Md. center helps woo foreign businesses

One on one

November 25, 1991

One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business leaders. Suzanne H. O'Hatnick is president of the International Visitors Center of Maryland. Q.Maryland has been active in promoting international trade. What role does the International Visitors Center of Maryland play in assisting international business?

A. We act as a real resource for the state because we attract visitors from a variety of sources, professionals from abroad, from about 30 different agencies and groups. . . . We're information brokers, if you will. So we bring these people in and introduce them to their counterparts in the public and private sector, with area businesses, with government people and also in the field of education.

Q. What kind of services do you provide and whom do you assist?

A. Well, there are services that are directed toward the visitor, and services that are directed toward our local constituents. And let's start with the services to the constituent. With the state of Maryland, for example, we provide support services -- interpreters and translators, escorts, logistical planning for seminars and conferences -- as they are requested. For our corporate members, we will assist them with their foreign visitors at whatever level that visitor comes. It might be a VIP traveler or it might be someone who's a foreign trainee. And what we do depends on what is requested. It might be a request for training and an introduction to American and Maryland life and culture and institutions, and it can be as nuts-and-bolts as how to take a telephone call, call a taxi or set up a bank account to how the judicial system works.

Q. Do you also help local businesses who want to send employees abroad?

A. Yes. We can do that in a variety of ways. One is again the cross-cultural focus, which is really introducing them to the culture and context in which they will be doing business. Another area is providing them with contacts to former visitors who have been here, because we do keep a data base on the visitors who come through the center. And the third area is protocol. We can assist a local businesses in issues of protocol, particularly ceremonial occasions. Ceremony is very important in many other countries. It is less important in this country and so Americans focus less on it.

Q. What other services do you provide?

A. I should mention that we are selling a guide to interpreters and translators for the region. We provide those in-house for our members, but we also have this booklet which lists a roster of 465 listings for 55 languages, and this booklet is for sell for $10.50.

Q. How many visitors do you assist each year?

A. We receive close to 1500 visitors a year.

Q. Would these foreign visitors be coming on their own initiative or would they be coming at the invitation of Maryland business?

A. Well, it's really a combination. We work with both. . . . We work with about 30 international agencies or groups that sponsor foreign visitors, in addition to area corporations. And then, we just have people who show up or who write and send inquiries.

Q. And you'll assist those as well?

A. Yes, we work through sponsors primarily and an activist screening process for us. So I would say that our services would be more limited to someone about whom we know less.

Q. From what countries do the visitors come?

A. They come from all over the world. Everywhere, literally. I'd be LTC hard pressed to find a place that they don't come from.

Q. Have the origins of the visitors changed over the years?

A. Yes, certainly over the time period that I have been here. And because a goodly number of our visitors come through government contacts and the U.S. Information Agency in particular, we see a change according to the political changes that happen around the world.

Q. What are the ingredients for being a good host for a foreign delegation?

A. Well, I think it's very important to be flexible, open, able to adjust quickly.

Q. How hospitable is Maryland to foreign visitors?

A. We find Marylanders more than willing to welcome foreign visitors. Really eager, and eager in the sense that not only are we opening ourselves up to give to others but we're learning a great deal from them.

Q. You recently started a technical study tour to attract international professionals. What is this program?

A. We work through international travel agents who specialize in technical travel or corporate travel, and those agents are called upon by their clients to set tours for them in the United States in line with their professional interests. And it may be quite specific -- we had the metal sash industry not long ago from Japan. It might be more general in nature. What we do is let them know what the professional resources are that we have available here for them.

Q. What does Maryland have to offer in terms of technical tours?

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