Where next for cruise? Neil Barclay, Viking UK, on cruise in 2020
Head of sales, Viking UK
With all the political uncertainty we have been experiencing in the UK, value for money is more important than ever – and this will shape the future of the river cruise industry to a certain extent.
River cruises represent excellent value generally when you look at the whole package, including flights and food and beverages – not to mention that guests can see multiple destinations in one trip. More and more, UK travellers are realising that it makes sense, both economically and in terms of the best use of their time, to visit a range of destinations in a week on a river cruise versus multiple city breaks. It is so much more relaxing and no time is wasted packing and unpacking and waiting at airports.
Travel to Europe is more popular than ever. ABTA’s 2020 Travel Trends report revealed that Europe was the number one choice for British holidaymakers travelling abroad, with 84 per cent visiting the continent in 2019. We are so lucky in the UK that Europe is right on our doorstep and I think in 2020 we will see this reflected in an increase in bookings from travellers who want to do longer cruises but closer to home.
Everyone is looking to discover something new or something that bit different and we’re all travelling farther afield to discover new continents and cultures, but how many of us have really discovered the heart of Europe, the villages, cities and lakes that are less than a two hour flight away? When you think about going to Europe for a week’s holiday, what generally springs to mind is the Spanish Costas or the Greek islands, but Europe has so much else to o er. The region boasts a variety of different experiences all year round – for example, the Christmas markets in December, the Seine in Spring, and the Douro is glorious in the height of summer and even has its own microclimate.
Several cruise lines are adding capacity to meet demand. There are around 13 new river ships scheduled to launch in Europe this year, including four new Viking ships on the Seine and two new Longships on the Rhine and Danube.
Travel brands have been talking about authentic experiences for some time and community tourism is another trend that is set to continue in 2020. Demand for shore excursions, which give cruisers an insight into local cultures, is as high as ever. River cruises o er the perfect platform for travellers to explore new cultures. There is something magical about arriving in a new destination by river and stepping o the ship into the heart of each town or city – it makes you feel connected with the local community. Many cruise lines o er shore excursions that provide more than the usual walking tour. Instead, they enable travellers to meet with local people, visit their homes and learn about their lifestyles. The infrastructure is already in place to meet this demand and I think we’ll see more excursions of this nature being added this year.
Wellness is also important to today’s travellers, as we all know, and in response river cruise lines are offering more and more active excursions. For example, we have added a cycling tour on some of our shore excursions on the Rhine. Active walking tours and the walking tracks on board the ships are very popular and most cruise lines o er a huge range of healthy eating options.
Multigenerational travel looks set to show continued growth, with river cruising seen as an ideal environment to explore the world, discover new places and spend quality time together. Finding the right holiday that can cater for differing age groups with varying tastes can be a challenge – river cruising offers that mix of relaxation and exploration but enough quiet corners to spend quality time together. There is a cruise line for everyone, whether multigenerational means families with young children or older children travelling with their parents and sometimes grandparents. Some cruise lines like Viking only accept bookings for guests over 18 years old. The continued level of demand and repeat business we see also gives an indication that adult-only cruises are becoming increasingly popular.
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In this issue, we look ahead to the next 12 months, bringing you expert opinion from travel industry leaders as we ask them, where next for cruise? Andy Harmer of Clia, Ben Bouldin of Royal Caribbean International, Lynn Narraway of Seabourn, Craig Upshall of Aurora Expeditions and Neil Barclay of Viking Cruises all share their views, in this special section of the magazine. Click here to read the magazine in full.