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23 JAN-FEB 2020 MEETINGS & CONVENTIONS MCMAG-ASIA.COM Key challenges So what is stopping event planners from moving their events to the high seas? For one, the lack of awareness of cruises remains a key challenge, shared Aavii Worldwide's Francis Cheong. Of the company's close to 196 events held in 2019, none were held on a cruise. Mr Cheong observed that cruise lines had yet to come knocking on the doors of event agencies, as compared to hotel groups. But there was certainly no shortage of enthusiasm from cruise lines to highlight how cruises could not be more apt for meetings and events. "A cruise ship provides an all- inclusive package. Compare this to having to book so many room categories, secure a conference venue and more," said Genting Cruise Lines' vice president – sales, India and South Asia, Naresh Rawal. One 'myth' that cruise companies hope to debunk is the cost of cruises. "We've done a study comparing the cost of events on land versus on board a ship–it's 30% less. We don't charge success that planners can take inspiration from, there are aspects that planners should consider when bringing events out to sea. "In our first year, we faced challenges in building a giant LED screen on board since it had never been done before. It took a year of investment before things were up and running. We were able to shut down a lift and pull wires in order to light up the LED screen," said Mr Ameer. "But now it's fantastic when our cruise partner understands the nature of our event and the requirements. The (planning) process has only been getting smoother and smoother. "All it takes is a leap of faith, as soon as you try it you're going to love it," he added. Livescape's It's The Ship has held its last three editions on board Dream Cruises' Genting Dream. for the venue, which a lot of land options do charge, and we provide all the event support and services. As an event organiser, you don't have to worry about how to feed or entertain your attendees," said Mona Foo, Royal Caribbean Cruises Asia's head of sales, Singapore. Ms Foo ventured that planners should be a "little more open" to hold their events on board. Another factor that planners are concerned about is how they can provide the exclusivity and customised 'wow' experience that incentive groups seek, especially on board a cruise of 3,000 passengers. Ms Foo shared that the cruise company has pulled off customised events for groups from 20 to 1,000 attendees on its ships, with arrangements for groups to use its lounge venues and meeting rooms or even stage a music DJ event for 600. While there is plenty in Livescape's "Now it's fantastic when our cruise partner understands the nature of our event and the requirements. The (planning) process has only been getting smoother and smoother." IQBAL AMEER, GROUP CEO, LIVESCAPE GROUP, ORGANISERS OF MUSIC FESTIVAL IT'S THE SHIP

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