Leading Australian cruise line P&O Cruises has reported a swelling number of meetings at sea, with its corporate group bookings increasing by an impressive 54 per cent in 2016.
The cruise line, which expanded capacity by 50 per cent with the addition of Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria in late 2015, says enquiries and bookings for its five-ship fleet continued to grow during the past year as more meeting groups discovered the benefits of holding their event onboard a ship.
P&O Cruises Corporate Groups Sales Manager Rebecca Mutanen said the hike in the number of meetings at sea had also translated into fantastic growth in overall delegate numbers, with the cruise line carrying 64 per cent more corporate passengers in 2016 than 2015.
“There is no doubt that meetings at sea are appealing to organisers and delegates alike. Not only have we attracted far more corporate guests onboard our ships this year, our forward bookings are very strong and we have a number of 2016 corporate groups booked to return next year which is fantastic to see,” Ms Mutanen said.
Ms Mutanen said group sizes had ranged from 16 to more than 200 during the year, with the average at around 50 guests.
While just over 50 per cent of bookings were for short break conferences, P&O has seen an increase in conference, incentive and meeting bookings on cruises of seven nights or more, with the longer cruises now accounting for about a quarter of total group numbers.
With cruises on offer from six ports around Australia, Sydney was the most popular departure point for corporate groups in 2016 accounting for 42 per cent of bookings followed by 32 per cent from Brisbane.
Ms Mutanen said the cruise line, which launched its meetings program in 2015, was now also starting to see repeat bookings come through.
“Repeat guests are our biggest compliment and confirm that our meetings product is really hitting the mark,” she said.
P&O is anticipating further growth in 2017 with the June addition of the 77,000-tonne Pacific Explorer, the largest ship yet for P&O Cruises, which will replace Pacific Pearl.
“Pacific Explorer will be a great addition to the fleet, offering two large venues which can accommodate up to 530 guests, as well as state-of-the-art audio visual equipment so we’re looking forward to welcoming even more corporate guests onboard in 2017,” Ms Mutanen said.
Value remained a key attraction for organisers, with an event at sea costing an average of $292 per day, all inclusive – far less than a comparable event on land, she said.
“Not only is the cruise fare all inclusive – covering meeting space, accommodation, main meals and entertainment – an event at sea is incredibly easy to organise. It’s a winning combination.”