Seventeen years ago, I began reporting for the travel trade press and was given the cruise patch to cover.
When I started, there were very few cruise stories. But, as the years went by, they became increasingly frequent as more and more new ships were built and more agents recognised the potential of the sector.
I can even clearly recall the moment that a cruise story made the front page of the paper for the first time – for a so-called ‘niche’ holiday option, it was quite a landmark!
Despite this expansion, stories about river cruising remained rare; now that is changing at a rate of knots.
Investment in ships is staggering. More than 50 new vessels have come into service in the past three years and another 20 are to be launched in 2015. And with that growth comes interest from the trade.
When I asked more than 150 savvy UK agents who attended Clia’s excellent fourth River Cruise Convention in Amsterdam at the weekend if they had sold a river cruise before, only 30 or so raised their hands – demonstrating the opportunity for growth they have clearly identified.
But with the excitement over the potential for the sector, there was also a word of caution. Currently, prices – and therefore commissions – are very healthy. But with all the new tonnage coming on stream, agents were warned not to let things go the way of ocean cruises, plagued over the years by discounting.
It’s sound advice because river cruising is a golden opportunity not to be squandered.
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