Thursday, 23 January 2014

Getting serious about meetings at sea

Getting serious about meetings at sea

By Tom Stieghorst
*Insight A new campaign has launched to drum up more travel linked to business meetings, and the cruise industry is seeking its share.

CLIA has signed on with Meetings Mean Business, a coalition of groups and companies that benefit from business gatherings.

The group, which is spearheaded by the U.S. Travel Association, includes big hoteliers like Hilton and Hyatt, gaming company Caesars Entertainment, meetings specialists like Maritz Travel and park operators like Disney.

“The unfortunate trend in the professional workplace is that we are all disappearing farther behind our electronic devices, and both empirically and intuitively, that’s counterproductive,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

He added that a decline of in-person communications threatens everything from scientific innovation to workplace bonhomie.

The time may be ripe for a push for more meetings and. The economy seems to be growing, and corporate budgets for travel may be expanding.

That was not the case in 2009 when Meetings Mean Business was formed. The economy was in freefall and spending, especially by government agencies, on conferences at resorts was drawing fire as extravagant when foreclosures and unemployment were rampant.

While cruise lines have always had some meetings traffic, it has largely been a sideline to their vacation emphasis. But incentive trips are a good fit for ships and some agents specialize in bringing professional groups, especially doctors, to sea for continuing education seminars.

Agents can profit by reminding their business clients of the benefits that can accrue from an off-location meeting.

More than 75% of frequent business travelers surveyed by Oxford Economics in November 2012 rated conventions and conferences as key to gaining industry insights and developing industry partnerships.

Every dollar invested in business travel brings $9.50 in new revenue, the study said.

Unfortunately, many in the corporate world view a cruise as a leisure product not suitable for the serious business of business. Perhaps 2014 will be the year that changes.