Published online by Travel Age West| By Mindy Poder
Patrick Clark of Avalon Waterways expects changes in itinerary, rooms, tours and more
Though the pace of a river cruise might be described as leisurely, river cruising is arguably one of the travel industry’s most exciting and dynamic sectors right now. Strong demand and fierce competition among river cruise lines have created an environment where only the best and most innovative can succeed. Though that may mean a better product for your clients, there’s also a need among travel agents to stay in the know.
Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways, shares the river cruise line’s predictions for the future of vessel design, destination itinerary, onboard product and more.
1. Shorter itineraries with independent land options will attract younger passengers who want to test out the travel style but have limited time.
2. Special interest or theme departures will continue to expand due to growing interest, particularly among younger passengers.
3. While Avalon Waterways expects an increase in younger and multigenerational passengers, the core business will still be baby boomers. Many baby boomers no longer have children in college to support and their mortgages have been paid. Boomers are also at the stage in life where they want enriching travel experiences — without a lot of hassle.
4. For repeat passengers, other European river cruise destinations such as the Moselle, Main and lower Danube rivers will continue to grow. We’re seeing increased bookings on the following itineraries: Paris to Amsterdam/Amsterdam to Paris; Zurich to Vienna; and Bucharest to Budapest/Budapest to Bucharest.
5. Combining cruises is also gaining popularity among those who have already cruised. We are seeing more interest in combining cruises such as the Danube and Moselle or Rhone and Seine.
6. Repeat travelers will also continue to lead the growth in other non-Europe destinations such as China and the Yangtze River; Southeast Asia and the Mekong River; and the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon River.
7. We expect more river cruise ships with larger staterooms, panoramic views and luxurious amenities. Upmarket big ship cruisers who now look to a river cruise experience are expecting this.
8. While bridges, locks and canal restrictions limit the ship size, there are innovations going on onboard. These mainly have to do with dining experiences. Look for more choices, locally-sourced and fresh ingredients and more chef-inspired creations complemented by a wide selection of very good European wines. Also improving are activities and entertainment, with more emphasis on finding interesting local performers that bring a memorable experience to the customer.
9. There will be greater attention to appointments in public areas, with the emphasis on color, fabric and textures that please the senses.
10. There will also be a growing interest in adding optional tours. Clients have a desire for two or more excursions in a day if it helps provide greater immersion in the destination.