by Leo Jakobson | September 22, 2017

Incentive Cruising
 Domestically, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Alaska are our top three destinations. On the Norwegian Cruise Line brand, we have a ship that's based year-round in Hawaii. We do a ton of business on that because we are the only ship there. Our Cuba business is insane, our occupancy is off the chart. We just pulled another ship to go to Cuba year-round now, so we will have two on Norwegian brands, and Oceania does it seasonally on Oceania Cruises, and one on Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Katina Athanasiou of Norwegian
Cruise Line Holdings

Internationally, Iceland is probably top three. I would say then, both the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. We made the business decision to pull out of Turkey a couple of years ago, but groups still want to go east, so they are going as far as they can in the comfort zone, which is typically Greece. Then, oddly enough, places like the western coast of Spain all the way up through Amsterdam. You're getting a little bit of Denmark, a little bit of Germany, a little bit of England, and even some of Ireland and Scotland. That whole region has been very popular for us.

Many hotels are now including Wi-Fi and insuring that the connectivity needs can be met. It's become almost an expectation. Ships across the whole industry are investing millions and millions of dollars to try to keep up with the demand. The reality is we are still working with satellite constraints, but on some of the newer vessels that are coming out of the shipyards, the technology is night and day from what it was even three years ago. Some brands are now completely inclusive of unlimited Wi-Fi.

 Switzerland has the advantage of being small, but we have so much to offer. It is a very diverse country. You have the high adrenaline -- if you want to go and do the James Bond bungee jump, you can do it -- but if you just want to do an easy horse-carriage ride up the mountain and enjoy a little shopping once you get there, you can do that, too. It is one of those countries where, in some places, you can easily be down by the lake surrounded by palm trees in the morning, and by lunch time you can be up in the mountains by a glacier. While you do that, you can do your traditional cheese, chocolate, or wine tastings.

From left to right:

Caroline Pidroni of the Switzerland
Convention and Incentive Bureau,
and Maritz Travel's Rhea Stagner

But the beauty is that there is way more to Switzerland than these clichés. If a group wants to experience something more unusual and different, for example, in Geneva, you have CERN, where the World Wide Web was created. You can take a group there, but you can't go on your own. And there are all of the different industries that we specialize in, not just banking and finance, but pharmaceutical, technology, and others.

Talking about perception and pricing, Switzerland is not cheap, but it's a very competitive destination. Airlift-wise Switzerland is great. We get more and more direct flights. We have Vegas direct flights, we have really good access from the East Coast, 7.5 hours. It's super-fast to get there, and then to travel within Switzerland is fast. You can go from Zurich to Basel in an hour, Zurich to Berne in an hour. An exciting new project happening in Switzerland, we will get a new hotel in 2020. It will be in Zurich, and it's going to be a Hyatt with 550 rooms -- the biggest in Switzerland.

Puerto Rico
 In Puerto Rico we have, like, 10 top-of-the-line, super-luxury properties, amongst them the W Retreat & Spa-Vieques and the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve -- a phenomenal product. Obviously, San Juan is by far the most important tourist destination for Puerto Rico. It is nice and very different and authentic. In two hours, you can get to a beautiful mountain, pick your own coffee, and take it home with you.  

From left: Chris Meyer of the
LVCVA and Milton Segarra of Meet
Puerto Rico

Let me mention a couple of facts about Puerto Rico. The impact of the incentive segment in Puerto Rico is the most important thing. Just to give you an idea, a group room-night in Puerto Rico has an economic impact of $874. When you go to a corporate group, it's around $1,000 per night. When you get to the incentive, it's $1,387. You can see why a destination wants to make sure it's prepared to take care of that particular business. The incentive is right on top, leading the pack.

Las Vegas
 We hostedver 22,000 events last year, most of them less than 200 people, and incentive is an important part of our mix. The group size hasn't been large -- it's been 20 to 50 people, but very, very focused and very high level: typically, director to senior-level executives. And it's all about the loyalty to the brand that's generating that particular incentive.

It brings some really great opportunities for us and allows our property partners to really do some unique things experience-wise. There is more opportunity to create greater and more diversified experiences than just about anyplace else on planet Earth. I've got a billionaire developer who is building a beach on his golf course that will be opened by 2020 -- Wynn Resorts just announced their Wynn Paradise Park concept geared at that younger, more affluent traveler. That is what the Wynn is about, ultra luxury.

You are going to see a very dynamic shift in our destination marketing over the next three to five years, because the sports world has discovered Las Vegas in a large way. The Vegas Golden Knights will play their first season this October. [The Oakland Raiders arrive in 2019, and] in August of 2020 will be in a brand-new, 65,000-seat domed stadium -- not retractable roof, by the way, just domed -- but the way they are designing it, you will be able to open the sides and have fresh air.