P&O cruises sail towards meetings on board

CRUISE operator P&O Cruises is aiming to boost its corporate bookings by almost three-fold with the launch of a conferences division.

P&O Cruises director of sales, Ryan Taibel, said the move to set up a dedicated conference team comes as it prepares to expand its fleet from three to five ships, with the addition of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden in November this year.

The cruise line saw a surge in meeting bookings in 2015, particularly from the retail and pharmaceutical sectors and associations, he commented.

While bookings to date from corporates stand at 4,000, Taibel said P&O is targeting 12,000 meeting delegates in 2016, with meetings of 100-200 delegates as its prime target.

Forty per cent of the overall ship itineraries offer short breaks of two to five nights, he shared, adding: “This shows that we are serious about having meetings or incentives on board our ships because we know that duration is one of the key considerations for this group of people.

“The current trend in MICE is that incentive groups will reward their top achievers with seven-night cruises, but generally for conferencing on cruises, meeting planners go for three to four nights.”

Taibel said the expanded fleet would also enable P&O to offer cruises from Australian ports including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Cairns, as well as regional ones like Singapore and Auckland.

Highlighting that cruises are more affordable than land tours, Taibel said a price comparison between a three-night meeting on land including all group extras would cost an estimated minimum of A$1,059 (US$822) per delegate compared with A$906 for a cruise.

P&O cruises has produced a conference brochure highlighting the features of its meetings at sea and the facilities on its ships, the new Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria.

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