Rob Coleman, senior director of incentives for Holland America Line, predicts a resurgence of cruise programs after the pandemic pause.
Sailing Alaska on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam in late August, it was clear to see the appeal for incentive groups. We caught up with HAL’s Senior Director of Incentives Rob Coleman to get the skinny on what’s ahead—and what’s new—for incentives at sea on the storied cruise line.
Prevue: What’s the outlook for incentive bookings after the pandemic pause?
Coleman: “I think we’re going to see a resurgence of incentive programs after the pause. Most incentive group business for 2021 and 2022 was already on the books. New bookings are coming in for 2023 and we’re seeing a lot of domestic departures for the Caribbean and Alaska. We’re also getting quotes out the door for future cruises in Alaska and Europe.
Has Alaska become a popular cruise destination for incentive groups?
“Yes, and it’s part of a natural progression. Companies tend to start with a basic program in the Caribbean, then look at Alaska and other exotic cruising destinations. HAL has six ships sailing Alaska next season, departing from Seattle and Vancouver.
Why is Alaska trending for incentive programs?
“There are many bucket-list communal experiences in Alaska, from whale watching expeditions to salmon bakes to wildlife excursions to hikes, that we can customize for groups. Companies can bring leadership and attendees together in many different environments.
How do you keep incentive participants separate from the leisure passengers onboard?
“We’ll set aside dedicated portions of the dining room for groups and provide private spaces for business meetings. However, most incentive planners like to turn their participants over to enjoy the ship for at least part of the cruise. The beauty of working with HAL is that we have a long history of working with a variety of affinity groups and charters. Our team connects incentive planners with all the leadership groups on board—guest experience, culinary, beverage, shore excursions, etc.— to work through key aspects of the dream program prior to the cruise.”
What’s new for incentive groups?
“We see a robust future for HAL incentive business on the horizon, and are considering new offerings and opportunities for planners. In addition to other group incentive packages, we’re looking to roll out an all-inclusive pricing program for incentives similar to our Have it All premium package for leisure travelers that includes shore excursions, drinks, specialty dining and wifi. Details will be announced later this fall.”