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, Phil Nuttall, the managing director of The Travel Village Group, explains why river cruise is on the rise
River Cruise is no longer considered the poor relation to ocean and this will come as no surprise to those who have been selling river for many years. But it’s not about the river, is it? Sure, each river is different, but it’s where they take you and how you travel that is the real attraction. And here lies the opportunity!
Let’s take the travel element and look at how we get there. Some people will not want to fly or have a fear of flying which opens the opportunity to sell a river cruise through one of the specialist coach and/or rail operators. They have excellent packages that are tailor-made for those who do not wish to fly.
Once we have decided how we are going to get there, we need to find out just what style of holiday the client is looking for. This is our second opportunity – how do our clients wish to travel up and down the river?
Just as ocean has a plethora of choices to accommodate every taste and budget, river has just the same on a smaller scale. You can choose from an all-suite butler experience to budget-driven lower deck cabins depending on your clients’ preference, but one thing remains common throughout – the destinations you visit!
Whichever way you look at it, you will arrive at a destination, sometimes with another four or five ships, and the only thing that is different is how you have arrived. Here’s the opportunity to add value to your client and this doesn’t just mean spending more.
You will need to know your river cruise product, understand what each operator includes and what their USP is. This is what will ultimately make you a river cruise expert and convert enquiries into bookings.
The Clia river cruise modules are the best place to start and their webinars can also be downloaded to watch at your leisure.
Some customers may not see the benefit in an all-inclusive river cruise holiday and instead prefer the choice as to which excursions appeal to them with some lazy free time to explore on their own. They may also not be big drinkers and a glass of wine included in their evening meal is sufficient.
Moving away from Europe the opportunities start to become more exotic and more flexible. It is quite strange but, in this industry, we are more familiar with the geography of Asia for example than we are of Europe. This confidence allows creativity in itineraries combining destinations such as Vietnam and Thailand with Mekong and Irrawaddy river cruises. India and the Ganges is a new growth area for river cruise, once again with a huge opportunity to combine iconic destinations which ultimately create bucket list holidays.
Next year sees the very first convention outside of Europe with Vietnam hosting Clia’s first Asia river cruise conference in April. This is an opportunity to experience first hand the real difference in cultures, travel arrangements and dining styles for those used to cruising in Europe.
There is a river cruise for everyone, but it is important to get familiar with one or two river companies and build up your knowledge and confidence before expanding your portfolio. You cannot be all things to all people.
Do your training and get on board a river ship, but above all remember, it’s all about the destination and this is where the opportunity lies with river cruise in 2018.