease the VAT rebate process. Third-party VAT reclamation agencies are extremely helpful and can take care of all the refund process, but it is important to contact them before the planning process rather than after the event. Their service costs are based on a percentage of the rebate.

When planning a meeting or event abroad, remember that the VAT rebate, although daunting, can be a money saving process. So go out there and master that VAT!

For more information please click here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

National Sales Meeting 2012: Lake Erie Shores? A wave of renovations and revitalized attractions make Northern Ohio a “shore thing”

Looking for a wealth of meeting-friendly hotel offerings, wineries, amusement parks, unique local attractions, and a plethora of fine dining? Enter Northern Ohio. No, really. With a relatively short drive from Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, and Cleveland, and a quick flight from numerous U.S. locations, Northern Ohio offers guests a year-round, first-class experience at a fraction of the cost of top tier destinations.

With today’s meeting budgets dwindling and client’s expectations mounting, planners are struggling to secure reasonable rates at high-end sites, encouraging them to explore hidden treasures nestled in the Midwest. Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores caters to the expansive needs of delegates with their recreationally rich, picturesque atmosphere showcasing diverse eateries and unique lodging options.

Upon completion in December, Sandusky’s African-themed Kalahari Resort solidifies its ranking as the largest hotel in the state of Ohio. It will boast a 38,000 square-foot ballroom and exposition center, a 12,000 square-foot junior ballroom, 14 meeting rooms, a 4,000 square-foot outdoor plaza and a an extra 30,000 square-feet of indoor function space. For those of you, keeping track: that will total 215,000 square-feet of convention space when combined with the existing venue. This $22 million expansion is situated on 256 acres and offers 884 guest rooms, an indoor water park, an outdoor adventure park, a mini-golf course, a spa, and a zoo-like park with African animals on display.

For the client seeking a slightly more enthralling meeting break, Cedar Point offers exceptional meeting space location directly at “Ohio’s Roller Coast”. Dubbed the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World”, Cedar Point not only showcases sky-high rides and an outdoor waterpark, but also an expansive beach, inviting guests to engage in various watersports. On site meeting-friendly hotels include the 650-room Hotel Breakers and the 237-room Castaway Bay.

Approximately 20 minutes east of Sandusky lies the town of Huron, the home of the Sawmill Creek Hotel Golf Resort. Located directly on Lake Erie, Sawmill Creek is a Tom Fazio championship golf course that also harbors 236 guest rooms, 50,000 square-feet of meeting space, and multiple restaurants.

For the more adventurous groups looking to be engulfed in the outdoors of the Midwest, Port Clinton and the Lake Erie islands offer a local escape from the everyday, requiring only a short Jet Express ride. High speed ferries and charter services are abundant in these areas, making transportation a breeze. East Wine Cellar Road in Port Clinton invites guests to relax at the Mon Ami Restaurant & Historic Winery during corporate receptions available both indoors and outdoors.

Island accommodations include the Put-in-Bay Resort and Conference Center, located on the popular South Bass Island, and is capable of hosting a few hundred delegates. The Islander Inn and the Grand Islander Hotel recently announced their newest addition, the Niagara Event Center which can house up to 600 for an event in their 14,000 square-foot venue. Smaller groups looking for a unique experience need not explore further than Kelleys Island, offering trails for hiking at the Island State Park along with their 1,600 square-foot meeting space facility, Kelleys Island Venture Resort.

Northern Ohio has numerous options for various meetings, and it on the short list of up-and-coming corporate meeting areas.

For more information, please click here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Holiday Travel Tips and Tricks

It’s already November and the holiday season is sneaking up on us! But before we are bombarded with the inevitable stress of shopping, traveling, and the anxiety of crowds that follow synonymous, we have compiled a few tips and tricks to help you beat the holiday travel woes!

As if airports weren’t crowded and stressful enough during the holiday season, airlines are cutting capacity in order to save on costs such as rising fuel prices and an uncertain economy. Ironically, as airlines cut capacity, there has been a rise in passengers using air transportation. This means more tightly packed airplanes, in addition to the already large crowds in airports, and of course long security lines and delays. In anticipation of the large crowds and densely packed flights, we have found a few helpful tips and tricks for a more comfortable and efficient holiday travel season.

You are all familiar with the rigid airport security and long lines that follow, but there is one change to security lines that will put your mind at ease. In the past, T.S.A. has used scanners that display a virtually nude image of passengers to security agents. However, this year T.S.A. is implementing new scanners that show only a generic, computer-generated body outline that passengers can also view online.

In addition to new privacy implementation for security lines, passengers can now choose to pay to go through security lines faster. United sells

expedited security and pre-boarding starting at $9, and Jet Blue’s “Even More Speed” program allows passengers to pay $10-$65 extra for more legroom and expedited security lines at certain airports. American’s “Five Star Service” program also offers expedited security line options as well as other V.I.P. services for those willing to pay the extra cost. So if you want to skip the lines while traveling this holiday season, check out what options your airline offers for moving you through security faster, as well as additional comfort features.

This season, some airlines are also changing their boarding procedures. In order to ensure you get on the plane with your seat preference, be sure to check your airline’s boarding process. American, which used to board back to front, now randomly assigns boarding groups; but, coach passengers can pay $10 and beat first class and even elite frequent flyers to the front of the boarding line! United, and soon Continental, will be boarding window, then middle, and finally aisle seats, as opposed to boarding back to front. If seat preference is important to you, then remember to check your airline’s website for their procedures as many companies are changing this year to ensure faster boarding.

Trying to fit all those presents for your friends and family into your checked bags? Don’t forget about checked bag fees most airlines impose, including fees for overweight and oversized luggage. Jet Blue offers one free checked bag and Southwest offers two. Check your airline’s website for baggage limitations and fees including oversized and overweight bags.

We hope these tips and tricks help you have safe and efficient travels this holiday season!

Happy Holidays from the Meeting Sites Pro team!

For more information please visit: http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/travel/an-update-on-holiday-air-travel.html?ref=travel

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Ups and Downs of “Gamifying” Your Meeting

The hottest new thing on the market is always exciting however that doesn’t mean that it always benefits your meeting.  Adding technological games such as adding Four Square or awarding participants for scanning a QR code may be fun but isn’t always beneficial.

Often we try to adopt a concept like incorporating games into a meeting before we fully understand it.  Random scavenger hunts are just not going to cut it in this ever changing technological world.  You have to think like an attendee and understand that if you are going to cut out networking time you have to offer them something better in return.
Cell Phone Gaming has reached new heights.

Last February the Green Meeting Industry Council introduced a game design as its key element of their Sustainable Meetings Conference. Attendees played through the game by attending sessions and talking to exhibitors in order to complete a case study.  The rules were simple and the networking possibilities negated the time they had to spend doing specific activities.

The problem arises when the goals of your game do not match those of your meeting.  Often companies and planners get caught up in the buzz and the fun and forget to reflect on the objectives and goals of the meeting when developing their own game.  This can lead to complicated rules and no end goal that makes it hard for the attendees to understand why they should participate.

Games can be a great way to add some fun and excitement to annual meetings or other events but make sure that they are only included if they meet the objectives and goals of the meeting.  

For more information please visit: meetingsnet.com