The convergence of a host of economic, technological and social trends has not only helped the corporate travel category to rebound in the past few years, but we are also seeing certain segments of the category moving into exciting new areas. For years corporate travel planners have focused primarily on resorts, hotels, conference centers and similar venues as the locales of choice for the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibits (M.I.C.E) segment. But now the tides are turning—literally!
The increasing availability and sophistication of wireless technology, along with the continued blurring of the lines between work and personal time, and bigger business travel budgets, have combined to make the high seas an attractive and growing option for M.I.C.E bookers.
This can be seen in the study that Amadeus conducted earlier this year with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise association. The cruise industry has identified the opportunity for engaging M.I.C.E clients and many cruise lines have already broadened their services to appeal to the business community, such as providing updated conference rooms and enhanced technology to compete with hotels and resorts.
And with cruise lines upping their service offers and business amenities, corporate meeting planners are honing in on the attractiveness and uniqueness of the cruise ship venue and creating exciting new all-inclusive packages to entice M.I.C.E customers.
While the infrastructure to accommodate M.I.C.E. cruising is largely in place, more needs to be done to get the word out. More than 44% of respondents to the Amadeus-CLIA survey of 1,400+ travel professionals consider themselves “somewhat familiar” and only 9% are “very familiar” with the opportunity. While one in five travel agents see a great opportunity, only one-third feel they are ready to book business-focused cruising.
To embrace the full potential this emerging market, travel professionals need to be educated about the offerings such as the cost-competitiveness of M.I.C.E. cruises and technological advancements aboard cruise ships today. Currently, among those familiar with M.I.C.E. cruises, two-thirds of travel agents report they are likely or possibly likely to book a M.I.C.E. cruise in the next 12 months. Once travel professionals are more aware of the opportunities and have the right information, expertise, and tools to serve this sector, there is a great opportunity for agents, planners and cruise lines alike.
And with established sales channels in place to help cruise travel agents actively market to corporate buyers and event/meeting planners – it’s likely to be smooth sailing ahead for business cruising. The report projects that looking forward, annual meetings, sales contest celebrations, conferences, or exhibitor trade shows will increasingly be done at sea.
The report also examines the growth and use of social media and other technology by cruise agencies and passengers. Download the “Mixing Business with Pleasure” white paper here.