INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TRAVEL
Ron Wells CCE
Obtain a tourist guide which includes a street map of each city or town to be visited.
Check that your visit will not clash with a public or bank holiday or some other local festival which will make it difficult to arrange appointments or flights and hotel accommodation.
If a train or vehicle journey of three hours or less would suffice, then seriously consider these alternatives rather than flying to your destination.
Check the relative position of the airport (or railway station), your hotel and each appointment location. Decide the means of transport to use between these locations and check that enough time is allowed in your schedule to insure punctuality.
Establish the street address of every appointment. Prepare notes for taxi drivers in the local script, so you can ‘show and tell’ - your accent may be difficult for a driver to understand.
Study the brief country history which is included in most tourist guides. This is a minimum requirement. Additional reading about the country and people is recommended whenever possible. This will help you to avoid potentially sensitive topics and it will help you to show respect where respect is due.
Obtain information about the local weather and dress codes, to indicate what to wear and what to pack.
Do not wear clothing or insignia which identify your employer, such as logo bearing jackets, watches or pens. Do not display company logo bearing files or baggage. Such items could mark you out as a target for theft or kidnap.
Arrange for an Interpreter if necessary. Do not assume that "everyone speaks and understands English" - this is absolutely untrue - check. In some cases your host will provide an Interpreter, this will reduce your costs but may be a disadvantage. See ‘Working with Interpreters’.
Make copies of your passport, visas and any other travel documents. Leave these with a colleague in your office - or at home - together with a copy of your itinerary (including times, contact names and telephone/fax numbers). This will be invaluable should you lose any documents or should you suffer some misadventure.
Obtain some small denomination bank notes in local currency, for tips. If local currency is not available outside the destination country, carry several US one-Dollar bills for this purpose. Your tourist guide will usually indicate local ‘tipping’ customs.
Check on the acceptability of credit cards. In Austria, for example, many restaurants do not accept credit cards. It is embarrassing to invite a business acquaintance to dinner and, at the end of the evening, to have to borrow cash from your guest to meet the bill.
Learn enough of the local language to say; "good morning / afternoon / evening", "please", "thank you", "goodbye", "I would like a mineral water / coke / beer / red wine / white wine / coffee / tea", "where is the restroom/toilet" and to count to twenty. Learn the appearance of important signs such as; "men’s restroom/WC" as distinct from "women’s restroom/WC"; "entrance"; "exit"; "push"; "pull"; "closed" and "open". Your tourist guide will usually include all of this information and a pronunciation guide.
Be aware of the adverse effects of ‘jet lag’ on your reflexes, on your coordination and on your ability to ‘think straight’ and speak coherently. Plan your schedule to allow time to overcome these effects both at the beginning of the trip and upon your return to base.
Arrive in any strange city or town the day before any business meetings are scheduled. Use any ‘spare’ time to learn about the locality; read local papers, visit shops, use local public transport and attend a concert or sports event. This will equip you to impress those you meet with the fact that you respect them sufficiently to invest time in learning about their home, their ‘team’, their culture and their concerns. This will be invaluable support for your efforts to establish a rapport with those that you meet and to build relationships.
Do not arrange appointments and your departure schedule such that you will have to rush away from an appointment in order to catch your flight or train. This shows a lack of respect for your host and could mean that you either;
(a) miss those valuable pieces of information which come to light as you are departing (after the formality of the meeting evaporates) or
(b) that you will be forced into making negotiating concessions in order to close the meeting on time.
Remember that one meeting may lead to another unscheduled-meeting, so you must build some flexibility into your schedule. At least you must expect to have to make changes to your plans without much notice.
© Copyright 1998 & 2000 R K Wells