Specialist group bookings are key to high commission earning and attracting customers in river cruise, agents were told at the annual Clia Conference.

Speaking at the three-day event in Southampton, Amawaterways boss Rudi Schreiner told the audience of agents and suppliers that focused selling was key to the growth of the river market.

The line’s president and co-owner said: “It is about our agents taking advantage of those specialist groups, why do these people want to travel, whether it is for wine or cycling, river cruising offers specialist cruises and these are the customers agents should target.

“If people go on group bookings, people will allow a lot of decisions to be made by the person booking it or leading but why not take advantage of this. Inform your customer what is on offer if you find our they specifically like something and they can then be the one making the decisions.

“Customers rely on professional knowledge and care of our agents and it is a growing market to take advantage of.”

Following the announcement of Ama Magna, the line’s new double width ship, Schreiner said was asked if this larger ship would attract more ocean passengers.

He said: “For us I don’t think there is a focus on where they come from and sometimes it is hard to judge but if we can offer them the best experience, whether they seek active exploring or leisurely cruising then agents need to get the one the river ships.”

Schreiner was joined on stage by television presenter John Craven who admitted he preferred river to ocean and had river cruised more than a dozen times.

“You see a totally new way of travelling when you go river cruising. It is amazing what these lines can do to enhance your time and how many countries you can see in one go. The food is great and often regionally bought.”

Craven said he moved over to river after choppy seas during a storm on a cruise put his wife off ocean cruising.

“My wife said that was it for her in ocean cruising. River has been a winner for us and in recent years my wife lost mobility and was confined to a wheel chair.

“This is absolutely accommodated while on board a river cruise, on the ship and off.”

Schreiner said the investment in AmaWaterways by Travel Leaders would aid in distribution, another support for its agent partners.