A welcome service Featured

9:57am EDT July 22, 2002

Company’s coming — from another country, in fact — and you’ve got to be ready to deal with cultural, time and language differences.

As special projects coordinator at Nissin Travel Service Inc., which has offices in Columbus and Tokyo, Sachiko “Jo” Toya must deal with those issues every year as she helps arrange an exchange program for her client, Seibu Gakuen Bunri High School in Japan.

When finding host families for the nearly 40 Japanese students who visit Wellington School in Upper Arlington for two weeks each summer, Toya gets assistance from the International Visitor’s Council Inc., a nonprofit program funded by the United States Information Agency.

Services the council offers to businesses such as Nissin include airport welcoming, where each international guest is greeted at the gate and given an information packet with details about cultural events in the city, things to do, local chamber information and maps. The council will also assist with baggage claim and provide a lounge area for waiting. If meeting space is needed at the airport for companies and visitors whose time is too tight to meet elsewhere before a departing flight, the council can arrange that, too.

“Also, every year during the program, some of the students go to see the mayor of Columbus, and [visitor’s council executive director] Kevin Webb usually makes arrangements for them,” Toya adds.

Webb says the council can set up similar meetings between business clients and government officials here and arrange professional seminars and cultural activities.

“If a company wants a visitor to get a feel for the United States, we can set up an experience in an American home. That can range from dinner at a home to an overnight stay. We also offer specialized things like sightseeing, which we customize for local business people,” Webb says.

The council partners with other local companies such as Languages Unlimited Inc., which helps arrange language interpretation.

Costs for the council’s services range from $15 a person for a visitor information packet to $500 a person for a month-long home stay.

Some council funding comes through corporations such as Chemical Abstracts, Ellis & Aeschliman attorneys and Deloitte & Touche LLP, which get a 20 percent discount on the council’s services in thanks for their support.

“Our goal, our reason for being,” Webb says, “is to establish long-term relationships between citizens and companies of Central Ohio and the citizens and companies of other countries.”

For more information...contact the International Visitors Council Inc. at 231-9610 or kevwebb@ameritech.net. Visit the council’s Web site at www.columbusivc.org.