AmaWaterways is putting agents at the heart of its business strategy for 2017.

Jamie Loizou, sales, marketing and digital director, said agent education was a key part of the line’s refocused trade strategy: “We need to make sure agents have that awareness of what we’re all about,” he said.

The launch of new ship AmaKristina in March, operating on the Rhine, will be the first milestone for the newly established UK team, which is led by managing director Stuart Perl and is based in Guildford.

AmaWaterways was founded in 2002. Fred Olsen Travel was responsible for distribution in the UK but the decision was taken to build a team last summer, which now numbers 12 including head of sales Jenny Wright.

Loizou explained: “Fred Olsen Travel is still a valued partner and we want that relationship to blossom, but we’re actively seeking new accounts too. It’s important agents realise we now have a standalone experienced team as there has been a degree of confusion about that in the past.”

Agents would see an increase in face-to-face training, he said. “We want to put a personality to the brand. It’s important to replicate the service we deliver onboard in all areas of the business including trade support.”

He said that there was also confusion about where the different river cruise brands stand in the marketplace, and a key priority was to define the line’s position.

“Lots of lines claim to be luxury, but there’s not a clear definition. We sit in that space but we’d rather talk about what makes us different, which is the quality of our cuisine, our Active Discovery programme, and the ways in which we innovate, both with new destinations such as the Ganges and onboard with our Chefs Table alternative dining concept.”

He said the Active Discovery programme, which offers hiking and biking, has grown year by year on account of customer demand. “It makes us more appealing to a younger market,” he claimed. “It’s one less barrier for agents to overcome.”

He added that the line had a good start to the year: “We’re happy with where we’re tracking,” he said. “The Rhine and the Danube, our number one sellers, and the Douro has been astonishingly popular, being virtually sold out. There are pockets of availability but the message is book now or you’ll be disappointed.”