Australia’s leading cruise line P&O Cruises has announced a major push into the meetings market, creating a new P&O Conferences division to spearhead an increase in corporate bookings.
Officially launched at the AIME meetings exhibition in Melbourne today, the cruise line’s conference drive 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.
P&O Cruises Director of Sales Ryan Taibel said the fleet expansion would open the door to host more onboard meetings, with the boutique size and meeting rooms of the two latest ships providing the ideal setting for conferences at sea.
“The arrival of Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria also expands our itinerary offerings with 40 per cent of our cruises sailing for 2-5 nights – perfect for corporate meetings,” Mr Taibel said.
Mr Taibel said the expanded fleet would also enable the cruise line to offer cruises from ports around the country including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Cairns, with Singapore and Auckland sailings also available.
He said the cruise line had been buoyed by an increase in meeting bookings in 2015, particularly from the retail and pharmaceutical sectors and associations. Its new P&O Conferences division is targeting 12,000 meeting delegates in 2016, with meetings of 100-200 delegates the prime target.
“Cruising in Australia is booming and in the same way that we have established ourselves as a leading holiday option for travellers, we want cruising to be high on the consideration list for the nation’s meeting organisers,” Mr Taibel said.
Led by Senior Sales Manager Rebecca Mutanen, the new division recently added former Luna Park account executive Christopher Rich as Corporate Groups Executive. P&O Cruises is the only cruise line to offer a dedicated conference team based in Australia.
The cruise line has its largest ever stand at AIME this year and has produced a new dedicated conference brochure highlighting the features of meetings at sea. The 48-page brochure details the meeting facilities across the ships, including dedicated conference theatres for 200 guests and a range of new meeting rooms onboard Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria. It also features newly created conference packages including cocktail, beverage and internet options.
Ms Mutanen said a price comparison showed that a three-night meeting on land including all group extras would cost an estimated minimum of $1059 per delegate compared to $906 for a cruise with more extras.
“You don’t have to look hard to see that cruising is a compelling option. Not only do we have scores of short itineraries on offer, we are also very affordable with the cost of the venue, accommodation, audio visual, meals and entertainment all included in the fare,” Ms Mutanen said.
She said the cruise line’s group booking discounts meant organisers were eligible for cash discounts, while delegates sailing on bookings of seven nights or more could receive onboard spending money.
“But it’s not just the prices that are attractive to organisers – a cruise offers a fantastic way to integrate business and leisure and ensure a meeting is truly memorable. Every organiser wants to do something different with their budget and cruises are a great option which delivers a real ‘wow’ factor.
“In between sessions, delegates can chill by the pool, play laser tag or climb the funnel with P&O Edge Adventure Park. At night there are shows, live music and plenty of bars and lounges to enjoy.
“Our ships also offer a minimum of eight dining options, including Salt grill by Luke Mangan, with Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden featuring a range of extra restaurants like Dragon Lady for great panAsian dining and Angelos for fantastic Italian cuisine.”
P&O Cruises’ present fleet includes Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl and Pacific Dawn, with Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria joining in November.