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    May 05, 2014

    Taking to the high seas to network and learn

    FANCY going on a cruise? Your employer might be the one taking you for a sail on the high seas.

    More companies here are holding staff retreats, training programmes and seminars on board a ship, say cruise operators.

    These companies include small and medium-sized enterprises, multinational corporations, banks, schools as well as other organisations such as churches.

    A spokesman for Royal Caribbean Cruises (Asia) told My Paper that the number of companies booking cruises for employees has been "growing significantly for the last three years".

    It declined to reveal actual figures, but said that the increase is up to 10 per cent each year. Most go for short trips within South-east Asia.

    Meanwhile, Star Cruises said that over 30 per cent of its business is made up of meetings, incentives, conferences and events, and that figure has had a "double-digit growth" yearly.

    Michael Goh, senior vice-president of sales at Star Cruises, said: "As the event attendees are confined together, they will get to work, wine and dine, and play as a team. As a result, dynamic teams with strong synergy are formed."

    The size of a travel group can range from 30 to more than 1,000 people.

    Costs vary, depending on the size of the group, travel destination and operator. It costs more than $400 per person for a three-night South-east Asia trip on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, while Star Cruises charges between $30 and $100 per head for corporate events.

    Lorna Whiston Schools, which runs two pre-schools, is jumping on the bandwagon. It will treat some 40 pre-school teachers to a three-day, two-night cruise to Malacca in September.

    Its marketing communications and business development manager, Esther Wong, said such retreats suit organisations with small budgets.

    "It's quite exciting that we're sailing somewhere together, so we get to know our colleagues outside of the office," she said.

    Being confined to a ship is also conducive for networking, as Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News and Mandarin-speaking entrepreneur group Bosses Network have found.

    They have organised an annual networking session and seminar on cruises over the past decade.

    The event is typically a three-day, two-night trip within South-east Asia. Last year, there were a record 600 participants.

    Food and beverage entrepreneur Andy Hoon has taken part in the event eight times.

    The 35-year-old said: "When you are on the cruise for the seminar, it's like a commitment. You have to stay on the ship and that gives you time to recap what you learnt."