MHA Champions Small and Large Vendors

MHA logoThe 32nd conference and trade show for the Marine Hotel Association (MHA) is scheduled for April 2-4 at the Naples Grand Beach Resort in Naples, Florida.

The event provides a unique opportunity, bringing cruise lines and vendors together, including hotel, galley and food and beverage suppliers, according to the MHA.

“We will have just over 200 booths,” said Caroline Pritchard, executive director. “Our goal is to give each vendor one-on-one opportunities to interact with cruise line attendees. This is not typical for many trade shows and something we strive for.

“We are also a platform for vendors to learn about and understand the industry.”

Not only can vendors talk to cruise lines at their booths, if they are exhibiting, they can also interact at a pre-show golf tournament, a welcome cocktail party, two hosted breakfasts and two hosted dinners.

The breakfasts feature guest speakers, and at press time, José Andrés had been confirmed. He has been named “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation and recognized by TIME magazine on the “TIME 100” list of the most influential people in the world. He is described as a culinary innovator, passionate advocate for food and hunger issues, author, TV personality and chef/owner of the ThinkFoodGroup.

“For me it has been a really good resource to connect with vendors that are already in the cruise business, they understand that the supply chain is so much different than for restaurants and hotels,” commented Bruce Tschampel, director of shipboard services at Lindblad Expeditions, who also serves on the board of the MHA.

“The annual conference is a place for me to go and have nonstop meetings and see new products. It is really beneficial. And for my team too, I try to bring the purchasing manager with me.

“Another part I would not discount is the positive relationship between the different cruise lines; it is quite open to sharing.”

Booth at MHA show

And all this comes at a reasonable cost. Said Pritchard: “The largest booth is $2,500 and that includes access to all our events, breakfasts and dinners.

“Our event is about interacting and building relevant relationships. Vendors know that meeting CEOs and presidents are not going to bring them business. Instead, they get to meet the relevant people at the cruise lines that make product and buying decisions.

“We also pride ourselves on championing the small vendors, helping them get a foot in the door, with not only the big cruise lines, but also the small ones.”

According to Tschampel, the MHA also offers new suppliers an opportunity to get into the industry by learning about the business, how to work with the bid systems, and how to meet the expectations for logistics.

“Our moniker is that we are by and for the industry,” Pritchard added. “We have stayed true to those core values since 1985. We are not for profit and put our revenue back in scholarships and training for both cruise line and vendor employees. We are also subsidizing the cruise line attendance at our conference and trade show, yet maintaining affordable registration fees.”

Company membership in the MHA is $500 per year.

The MHA has a board representing both cruise lines and vendors.

The conference and trade show is currently alternating year-by-year between Orlando and Naples.

A conference at sea is planned for this fall, after a successful introduction of that concept two years ago.

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