Maarten Tromp, Silversea’s Director of Corporate & Incentive Sales (UK, Europe, Middle East & Africa), tells ITCM that it is time to celebrate, not punish, success’Cruises are still greatly under-rated and under-utilised by European event organisers’.
That is the opinion of someone who has worked in this sector for a long time. Maarten Tromp is on his second go-round as Director of Corporate & Incentive Sales for the cruise company Silversea.
His view is that cruises can be a prime choice for corporate events and that too many people in the sector are still behind the times in appreciating what they can offer and what kind of groups they suit best.
‘For example’, he says, ‘cruising in the USA is extremely attractive, and often used, for groups of (young) executives. Their companies reward their dynamic sales teams with a very exciting and enjoyable cruise – and at the same time they have a captive audience for sales briefing, strategy planning and team building ’.
So much so, Maarten goes on, that often an itinerary is planned to include two or three consecutive days at sea, out of sight of land, maybe just touch a port in the evenings, for some intensive brainstorming meetings and for award ceremonies. ‘During the rest of the cruise’, says Maarten, ‘the ship can sail between ports at night and the passengers wake up to a new exciting destination every morning, with the day allocated to sightseeing, onshore excursions or team-building on the beaches. One day they can be working hard in a classroom or conference setting, the next day they are enjoying a golf tournament amongst the palm trees on a remote island.’
Maarten recalls that for one corporate group, they specially identified a sandbank just below the water-surface in the Caribbean. The ship sailed out and the passengers were astonished to discover a dozen waiters holding out trays of drinks and canapés as if walking on water in the middle of the ocean.
Once, for a car launch, helicopters zoomed in with new cars slung beneath them, which were then lowered on to the ship for the guests to see, touch and feel, before going to port for the test drives.
In short, a cruise can meet many different objectives, with changes of scenery and location without the need to change accommodation. The floating hotel moves around with the group.
‘And it is also important to bear in mind‘, emphasises Maarten, ‘that on Silversea, every passenger has a suite, not just a cabin. That the cruise is all-inclusive, even allowing for champagne. That the organisers know in advance how much everything will cost to ensure their guests or delegates have a fabulous time with no inconvenience, encompassing accommodation, quality cuisine, snacks, drinks, excursions, meeting rooms, facilities, taxes and port-charges – everything calculated into one price and settled with a single payment within budget.’
Silversea ships are amongst the smallest and, therefore, so long as the bookings are made in good time, it is not a problem to charter a whole vessel for a group. The fleet comprises six ships, the largest, Silver Spirit, for 540 passengers and the smallest for only 132, the Silver Explorer. It joined the fleet in 2008 as the first ever cruise ship to combine super-exciting expedition cruising with super-luxury quality and service. It has a specially strengthened hull so that it can safely explore the Arctic and the Antarctic.
‘When we bought the ship’, Maarten points out, ‘it was designed for 260 hardy passengers. We transformed it to accommodate just half that total and expanded the cabins accordingly, so that passengers could have all the mod cons they desire.’ Maarten would very much like to see a change in the British Government’s attitude to cruising. ‘In the States’, he explains, ‘benefits in kind are not taxed, success is rewarded and encouraged and cruising is an integral part of the reward process and recognised as such by all.
‘In the UK pure incentives, the reward for hard work and success, and training on cruise ships are still regarded by the Inland Revenue as a pure jolly and holiday and treated and taxed as a benefit in kind.
‘A change in the treatment of incentives and working get-aways of this nature would give a boost to corporate cruising. We must get away from this “tall poppy” way of thinking. If an incentive-campaign is properly planned, executed and delivered, the cruise, or other reward, has more then paid for itself and has been to the benefit of the company as a whole. As a country, as a society, we must do more to reward success. Many clients are planning campaigns but are very worried about “the optics”: How will it look if the press picks up on this? How will the Inland Revenue “punish” our most successful people if we reward them and encourage them to deliver more and more? How will this be viewed by our clients? In my opinion hard work and success should be celebrated - not punished!’