Responsibilities of the Unit Coordinating the Visit:
- Establish the visitor’s itinerary (see Sample Itineraries)
- Arrange for meals, special events, escorts, transportation, and accommodations, as appropriate
- Obtain gifts for visitors prior to arrival, as appropriate
- Prepare briefing packets for the visitor and Western University participants
Arrival and Departure
Determine whether a Western representative will meet the visitor at the airport/train station and provide an escort to the hotel, the host department will send a car, or if the visitor must find his/her own transportation. Your decision will depend on the visitor’s status and familiarity with London and the availability of an escort at the appointed time. The same considerations should apply to the visitor’s departure.
Planning the Itinerary
After evaluating the objectives and status of the visitor, you should determine which activities are most appropriate. Although your primary interest will likely be introducing the visitor to the University and its many academic programs and facilities, you may also want to consider community, business and government groups opportunities.
Consider whether an all-day escort from your office is needed (this will depend on the status of the visitor and the availability of staff). If you do not assign a permanent escort, make arrangements for a staff person from each appointment to accompany the visitor to the next meeting and make appropriate introductions, or confirm that the visitor can find the meeting place on his or her own.
Be careful not to overload the daily schedule. Consider the following:
- Make sure the visitor has a chance to recover from the flight before beginning appointments.
- Leave enough time to get to the next appointment. You should assess the visitor’s ability to walk the required distance or consider arranging transportation. Weather considerations should also be factored in.
- Allow some unscheduled time in the initial itinerary so the visitor will have the opportunity to follow up on any further connections.
- Allow enough free time for the visitor to enjoy the surroundings. This could mean a guided tour of campus, a chance to sit on a bench and watch people, or an opportunity to attend an organized academic or cultural event.
- Allow time for rest stops.
- Meeting with Faculty in specific fields
- Interacting with students, especially those from the same country as the visitor
- Meeting with Deans or central Administrative Officers
- Meeting with the President, Provost, Vice-Presidents or Vice-Provosts, if appropriate
- Tour of specific facilities on campus
- Meet with Affiliated University Colleges
- Meeting with civic groups or political leaders
- Tours of local businesses
- Determine other interests of the visitor—for example, a visitor who is President of a university abroad may be interested in meeting with other administrators as well as with academics in his or her field
Social and Cultural Interests
- Social interaction with Board of Governors, Alumni Association, etc.
- Interaction with ethnic communities
- Museum visits
- Concert attendance
- Athletic events
- Visits to campus attractions
Visitor Contributions to the Visit
In some cases, either the visitor or the host department will want the visitor to give a lecture or speak in a class. If the visitor is to give a public lecture, the host department will need to make appropriate arrangements. The host department will be responsible for arrangements such as room reservations, publicity, equipment reservations, and catering. In addition, someone should plan to introduce the speaker and moderate a question-and-answer period.
In some cases, your visitor’s status, research subject, or purpose of the visit will create wide public appeal. Upon securing your visitor’s approval, it is a good idea to arrange for a public event on campus. If your visitor is well known and likely to attract interest, it is important to notify the Department of Communications and Public Affairs and Campus Police about the visit, and forward a detailed itinerary to them for review. Communications and Public Affairs can be helpful in arranging any media visits or news releases. Campus Police can be helpful with transportation and security issues.
Briefing the Visitor and Host
Provide the visitor with a detailed itinerary with contact information. Include addresses and phone numbers for each appointment. The visitor may want to follow up with further correspondence and will be grateful for the information. Distinguish between professional and social meetings and provide a brief sentence on the purpose of each appointment or the topics to be discussed (see Sample Itinerary).
Provide Western participants with biographical information on the visitor and indicate briefly why you have chosen them to meet with the visitor. If appropriate, suggest common areas of interest.
Host Briefing Packet
- Visitor’s curriculum vitae/short biography
- Background with information on visitor’s relationship to the University
- Objectives of the visit
- Itinerary, including information about escorts to and from meetings
- Cultural information about the visitor and home country (as appropriate)
Visitor Briefing Packet
- Itinerary with full information
- Organizational charts (if appropriate)
- Specific academic information
- General University information and map
Gift giving is symbolic in every culture. In Canada, giving a gift to business associates and colleagues is often a sign that you respect the effort made to visit you and to signify something about the relationship—its beginning, the continuity, or the forging of a new aspect to the relationship. While these underlying motives can apply across cultures, the actual gift is often quite symbolic and can create anxiety for those hosting international visitors. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Some cultures place emphasis on numbers and colors. For example in China, giving gifts in single or odd numbers can imply loneliness or separation, while gifts given in pairs are highly appropriate, as it equates to good luck.
- Some categories of gifts may offend certain cultures. For example, a letter opener looks like a knife and implies severing a relationship to a visitor from Japan or Latin American countries. Cows are sacred in India, so you should avoid leather gifts. The word for clock in Mandarin sounds like the word for death, so clocks are generally not given to Chinese people. Remember that not all visitors from these cultures will be offended; use your best judgment or ask someone from the same culture for advice.
- Keep in mind that the recipient will have to transport the gift back home. It is best to avoid large or heavy gifts.
- Don’t expect that the visitor will open the gift in front of you. Cultures vary in the custom of whether a gift is opened in front of the giver. Do not force a visitor to open a gift, though you can encourage the visitor by explaining it is customary in Canada to open a gift right away. If you aren’t sure what to do with a gift given to you, ask, “Is this something I should open now?”
After the Visit
It is a good idea for the unit that planned the visit to thank all of the individuals who met with the visitor. This can be done by phone, e-mail, or with a written note. It is also appropriate for the organizing unit to follow-up with the visitor on any information that was requested.