Coronavirus: Flexibility is ‘key’ to success of credit notes, say river cruise bosses

Flexibility “is the key” to managing rebookings of customers during the coronavirus pandemic, say river cruise bosses.

AmaWaterways co-owner and executive vice president Kristin Karst warned the river line’s programme might be extended beyond May 31.

She accepted that changing suspension dates could be frustrating for travel agents and their customers, but promised to make a decision “very shortly”.

Karst said: “Because the situation is so fluid, it’s really hard to predict what’s happening in the next few months.

“However, working with our travel partners one by one we are very flexible in the options we are giving and extending the FCCs (Future Cruise Credits).”

AmaWaterways is among a number of river cruise lines offering enhancements alongside FCCs to customers whose sailings have been cancelled.

Customers who rebook rather than cancel are being given a credit note for 115% of the original booking value, and bookings can be transferred to friends or family if desired.

“Flexibility is the key,” Karst said.

Agents also earn 10% on top of normal commissions for cruises they rebook.

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Avalon Waterways is also offering incentives. Customers who rebook travel to take place by the end of 2022 will receive an additional £150 to use towards their fare.

Chief executive Giles Hawke said Avalon credit notes were also transferable. “Clearly that’s in our best interest, and those of our partners, but it’s in the customer’s best interests as well,” he said. “They are going to get the holiday they wanted to go on and committed to.”

Hawke said the proportion of those opting to rebook, cancel or yet to decide was roughly split three ways. But he said he hoped more customers would choose the rebooking option as his team worked through cancelled bookings in May and June.

“If people want their money back we’ll give them their money back, but we know people will want to travel again. We know they want to river cruise, so it would be crazy for them not to [take the credit note],” he added.

Andy Harmer, senior vice president membership, and director of cruise trade body Clia, said: “We are all adjusting to this new ‘normal’. Travel agents, like all of us, are concerned about when this is going to end and when the old normal is going to return.

“I’ve heard a lot of praise from travel agents about the support they’ve got from the river cruise operators and that focus on the customer.”

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