P&O Cruises this week announced a major push into the meetings market, creating a new P&O Conferences division to spearhead an increase in corporate bookings.

Officially launched at AIME, the cruise line’s conference drive comes as it prepares to expand its fleet from three to five ships, with the addition of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden in November this year.

P&O Cruises director of sales, Ryan Taibel, said the fleet expansion would open the door to host more on-board meetings, with the boutique size and meeting rooms of the two latest ships providing the ideal setting for conferences at sea.

“The arrival of Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria also expands our itinerary offerings with 40 per cent of our cruises sailing for 2-5 nights – perfect for corporate meetings.”

Mr Taibel the cruise line had been buoyed by an increase in meeting bookings in 2015, particularly from the retail and pharmaceutical sectors and associations. Its new P&O Conferences division is targeting 12,000 meeting delegates in 2016, with meetings of 100-200 delegates the prime target.

“Cruising in Australia is booming and in the same way that we have established ourselves as a leading holiday option for travellers, we want cruising to be high on the consideration list for the nation’s meeting organisers.”

Led by senior sales manager, Rebecca Mutanen, the new division recently added former Luna Park account executive Christopher Rich as corporate groups executive.

P&O Cruises is the only cruise line to offer a dedicated conference team based in Australia.

Ms Mutanen said a price comparison showed that a three-night meeting on land including all group extras would cost an estimated minimum of $1059 per delegate compared to $906 for a cruise with more extras.

“You don’t have to look hard to see that cruising is a compelling option. Not only do we have scores of short itineraries on offer, we are also very affordable with the cost of the venue, accommodation, audio visual, meals and entertainment all included in the fare,” Ms Mutanen said.

P&O Cruises’ present fleet includes Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl and Pacific Dawn, with Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria joining in November.

For more information visit www.pocruises.com.au