Agents attending Clia UK’s first river cruise and destination forum in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam today were urged to go home and wow their customers with all the things they are seeing and doing.

Clia UK deputy chair and Avalon Waterways chief executive officer Giles Hawke said the combined cost of getting to Asia and the cruise is great value for money but not cheap so agents need to use their experiences from the event to bring the destination alive for clients.

He said: “We are selling to people who have money but want experiences over possessions. It’s the perfect storm for those of us selling river cruises in Asia. They want good food and authenticity, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but once they have done one river cruise here they will do another.”

AmaWaterways UK managing director Stuart Perl said agents can use their new knowledge of Asia to ‘sell with confidence’. “We will support your marketing plans. This is a great opportunity for you.”

The conference opened at the Meridien in Ho Chi Minh City yesterday with speed-dating sessions with suppliers. There is a full-day conference today and Thursday agents board one of five river ships provided by Pandaw, AmaWaterways, Travelmarvel by APT, Avalon Waterways and CroisiEurope for a three or four-night cruise on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Perl said agents should target past river cruisers who have ‘done’ Europe and want something more adventurous as well as clients who want to go long-haul but are not confident to travel alone.

Pandaw vice-president sales and marketing Marco Rosa said Asia river cruises attract younger people interested in exploring off the ship and also recommended agents sell to families. “It is a wonderful cultural experience for children.”

He added: “At Pandaw we get a large percentage of customers who have never cruised. Asia is not ideal for driving so a river cruise is the best way to travel.”