Let's talk River Cruises

Last week I attended CLIA's largest Riverview Conference in Amsterdam. A record-breaking 540 delegates had the opportunity to visit 11 river cruise ships, take part in inspirational business sessions, meet over 25 suppliers and hear CLIA's plans for the future. I can now honestly say I am an expert in river cruising.

The CLIA Riverview Conference 2024 wasn’t just a gathering of industry insiders, it was a chance for travel agents, operators and suppliers to come together to delve into the world of river cruising. We were treated to a showcase of the most beautiful ships and to hear all about the latest trends, technologies and opportunities whilst keeping sustainability in mind.

My journey began with a pre-conference invitation to join APT for cocktails, dinner and fantastic entertainment on the stunning and contemporary Travel Marvel Polaris. The ship was exceptional, as was the food and cabins. Be prepared as lots of exciting plans are coming our way for APT in 2024 and 2025.

The next day I joined all the delegates for an inspirational conference. We were joined by leading experts within the industry giving us incredible insights into the world of river cruising, what trends they are seeing and what to look out for in the future. Later that evening I was lucky enough to be hosted by one of six cruise lines, all keen to showcase their food and entertainment.

On day three, I headed to the Trade Fair, we had the opportunity to talk to a huge selection of cruise suppliers and find out what was new and happening in their world. There are so many exciting things to look forward to, including brand-new ships on the horizon featuring themed cruises, mystery cruises, and family ships all at great value. I then had the opportunity to look around six different ships, all presenting a different spin on river cruising. It was an opulent collection of 5-star and 4-star ships offering pure luxury to adults and families. The evening continued and I was hosted by Ama Waterways on Amaserena – just wow! I embarked on a journey of luxury and comfort, with state-of-the-art amenities and a focus on guest satisfaction.

During this visit, we learned that the river cruise sector is relatively untapped and compared to ocean sales there is a massive opportunity to grow. We discussed where river cruise customers come from and how to tap into that market. We can see an overflow of ocean cruisers, delving into the river world. ocean cruise customers are now looking for smaller more intimate ships with new exciting locations to visit.

River cruising has been quoted as the 'smartest way to vacation in 2024'. We recommend it as the best way to see so many different cities, in Europe or further afield. Currently, the most sought-after long-haul cruises are destinations such as India and Egypt. Where in Europe, the Danube is the most popular itinerary.

We can see river cruising is reaching new customer bases. From a younger audience through the power of social media, wanting to snap those Instagramable moments. To families desiring historic sites and museums whilst still having the option to entertain the little ones with onboard clubs and entertainment.

Do not underestimate the type of traveller for river cruising. Facilities onboard range from spas, yoga sessions, gyms, bike hire, cooking, hiking, etc. There is something for everyone, you just need to have valuable conversations with your customers and be confident to recommend a river cruise.

River cruising is the new ocean cruising, and we all need to get onboard!

CLIA's Top Tips for Selling River Cruise:

  • Learn about the different types of river cruising and be confident to recommend them.
  • Nominate a River Cruise champion within your business, so they can focus on the opportunity and become an expert on the subject.
  • Sell the destinations, not the ship, if they ask for a city break recommend a River cruise.


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