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MICE Cruises Poised for GrowthApril 27, 2012 By: Newswire Travel Agent
A new report from Amadeus and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) found that the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibits (M.I.C.E.) sector represents a promising growth area for the cruise industry as “business cruising” gains momentum. The new report, “Mixing Business with Pleasure” also showcases travel agents’ current views and use of social media.
According to the survey of over 1,400 travel professionals, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents who were familiar with M.I.C.E cruises reported they are likely or possibly likely to book an onboard meeting or event in the next year.
Approximately one in five respondents (21 percent) see a great deal of opportunity in the market segment and one-third of respondents report that they are ready to book business-focused cruising.
The report also examined the growth of social media engagement among travel professionals. According to the survey, nearly three in four travel professionals (74 percent) expect the influence of social media on cruise and travel sales to increase either slightly or significantly in the next three years.
The vast majority of travel agencies (71 percent) use social media as a business tool to generate cruise customer leads, up 17 percent from 54 percent when Amadeus and CLIA conducted a similar survey in 2011.
Conducted online in March, the survey on cruise industry trends includes awareness and predictions for M.I.C.E. on cruise ships, use of social media, passenger booking methods, and demographic makeup of passengers. The survey also includes insights from qualitative interviews with cruise line executives and cruise line meeting planners.
Amadeus’ Carolyn Cauceglia, vice president, strategic sales and account management, Amadeus North America, commented: “Amadeus and CLIA share a commitment to continuing to look forward to the future of the travel and cruise industry. Our survey showcases how the M.I.C.E. sector, along with social media engagement, represent new outlets of opportunities for not just travel agents, but also for the cruise lines and meeting planners.”
According to the study, M.I.C.E. represents a promising growth area for “business cruising,” especially as the U.S. economy becomes more stable, corporate travel and meeting budgets show recovery, and the line continues to blur between work and personal life.
Cauceglia said the survey uncovered clear indicators of the growth potential for the cruise industry. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents who were familiar with M.I.C.E cruises reported they are likely or possibly likely to book an onboard meeting or event in the next year.
But Cauceglia said the survey showed more travel professionals could benefit from being aware of the opportunity. Only nine percent of travel professionals are “very familiar” but 48 percent are “not familiar” with the offerings on cruise ships related to M.I.C.E. Approximately one in five respondents (21 percent) see a great deal of opportunity in the market segment. A disconnect remains, however, with only one-third of respondents reporting that they are ready to book business-focused cruising, Amadeus said.
“Once travel professionals are more aware of the opportunities and arm themselves with the needed information, expertise, and tools to serve this sector, then agents,meeting planners, and the cruise lines themselves will be able to generate significant new business revenue streams,” said Cauceglia.
Many cruise lines are already poised for M.I.C.E., offering improved technology, on-board Wi-Fi, and updated conference rooms to attract the corporate audience for annual meetings, sales contest celebrations, conferences, or exhibitor trade shows at sea.
“Cruise ships are either already equipped or rapidly preparing to accommodate business passengers of any group size,” said Bob Sharak, executive vice president of marketing and distribution for CLIA. “The potential for M.I.C.E. to further energize the cruise industry is tremendous.”
Social media engagement also continues to grow among travel professionals, according to the survey. Nearly three in four travel professionals (74 percent) expect the influence of social media on cruise and travel sales to increase either slightly or significantly in the next three years.
So it should not be surprising that the vast majority of travel agencies (71 percent) use social media as a business tool to generate cruise customer leads, up 17 percent from 54 percent when Amadeus and CLIA conducted a similar survey in 2011.
The report also revealed that the primary reasons travel agents use social media are to engage their customers (45 percent), to post offers, discounts/ advertising (40 percent), to promote new products or services (38 percent), and to provide travel advice to their customers (38 percent).
When compared to 2011 results, agents significantly increased their use of social media to provide travel advice (38 percent, up from 10 percent in 2011), allow customers to share experiences (29 percent, up 10 percent), and promote new products or services (38 percent, up from 21 percent).
“Social media is flexing its muscle across the entire travel industry, rapidly becoming an invaluable communications channel with customers. As travel professionals get increasingly comfortable using social media tools, they will uncover their true potential to make meaningful connections, engage consumers, and increase their business,” said Cauceglia.
Sharak said the report overall continues to show that the entire cruise industry has very encouraging opportunities on the horizon. “We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Amadeus on this study, which in its second year, is instrumental in highlighting emerging business and revenue streams for the cruise industry and revealing any barriers that are inhibiting them to reach their full potential,” said Sharak. “We look forward to working with all parties to bring these emerging opportunities to fruition.”
To download a free copy of the “Mixing Business with Pleasure” report, visit http://bit.ly/IRUzJo Visit www.amadeus.com