If you've ever planned or attended a meeting at sea, you owe your good memories to Jo Kling, president and co-founder of Landry & Kling Global Cruise Events, who helped pioneer the concept of cruise meetings 35 years ago and on Friday announced her retirement from the trailblazing company that bears her name.
"After our heartwarming 35th anniversary celebration last year, I realized this time was coming," Kling said. "After all, even the most memorable cruise eventually comes to an end when it's time to pay attention to other things in life."
Based in Miami, Kling established Landry & Kling with co-founder Joyce Landry in 1982 after beginning her career in marketing research in 1970. Both women had previously held executive positions at several cruise lines, and met while working at Holland America Line. Together, they decided to leverage their industry knowledge and contacts to start Landry & Kling, which was the first travel company focused exclusively on planning meetings at sea.
Since then, Landry & Kling has grown to become the foremost specialist in planning cruise meetings, events, and charters, with services including site selection and complete program management for cruise groups, full ship charters, and dockside charters for major events.
Among the company's major achievements was the 2009 launch of Seasite.com, which at the time of its inception was the first and only web portal dedicated exclusively to the cruise meetings market. "Version 2.0" of the site debuted in 2011 and allowed meeting and incentive planners to send a custom electronic Request for Proposal (e-RFP) to their choice of up to five cruise lines, making it possible to directly engage suppliers for the purpose of negotiating competitive all-inclusive group pricing. Today, the site is no longer an open platform; instead, it's licensed by third-party organizations like Royal Caribbean, HelmsBriscoe, and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which have white label versions of it exclusively for their own customers.
For her part, Kling says her favorite achievement is her media relations and marketing efforts, which in the 1980s helped put corporate and incentive buyers on the map before cruise lines even realized they were a legitimate market. More recently, she said, those efforts have included digital marketing, e-books, and educational materials, all of which have helped Landry & Kling expand and reinvent itself.
"It's been a remarkable partnership in so many ways," Landry said of Kling. "I'm extremely grateful to Jo for her vision, elegance, boundless energy, and creativity. It was a successful match from the beginning and we accomplished so much together. Her spirit is embedded in our corporate culture, which will never leave us. That foundation continues to fuel growth and innovation, keeping Landry & Kling in the forefront of the cruise industry."
Kling said she plans to "invest more time in my personal life, and direct my energy and curiosity into other worthwhile endeavors, including lifelong learning [and] perhaps helping kids-at-risk find cruise jobs. I loved educating clients about cruise travel, so perhaps I'll teach a cruise course. And naturally, keep traveling. My list of possibilities is endless."