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Get To Know Iqbal Ameer & Darren Waide, The Real Anchors Behind IT’S THE SHIP

There is always something fun to do and see, no matter who or what your interests are.

IT’S THE SHIP will be setting sail again this November; are you ready for it?

A ship turned into a party palace full of activities, Asia’s largest festival at sea will be back bigger and better.  With a line-up of international artists and entertainers, IT’S THE SHIP will once again marvel party-goers with impressive performances, pop-up parties throughout the ship and exhilarating side activities.  For the millennials, what a perfect backdrop for their social media feeds!

Genting Dream, one of the first ever luxury cruises in Asia will once again be the festival ground in the high seas, on IT’S THE SHIP’s sixth edition.  Last year’s festival had all cabins sold out and that was a whopping 4,000 party-goers, dearly known as Shipmates, in one floating festival!

As one of Asia’s most anticipated festivals, IT’S THE SHIP has continuously evolved through the years.  Last year alone, 18 major brands came on-board IT’S THE SHIP as partners, sponsors and collaborators. That was a 100% increase from 2017 where only 9 took part and of course, the sky is definitely the limit for 2019 and beyond.

This year, IT’S THE SHIP and her Shipmates will set sail from Singapore’s Marina Bay Cruise Centre on November 13, into the international waters and returning on November 15.

Shipmates will experience integrated resort feel at sea with luxurious comforts, thrilling shows and numerous dining options. This spectacular cruise line is one of the world’s largest; imagine 18 whole decks filled with swimming pools for days, a waterslide park and the zip line that overlook the sea, a bowling alley, 3D movie theatre, a mini-golf course, as well as over 35 restaurants and bars.

Organised by Livescape Group, IT’S THE SHIP concept is the brainchild of Iqbal Ameer, Group CEO and Darren Waide, Creative Director. Marketing In Asia had the chance to chat with the visionary and creative mind behind this festival and we simply cannot stop marvelling.

Hello Iqbal & Darren, how did you guys meet?

Darren Waide (DW): We met during Future Music Festival Asia in 2012 when I was part of the Australian contingent involved in the planning of the festival. We both got on great and immediately came up with plans to collaborate and make things happen in the events industry here.

Iqbal Ameer (IA): Darren’s creativity and a constant need to up the ante immediately stood out when we worked together during FMFA 2012. Then and there, we knew that Darren was a huge asset for us, and since then he has played a big role in Livescape Group and where it is today.

How different is it organising a landed event vs a sailing one?

DW: The difference is massive. The saving grace of organising a landed festival is that there is always a way to fix any problems that may arise during the pre-planning stage. Problems such as lack of manpower, non-functioning equipment, and missing items can all be fixed – but when you’re at sea everything must be perfect and ready to go prior to setting sail.

IA: Communication plays a crucial role when it comes to organising an event at sea. There is no reception when you’re on international waters so all communication channels must be done through the use of walkie-talkies. Logistics also plays a key role which is why it is extremely important to bring all equipment onboard and offboard in record time.

What triggered the idea of ITS?

IA: IT’S THE SHIP is a rising phoenix for us. The company was going through a tough time when we lost one of our biggest revenue generators overnight. That’s when our creativity and never give up attitude came in to play to create IT’S THE SHIP which was at that time, a music festival that was unheard of in Asia.

DW: I believe the Livescape Group has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to creating and offering new experiences to our audiences and it is quite humbling to know that we are the pioneers of the first and only cruise music festival in Asia.

China is going to be part of ITS expansion this year. It’s definitely going to be huge. Tell us more – how is that going, and how many pax are you expecting?

DW: The pre-planning stage has been going great. We have had multiple recces in Hong Kong and Malaysia and already have a list of exciting activities planned for this sailing. The biggest challenge we currently face is crafting each guest experience according to local tastes, but so far our partners have been sharing their expertise and insights to make sure that everything goes according to plan.

IA: I believe the launch of IT’S THE SHIP China showcases the want and need for the brand in new markets and to new audiences. It’s a testament that the hard work we have put in for the past five years has finally resulted in this new sailing, with many more expected to come!

What is your marketing, promotional strategy for every ITS event?

IA: Our strategy is to focus on our shipmate community, which we believe is the driving force behind each and every one of our sailings for the past five years. We have a 30% return rate of shipmates that travel from over 80 countries around the world, and our marketing strategy has always been focused on them. We want to continue to empower our community by listening to what they want and need – and make IT’S THE SHIP the place to be, no matter who you are – through our content, language, and the event as a whole.

IT’S THE SHIP has always been catered for adventure seekers who are looking for a great time without any worries and judgement. The festival might look like an event that is only suitable for one type of group but the reality is, there is always something fun to do and see, no matter who or what your interests are.

You had some big names collaborating in 2018’s ITS.  How receptive were they in the beginning when the idea was conveyed?

DW: Our partners have been extremely receptive of all our ideas, no matter how crazy they might be. That’s the thing about IT’S THE SHIP. Our sponsors and partners are not only brands that are showcased onboard but become a part of the guest experience whether during the artist-led activities or at one of the many themed parties.

IA: We are extremely lucky to have had a range of brands and agencies come onboard and be a part of IT’S THE SHIP throughout the years, including Puma, Beam Suntory, PEPSI, Singapore Tourism Board, and many more. It’s great to see our sponsors as excited for each sailing as we are and I believe this not only shows their trust in us but also their belief that this homegrown brand will continue to grow and be on the verge of international expansion.

This year will be ITS 6th sailing.  Has it only gotten better with each year; in terms of sponsors, collaborators, festival-goers?

IA: We are proud to say that our sponsorship retention rate is 100%, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the trust and confidence that our sponsors have shown us. Not only that, each year our brand activations and ideas get bigger and bigger. For example, last year we had a Pepsi pop-up bar onboard and our shipmates were extremely excited to see and be a part of such a big brand that was showcased onboard a festival at sea! The saying is definitely true. Anything is possible onboard ITS THE SHIP!

DW: Most definitely. We have seen the number of guests, sponsors, and partners grow significantly throughout the years, and I believe that our brand activations are one of the reasons why. We have always tried to integrate our sponsors into the whole IT’S THE SHIP experience, including pre-and post-sailing, whilst making sure our partners’ return on investment lasts beyond the sailing.

Are you still accepting any more collaborations for this year’s ITS or it is closed?

IA: We are always open to collaborating and partnering with different brands as we believe the possibilities are endless. Just drop me an email if you have any ideas in mind! I can be reached at iqbal@livescapegroup.com.

Any more ITS planned-out (setting sail) from other cities?

DW: We have received lots of interest from other countries and possible sponsors and are extremely excited to grow the brand in the future.

IA: We are extremely excited about the upcoming possibilities and do have a few additional sailings in the works that we can’t wait to share!

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Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen

Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen is the Editor (Singapore) for Marketing In Asia. She is also a certified Image Branding & Lifestyle Consultant. Born in Singapore and blessed to have lived in a couple of other amazing cities in the world, Anjalika is currently expatriating in Kuala Lumpur. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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