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ISSUE 65 / ConfErEnCE & MEEtIngS World / 51Meetings on the WaterAbove: Meeting in the Caribbean can provide some interesting breakout opportunities ashoredestinations such as the Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska and the Mediterranean are common, although, unless you have a full ship charter, you will be sharing deck space with other passengers.Royal Caribbean is probably the largest player in this market and Bob Tavadia, the company's Director of International Sales, says the most popular options with planners are all-inclusive group options, which he says alleviate the worry of hotel reservations, arranging meals, seeking out entertainment or planning activities. Tavadia claims events on a cruise liner come with a service offer which is more cost beneficial than traditional land options. "We have been able to retain and even grow our business during the recession," he adds. Following tough times, he says, the outlook for corporate group bookings is "extremely positive". "For charters, we expect an increase in excess of 30 per cent year-on-year from 2010 to 2011," Tavadia says. Mid-size shipsA second category is mid-sized ships for between 600 and 1,599 passengers. These ships can offer a higher degree of service as well as more exclusivity than the mega-liners. Most have ample activities and entertainment, as well as several venues suitable for group functions and meetings. Dining may be traditional, with seatings in main dining rooms at assigned times. Mid-sized ships offer a greater variety of destinations than the larger liners, which are restricted by their size.Small shipsSmall ships and yachts are the third and most exclusive category and provide the highest level of service. Whole ship charters are common but not inexpensive.Most ships in this category offer an all inclusive experience, with complimentary open bar. They call at ports more off-the-beaten-track and pitch a delegate experience that includes all the elements of freedom associated with sailing. J├╝rgen Logemann of BCR Logemann Agents in the Cote D'Azur, says sailing can be one of the best ways to entertain delegates or incentive travellers. "A gentle breeze, excellent food, plus some fun activities, guarantees a productive time, and your audience is captive," he says, noting guests can enjoy all the facilities of a private yacht, from pool and spa, to the latest entertainment.Not all charter brokers, Logemann says, understand the needs of a corporate charter, so you may need to seek out an agent specialising in this area."In many of our markets we have seen tremendous success with companies hosting their annual meetings via full ship charters," Logemann says. "They schedule meeting and seminars throughout the day, while still allowing for their employees and accounts to enjoy the ports of calls with VIP and exclusive offshore events." Logemann says music or affinity groups work particularly well at sea. "These type of events offer their employees incentive trips with custom dining and entertainment options while onboard. the shipboard and offshore events are extravagant but cost efficient." The ultimate reward Ian Buckeridge, Senior Director, SeaDream Yacht Club (SYC) which this year celebrated 10 years in business, gives key reasons to choose the yachting meetings experience:1. Value for Money. At a resort hotel the rest of that hotel functions as normal, while a yacht like SeaDream, with just 112 guests maximum, is serviced by a dedicated staff of 95.One of the pitfalls of sales meetings and incentive gatherings is the preponderance of bills for drinks and extra meals. We expect a 30% increase in charters for 2011royal Caribbean Cruises' bob Tavadia

52 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 65Meetings on the WaterAbove: Iceland's Blue Lagoon is an attraction in a country where water is never far awaySYC has inclusive pricing that negates these nasty extras.2. Security. The world is an aggressive place. Being on a vessel affords exceptional security for your guests, and also keeps your company's business secrets private.3. The Wow Factor. Pulling together staff, guests and award-winners from disparate locations and bringing them together to one place requires the event hosts to ensure their chosen location not only works for business reasons but also makes invited guests feel special and honoured to be there. 4. Ideal Accommodation. SeaDream I and II each offer identical, ocean-view, luxury bedrooms and two suites, assuring that every delegate is treated the same.5. Pricing. Fares include accommodation, all meals on board, 24-hour room service, open bar, complimentary wines with meals, use of recreational facilities and water toys, as well as onboard gratuities.While exclusive yachting was undoubtedly affected by recession, Buckeridge believes business confidence in international events at sea for conferences and incentives has been on the rise in North America for the last two years and in Europe from last year. "It's not by accident," he says, "that the likes of British Telecom, Goodyear, Toyota and Nokia are among recent business charterers of SeaDream. This is yachting, NOT cruising," he stresses.There is no doubt we are talking yacht club prices, however, with a typical Caribbean four-night itinerary with SeaDream costing around US$325,500 for a private charter.John Donohue of Aerreps, which works with the incentive market, says Seadream "is suited for those who may wish to take a complete deck or for smaller companies who would like to keep their team together in a five-star environment". Such yachting, Donohue adds, offers the ability to combine meetings with visiting multiple destinations. Moving onto land and there are plenty of island destinations like Malta and Iceland in Europe, active in the incentives market and use the sea as an integral part of the attraction.Iceland's new Harpa Centre and the country's Blue Lagoon are also designed with the sea and geysers being a big part of the conference scenery. And there can't be many delegates visiting Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Wroclaw or St Petersburg who haven't sailed the famous rivers or canals. Scandinavia's fjords and the archipelagos of South-East Asia can also provide exotic add-on experiences to any convention delegate.Steve Carruthers, Group Business Development Manager for the UK's Lake District Hotels says a venue that is near to water is always welcomed by Cost of a 3-day yachting charter for 112 delegates in the Caribbeanseadream yacht club$325k