In this section, several leading industry figures talk about what the future holds in 2018 and beyond, looking at changes in innovation, legislation, luxury and family cruise, the rise of river, meeting the needs of millennials and the latest destination hotspots. Here, Chris Townson, the UK managing director of U by Uniworld, writes about how millennials are the future of cruise
Young travellers are a generation of adventurers and of experience-seekers – they want to see more, do more and, of course, document more on their social media channels. They want to experience vibrant cities, enjoy the nightlife and tick off those landmarks, but they also want to get off the beaten track, meet locals, enjoy traditional cuisine and generally feel more connected to the places they are visiting.
River cruise has been offering these kinds of experiences for years, so it’s not too much of a leap to see that the opportunity for our industry to market and sell to a younger demographic is there.
Before bringing U by Uniworld to the market, we conducted research to be sure we were on the right path. As a Travel Corporation company, U by Uniworld’s sister brands include Contiki and Busabout, so we are well positioned to understand what this audience is looking for and create a new cruise experience to match. We were also able to talk to existing customers within these brands to see what they might look for in a cruise.
The data showed overwhelmingly that young professionals are in favour of taking to the waterways, and being able to effortlessly link the hearts of Europe’s most sensational cities with a floating boutique hotel has real appeal. Of particular interest were visiting small towns that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access, unpacking once at the beginning of the trip and being free to move about and enjoy the ship’s facilities.
For agents selling to this market, it is worth remembering these elements, and clearly articulating that river cruise offers these advantages over other ways to holiday. It’s important to tailor the product you offer to the individual, as one thing that we know about this audience is that one size does not fit all. We’ll be offering lots of choice on board, with a host of included excursions and U Time optionals so that guests can build an experience to suit them.
We anticipate that, from the UK, most of our customers will be aged between about 27 and 40. These young professionals are already taking two to three city breaks a year, paired with longer haul and luxury holidays; they have money to spend and are investing it in travel. But planning multiple city breaks can be time-consuming, so the river cruise model is perfect. U by Uniworld will allow guests to visit multiple cities, to stay in a city’s best address (in Paris, for example, this means right by the Eiffel Tower) and the inclusive nature of these experiences means that meals, sightseeing and amazing activities are included upfront. A win-win for agents and their clients.
We appreciate that river cruise for young professionals is a new concept so we’ve opened up a number of departures next year for any age group, and we’ve safeguarded these specifically for agents and their clients. Agents can travel at a discounted rate and I would urge those who are curious to get on board.
For anyone still unsure of the opportunity, ocean cruise is the perfect case study. Twenty years ago you would never have seen families or younger people cruising. But ocean has changed immeasurably, and the product has evolved to meet the demands of a new, younger audience. We are poised to do the same thing with river cruise, and it’s very exciting for the industry as a whole.