The French-owned line is outpacing the growth of the sector thanks to a mix of competitive prices, quality food and a large fleet round the world – and the travel trade is a major part of their strategy going forward
From sauntering down famous European rivers like the Danube and Seine, to touring the mysterious waterways of Asia – it’s easy to see why the river cruise sector is booming right now. According to Clia’s most recent statistics, the river cruise sector grew by 21 per cent last year – incredible given how well-established the market already is. What’s even more extraordinary is that one of the sector’s biggest players, CroisiEurope, actually outpaced that growth – increasing its trade sales by an almighty 23 per cent. When you look a little closer, it’s not surprising why.
With a fleet of 55 vessels operating across 20 rivers around the world, CroisiEurope has one of the biggest footprints of any river company in the world. The company operates on everything from the Rhine and Danube, to lesser known rivers such as France’s Loire and Spain’s Guadalquivir, as well as more exotic tours in Africa and Cambodia.
“We’ve always had a solid base in the UK,” explains John Fair, UK sales director. “However, we are now kicking on. We have opened a call centre here. We’ve invested in our UK team. The trade is a major part of our strategy going forward.”
For Fair, investment in the UK team is going to come with investment in the UK travel trade. That’s included building an agent portal that gives live pricing, developing Clia training modules, attending trade shows and plans to dramatically increase the number of agent fam trips in 2019.
“The sector is booming at the moment,” Fair adds. “Agents are always interested in alternatives in the market, especially ones that offer such quality at a reasonable price point. CroisiEurope offers something totally different to what else is out there – we have an incredible amount of unique selling points.”
Those points of differentiation start on board – where CroisiEurope includes all food and all drinks in the price of the cruise, remarkable given the company’s very attractive price point. Being a French-owned cruise line also means that the food on board is taken extremely seriously.
“Our onboard offering is incredible,” Fair says. “France is known around the world for the quality of its produce and gastronomy – and given that we are the only French river cruise operator in the world, we make sure that we fly the flag when it comes to our cuisine.”
CroisiEurope offers a wide range of shore excursions, ranging from classical, iconic sights to more active and authentic experiences, all of which are commissionable of course. This flexibility offers clients the choice to pre-book all excursions, or book on board.
There is also the bonus of CroisiEurope having such a large fleet. With 55 ships, the company has a presence in most markets across the world – from the Mekong to Russia. Incredibly, that includes six ships on the Douro – a river that increased in popularity by 85 per cent in one year alone, according to Clia’s own statistics.
“People don’t realise how big we are,” Fair adds. “Now that we have more of a presence in the UK, agents are starting to understand that we are a market leading operator – and that they can book through us.
“We are making incredible progress,” adds Fair. “The river cruise sector is booming and we are growing our business at an even faster rate.
As we head towards 2019, we are only going to increase that focus on the trade – it’s the area that I see the most potential going forward and the one that will take us to the next stage of our growth story.”