As the popularity of cruising continues to grow, so too does the demand for evermore diverse itineraries that take customers further afield to exotic, far-flung and remote destinations. With Clia UK & Ireland reporting 25 million passengers travelling annually aboard Clia cruise lines worldwide (of which 210,400 were on river cruises in 2017), and in the knowledge that travellers are becoming increasingly confident in their globetrotting adventures, it is clear that operators need to continue to evolve their product offering each year to keep ahead of the curve.
There are some specialist expedition cruise operators launching vessels with facilities such as a multisensory underwater viewing lounge. Others are developing small-ship programmes that span all continents to help travellers enjoy adventure-focused itineraries. They reach isolated destinations such as the Seychelles, remote Indonesian islands like Sumba and Moyo, or the icy reaches of Svalbard and Antarctica. Elsewhere, focus rests on expanding exotic river cruise product offerings to feature new waterways across Africa, Asia and South America.
At Avalon, we’ve responded to the growth of demand for exotic holidays by introducing new routes and ships, and our long-haul river cruise collection is now available to book for departures through to mid-April 2020 for locations including Peru, Cambodia and Ecuador. The Avalon Saigon recently launched on the Mekong, and, seeing a 27 per cent rise in Britons taking cruises on Indian waterways, we are excited to introduce the Ganges for 2019.
As the industry develops to offer these more advanced and exotic itineraries, it’s really important that agents work to quickly familiarise themselves with the new product coming to market, so that they are knowledgeable about the diversity of itineraries on sale. It’s all about keeping up the positive momentum that cruising is experiencing. We need to work together as an industry to continue to collectively challenge the perception of cruise holidays and showcase that they are one of the best ways to explore some of the harder-to-reach corners of the globe.
Attending regular cruise industry events such as the annual Clia Conference is a great way for the trade to keep up to date on new developments, and it’s exciting to see Clia announce that it will hold its inaugural expedition-cruise-focused event in 2019. With its London debut next March, the Expedition Cruise Forum will certainly help to further raise the profile of this fast-growing sector. Beyond events, cruise lines are increasingly working to improve the resources and educational tools they make available to agents. For example, at Avalon, we’ve recently revamped our travel agent portal, which now not only allows the trade to make bookings, but also gives them access to a range of marketing and sales materials, too.