Cruises of four to six nights are proving increasingly popular in the MICE sector. One attraction of short-haul itineraries is that no air travel is required. Cruises also offer flexibility.
Nearby destinations, such as Hainan Island, Taiwan and Vietnam, are the most popular. But more clients are expressing interest in destinations further afield, such as Dubai, northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
'The MICE market has potential to grow as cruises are gradually being recognised by corporate clients as a new travel option,' says Gillian Lam, marketing executive at Royal Caribbean International. 'Unlike land-based resorts, cruise packages are virtually all-inclusive - accommodation, meals, activities, entertainment and even shore excursion options. They are definitely an ideal MICE venue.'
According to Dario Rustico, Asia-Pacific vice-president for sales and marketing at Costa Cruises, the concept of chartering an entire vessel is growing in popularity because it offers the opportunity to fully customise services, timing and itineraries for their clients or employees.
Costa Cruises has arranged several full-charter cruises, particularly for the mainland, Indian and Korean markets. Other growing markets are the Philippines and Taiwan.
Looking to the future, Rustico is full of optimism. He says the MICE market is growing steadily and sees great potential for the cruise industry. 'It is definitely one of the areas into which a lot of cruise lines - Costa Cruises in particular - are looking to expand and cater offerings to its unique needs,' he says.
But there is more to consider than just the itinerary. A ship's facilities are another key consideration. 'With the choice of 22 ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, customers can also select according to the ship's facilities,' Lam says. 'For example, our world's largest Oasis Class ships sailing in the Caribbean are very popular with their unique neighbourhood concept. The seven distinct themed areas onboard, such as Central Park, Boardwalk and Royal Promenade, provide guests with multiple entertainment and relaxation choices based on their personal style and preferences.'