MHA Conference at Sea a Success

MSC Divina

The Marine Hotel Association’s (MHA) Conference at Sea aboard the MSC Divina in December provided an intimate platform for hotel and food and beverage vendors to connect with relevant executives from a number of cruise operators.

Panel discussions, networking sessions, hosted dinners and other activities provided a strong platform for vendors and cruise line decision makers to connect aboard MSC’s 3,500-guest Divina. MHA members were also among the first to see MSC’s new Ocean Cay private island in the Bahamas.

“The time spent with our supplier partners was invaluable, helping them to better understand the new concepts we are developing as well as our strategic challenges allowed for great dialogue and in fact we learn just as much from them since they are facing these many of these same developments across the Hospitality industry,” said John McGirl, COO at The World, a residence cruise ship, and president of the MHA.

“Most valuable was probably the one on one meetings but for me it’s the combination of having time to be together have some interesting discussions and the one on ones,” explained Johan Westermark, managing director, Nordic Seafood Cruise Supply.

“The individual vendor session worked out to be one of the most valuable events for us. The one-on-one time gave us a great introduction to new suppliers, as well as connecting with many we are currently working with,” added Bruce Tschampel, vice president of hotel operations for Lindblad Expeditions.

“Contacting new customers who receive hundreds of cold calls every day can be very challenging, but the one-on-one meetings guarantee at least a few minutes with each buyer,” explained Michael Yang, account executive at Blue Venture Inc., a major seafood supplier to the cruise industry.

“The attending cruise line companies were very diverse in their size. The smaller luxury cruises as well as huge players in the industry will each hear what every member has to offer. Inversely, every vendor can get a better understanding on the biggest challenges and demands of each cruise line, facilitating healthy and sustainable business relationships long term.”

Cruise line participants ranged from MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line to Apollo Group, Lindblad Expeditions, The World, Windstar, CMI Leisure and Mystic, among others.

“The size was small but quaint. A lot of face time with each cruise line contact. Great group of new business contacts,” noted Nina Hunter of PanaPesca USA LLC, which is supplying MSC-certified oysters and other seafood products.

The MHA next heads to Orlando for its annual conference and trade show, March 26-28.

The MHA is a true not-for-profit organization, with membership dues at $500. Its not-for-profit status also means that revenue is put back into the organization and into the famed MHA scholarship fund, which has doled out over 8,000 scholarships over 35 years. 

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