Stuart Perl, managing director of AmaWaterways and chair of the CLIA River Cruise Committee, outlines the need for innovation and why he believes the river sector can break new records in 2019.
It is almost exactly six months since the CLIA River Cruise Convention when I laid down the challenge to agents to book 250,000 river cruise passengers in 2019. Since then it has been a tough market, not helped by uncertainty caused by Brexit.
But I remain confident that with six booking months remaining, we can smash that target. How do we, though, keep the momentum going into 2020 and beyond?
It’s been said that “innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation”. The same is also true of industries, especially the travel industry or, more specifically, the river cruise industry.
Although the sector has always evolved and innovated, with my own company, AmaWaterways, at the forefront, it is only now, as the popularity of river cruising increases, that we can appreciate the role innovation has played in creating the many different river cruise experiences on offer and we can say with confidence there really is a cruise for everyone.
For example, AmaWaterways has just launched AmaMagna, almost double the width of traditional river cruise vessels, but carrying just 25 per cent more guests. They can enjoy the space as well as the incredible amenities on board, such as four restaurants, five bars, a water sports platform and wellness studio, plus suites up to an unheard of 710 sq. ft. Added to that, her efficient engine is designed to reduce her environmental footprint.
In recent weeks, there have also been some exciting announcements from other lines. A-Rosa has announced a larger ship, but has chosen to build upwards, introducing the first river cruise ship on the Rhine to have four decks, with an array of features catering to the family market. It, too, will feature technology that reduces its environmental footprint.
There‘s also good news from TUI, as it enters the adult-only river market. In my view, that’s a positive endorsement of the future of river cruising. TUI’s move will increase awareness and introduce more holidaymakers to a new experience.
With both A-Rosa and TUI – and AmaWaterways for that matter – we see examples of how the market is becoming more segmented. That is a good thing.
All these initiatives will undoubtedly attract new cruisers. At AmaWaterways, we’ve seen very clearly how AmaMagna is making ocean cruisers re-evaluate and book their very first river cruise.
I’ve no doubt recent announcements by A-Rosa, TUI and others will have a similar effect. The more we can innovate and differentiate the easier it is for our travel agent colleagues to secure those all-important bookings.
Yet it also becomes more important that agents have the knowledge and experience to match their guests with the right river cruise. So, if you’ve not made a river cruise booking for a while, have a browse online or dust off those brochures to see the amazing array of river cruise holiday experiences on offer.
You may be pleasantly surprised.