River cruising needs to become more sexy if it is to grow to its full potential, Cosmos Tours chief operating officer Giles Hawke told the conference.
He said this will be the year river cruise ‘will blast off’ but stressed river cruise companies need to develop unique products, for instance in the active, family or city-break markets.
“River cruising is 10 years behind the ocean sector, which is good as we can see what they have done and learn from their mistakes. Companies need to make it more sexy and focus on selling our unique features rather than just talking about service and food.”
Last year 150,000 British holidaymakers took a river cruise, according to Clia. It was an 8% increase on the previous year but remains a tiny slice of the total overseas holiday market.
Hawke admitted he did not have a positive view of river cruising before he joined Cosmos Tours, which includes the Avalon Waterways brand, earlier this year.
“I thought it was for old people and that the quality was poor. After seven months I have realised it is a high-quality product that is excellent value for money and should have appeal across all age groups,” he said.
“We need to do more to make sure agents understand the product and they need to stop selling it as an afterthought.”