At the outset, I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to all of you for undertaking this historic tour, for taking the trouble of coming all the way down here to have a first hand knowledge of/ about the situation on the ground.

How can I greet a visiting team of human rights activists in a polite manner in a formal meeting? Does the above sound okay?
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Thanks MM. Well clarified and I will stick to your suggestions. Now it's clear in which situation I should use "to begin with" etc. Thanks again.