Planning professionals know there’s nothing like shared experiences to bring people together!

Today’s dynamic meetings and incentive travel programs must include unique adventures and authentic destination activities designed to motivate, recognize, and inspire attendees. But with rising costs and budgets flat or barely increasing, there’s a new set of meeting planner challenges.

Based on our experience working with clients as well as data collected from several recent meeting & incentive travel industry reports, we identified the top 5 meeting planner challenges.  Here they are, along with the surprisingly simple solutions.

1. Deliver New & Unique Experiences, Increase ROI

Meeting Planner Challenge: According to the 2016 IRF Incentive Trends Report, “experiences are the new luxury” that drive motivation. Another survey from Successful Meetings identified top meeting planner challenges as:

  • Need to create compelling meeting experiences: 63%
  • Proving ROI for meetings: 50%
Azamara Club Cruises deck party-solution to Meeting planner challenge to find unique venue

Azamara Club Cruises deck party during Mediterranean cruise

Solution: If you want to offer a new meeting or incentive travel experience, choosing a ship venue makes perfect sense – only 25% of North American adults have taken a cruise!

The experience of being at sea “all in the same boat”; visiting multiple destinations; having a variety of recreation, culinary and enrichment activities on board – not to mention adventures ashore – all help to build company/brand identity loyalty and lasting relationships.

The all-inclusive nature of a ship adds value and appeal. Meals, daily activities, entertainment, sports, meeting space & use of AV are included. Which means there’s less out-of-pocket expense for your attendees, and greater return on investment for your organization.

2.Offer Authentic Destination Experiences

Meeting Planner Challenge: The most recent IRF Participant Study found that Travel and Experiences beat out cash as a desired large award. But the meeting planner challenge is how to create unique, authentic and memorable destination experiences to inspire their attendees, while keeping a watchful eye on the bottom line.

Crystal Esprit submersible - meeting planner challenge to add new adventure experiences

Crystal Esprit submersible adventure experience

Solution: A ship venue is like a “floating hotel” that offers your group the excitement of visiting several enticing ports of call with the convenience of unpacking only once.

Cruise lines are adding destination-focused cuisine, enrichment programs, and entertainment on board their ships. Authentic, local “behind-the-scenes” cultural excursions as well as active shore activities like bicycling, kayaking, zodiac exploration, and zip lining – even submarine adventures on Crystal Esprit –  have replaced passive bus tours.

Many smaller premium, luxury, and river cruise lines longer stays and overnights in ports for in-depth destination exploration. Many of these lines also offer complimentary shore excursions. On upscale ships and mega-yachts, expect exclusive, complimentary evening events ashore, such as a private concert at the ruins of Ephesus.

3.Add Memorable but Affordable Food Options

Meeting Planner Challenge: Food & beverage costs continue to rise at alarming rates while planners are expected to keep up with trends that include more healthy menu choices and unique, interactive culinary experiences. In addition, attendees’ special dietary demands are increasing.

Culinary Center on Oceania Cruise Ship - meeting planner challenge to include new food experiences

Bon Appetite Culinary Center on Oceania Cruise Ship

Solution: From elegant dining rooms to intimate specialty restaurants and casual poolside grills, ship dining will please even the most discerning tastes (surcharges in specialty restaurants may apply).  

Cruise lines are partnering with celebrated chefs to design new menus. Fresh, healthy options are available in complimentary indoor/outdoor dining venues as well as globally inspired restaurants. Premium and upscale lines offer locally-sourced, organic, and freshly prepared menu items; chef-led culinary excursions; and interactive cooking schools aboard their ships.

Many cruise ships now make accommodating food restrictions a priority and are happy to accommodate a variety of diets including no/low fat, vegetarian, vegan, dairy or lactose-free, gluten-or-wheat lactose-free, low cholesterol, diabetic, Kosher and Halal diets, as well as allergy-specific diets.

Read more about best new culinary experiences for cruise meetings & incentives.

4.Motivate Multiple Generations of Attendees

Corporate Cruise Getaways on Royal Caribbean Mariner of the SeasMeeting Planner Challenge: A “one size fits all” meeting or incentive travel program no longer works! You need a motivating destination, and your venue and program agenda must include choices to please multiple generations – from Baby Boomer to Millennials.

Solution: Cruises offer multi-generational appeal. With a variety of activities and entertainment included, your cruise program will motivate and reward everyone while simplifying your planning.

Kids and teens have their own age-appropriate activities, making family program planning a breeze. Onboard activities run the gamut – from zip lining and bumper cars to spa treatments and enrichment classes. Shore excursions include active, high-adrenaline activities as well as cultural tours and golf.

5. Include Entertainment With a Limited Budget

Meeting Planner Challenge: With costs rising and budgets remaining flat, planners are forced to cut costs by eliminating leisure activities and evening entertainment. At the same time, attendees expect greater flexibility and more personalized choices. There’s a simple solution to his meeting planner challenge.

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas Two 70 lounge

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas Two 70 Lounge transfers for evening entertainment

Solution: There’s so much to do on a ship, your attendees will never get bored – and most of it is free! Most cruise ships have complimentary fitness centers as well as spas and casinos.

New mega-ships feature AquaParks and sports decks with inspiring views (rock climbing, bungee jumping, basketball, mini-golf or ropes course overlooking the ocean anyone?). Some ships even offer ice skating, bowling, and zip lines. Smaller ships and mega-yachts might feature marinas with complimentary water toys or sunrise Yoga on deck.

No need to leave the ship for spectacular entertainment – include blockbuster entertainment  without spending a dime! Choices might include Broadway shows, aerial performers, live music, dance clubs, deck parties, movies under the stars, high-tech immersive experiences… and more! And did we mention no ticket and transfer cost?

Want to learn more about planning wildly successful meetings at sea & incentive cruises?

Check out Landry & Kling’s Resource Page to access helpful eBooks, how-to guides, videos & Slideshares. Then give us a call at 305-661-1880, send an email to, or fill out the Contact Us form.

We’re here to help you every step of the way!