Q&A: Joanne Smithies, Business development manager – north and Scotland, AmaWaterways

Joanne Smithies

HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE?

Six months – I was attracted to the role because in my previous job, working for a travel agent specialising in river cruising, AmaWaterways was always my favourite river cruise product. So to get the opportunity to work for a company whose product I love was one I couldn’t miss, and a brand new challenge!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE CRUISE INDUSTRY?

The cruise industry is so diverse with something out there for everyone. River cruise in particular is such a growing market, it’s a really exciting industry to be a part of at the moment.

HOW IS YOUR COMPANY DIFFERENT TO OTHER CRUISE LINES?

AmaWaterways has the highest rated river cruise ships in Europe as rated by the Berlitz River Cruise Guide. We currently hold every single spot in the top 10 out of 310 river ships rated, meaning our ships outranked the competition in all categories including accommodation, facilities, cuisine and hospitality. We are also the only river cruise line to be inducted into ‘La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’, a prestigious culinary society dedicated to fine cuisine in which membership is by invite only to those possessing world-class culinary acumen.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?

Developing my relationship with our trade partners in the north and Scotland and being part of the huge growth in awareness of AmaWaterways. It’s a little further off, but I’m also looking forward to the launch of our new vessel AmaMagna, our double-width ship designed to elevate the modern luxury river cruise market, set to launch on the Danube in 2019.

IF AGENTS ONLY SELL ONE AMAWATERWAYS ITINERARY THIS YEAR, WHICH SHOULD THAT BE?

Our Riches of the Mekong itinerary onboard the AmaDara is a must for those looking to venture outside Europe. The seven-night itinerary can be combined with pre- and post-land stays in Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, experiencing the culture and beauty of Vietnam and Cambodia. We also offer an exclusive experience on board a deluxe junk boat in Ha Long Bay.

CAN YOU GIVE US A DESCRIPTION OF THE TYPICAL AMAWATERWAYS CUSTOMER?

Our typical guest is discerning and likes the finer things in life, such as good food and wine. They are also active and young at heart – we find our biking and hiking tours are incredibly popular. They like the relaxed luxury that we offer on board.  They are used to choice and tailoring their holiday to their own interests, which is why we offer up to four shore excursions in the majority of our ports of call.

TELL US ONE THING ABOUT YOUR LIFE OUTSIDE OF AMAWATERWAYS THAT AGENTS MIGHT NOT KNOW?

I worked for six years in sales for a travel agent specialising in river cruise, so I can really understand things from the agent’s perspective, and the difficulties and barriers they come across day to day. In my spare time I enjoy walking and hiking, and have recently scaled England, Wales and Scotland’s highest mountains!

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING RIVER CRUISE SALES?

That river cruising is for ‘old’ people. AmaWaterways in particular has a very active shore excursion programme, meaning we attract a younger guest than perhaps river cruise is usually associated with. Through our offering of biking and hiking tours, alongside wine tastings, cooking lessons and limited edition tours, guests can make their cruise as relaxing or as active as they wish.

HOW DOES THE COMPANY WORK WITH THE TRADE?

We pride ourselves on being a highly trade-friendly river cruise operator, and we recognise and value all of our trade partners. We have a professional and dedicated sales support and reservations team, and Jon Knight (South & NI) and I are on the road full time, discussing business development opportunities, offering support and training, and delivering vital face-to-face contact.

TOP THREE TIPS FOR AGENTS SELLING CRUISE

1 Know your product. Each cruise line is different, so you need to understand the subtle and not so- subtle differences.

2 The best way to understand river cruise is to experience it for yourself… you’ll be amazed as to just how great it is.

3 Target not only previous river cruisers, but ocean cruisers and those who have previously taken guided holidays such as safaris.

 

Related Articles