Fog bound flights forced delays to delegates attending the first Ace Rivers Expo in Amsterdam which kicked off yesterday (Sunday) but only seven out of 260 agents and operators registered for the two-day event failed to make it.

The poor weather, which is also affecting flights today, meant some arrived late for the event which involved guest speakers from leading river cruise companies and a trade fair followed by a series of ship visits today.

Ace director Andy Harmer stressed that the programme for the debut event was not affected.

He said: “The issue of the day was fog. Many delegates arriving in Amsterdam faced heavy delays caused by airport closures thanks to thick fog both in the UK and Amsterdam. Most people made it eventually, a handful couldn’t make it at all.”

Delegates heard that details of a new-look annual Ace cruise convention in 2012 are to be released this week and well as gaining an insight into the fastest growing sector of the cruise market.

Presentations were made by AmaWaterways, Swan  Hellenic, Tauck Tours, Avalon Waterways and eWaterways. Delegates stayed overnight on one of five river cruise boats deployed in the city for the Expo.

AmaWaterways founder Rudi Schreiner predicted that the Mekong would become “the next Nile” in terms of river cruise popularity and that Africa is to be the next hot destination for the sector.

Tauck River Cruises global sales director Angela Caes emphasised the difference between ocean and river cruising, saying that the rivers experience was more about the destinations visited than the vessels.

Harmer announced a number of new initiatives including a “huge investment” in e-learning so that Ace’s online training “sets the standard for the whole travel industry”.

There will be a refreshed events schedule for 2012 including a revamped cruise convention. Harmer said there would be “the integration of learning into everything we do, from events to social networking to e-learning courses and beyond”.

He said: “The buzz, the confidence in the river cruise sector, the desire for river cruising to continue to grow was all wonderfully captured by the guest speakers and the trade fair. It says a lot about the maturity of the cruise market that what was a niche section of the overall cruise industry would now warrant its own major ravel agent event.

“Six years ago when we first set up the UK Cruise Convention it said a lot about the state of cruising that it could support such an event and now we here we are at the first dedicated river event.”