by Lisa Grimaldi | May 01, 2007

Silversea’s Silver Wind

Silversea’s Silver Wind in European waters

European incentive programs are a popular reward: According to M&C’s 2007 Global Planner Survey, 32 percent of U.S.-based planners’ firms will hold programs there in 2007, and 42 percent will do so next year. However, a growing number of groups are viewing the continent from a ship’s deck, rather than from on land.

Cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Sea Dream Yacht Club and Silversea Cruises report increased incentive business in European waters in the past few years, as have a number of incentive firms. Sandy Cutrone, president of European Connection, a meeting and incentive firm based in Roslyn, N.Y., said the reasons for this are that cruises are easier to operate, fewer on-site staff are needed, and cruise lines’ rates are in U.S. dollars and, at the same time, “very negotiable.”

Nancy Larsen, a senior buyer at Minneapolis-based incentive firm Carlson Mar-keting, also has seen a marked interest. “The number of clients choosing European cruises is growing and will continue to grow as more ships move to the Mediterranean and other European destination,” she said.

Traditional destinations and hotels on dry land have noted the trend. According to Cindy Hoddeson, director, meeting and incentive sales, at the Monaco Government Tourist Office in New York City, the cruises have become a real competitor to land-based destinations in Europe. And buyers are benefitting from the increased competition: Some European hotels (London and Mon-aco properties, among them) are offering incentive groups guaranteed rates, often in U.S. dollars.