River cruise lines and agents to head to the Hungarian capital this weekend. Harry Kemble reports
The boss of Clia UK & Ireland says the river cruise sector has got “a really exciting story to tell” after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s 10th Clia RiverView Conference, Andy Harmer outlined how the trade association wanted ship visits to be “at the heart” of the Budapest event so agents could experience a wide variety of the sector’s product.
Around 230 agents will board up to 10 ships, including new market entrant Tui River Cruises’ Tui Skyla.
Harmer said: “This is the first time the conference has been on the Danube so it gives us the chance to show off more ships than we’ve ever had before. There’s no event where there’s so much new product on show.
“Part of what we’ll talk about is the developments that have been made. River cruise has got a really exciting story to tell.”
He said advances in onboard dining and activities had “fundamentally shifted” across the sector in recent years.
“If you look at dining, there was previously one main dining room; now, most customers want a choice,” he explained. “Operators have also invested in wellness and activities. Cruise lines have clicked into different demographics.”
Harmer said there would be an international feel at the conference.
“We’ve been able to line up leaders from the global river cruise industry that have been designing river cruises for the future,” he added.
Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways’ co‑founder and executive vice-chairman; Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld president and chief executive; Marella Cruises managing director Christopher Hackney; and Wolfgang Luftner, co-owner of Luftner Cruises, will all speak at the conference.
Agents have been able to sign up to one of five cruise fam trips that will run after the conference.
“It’s important to see what a day in the life of a river cruise is like,” Harmer said. “They get some of that experience from a fam trip.”
Lines demonstrate ‘resilience’ amid the conflict in Ukraine
The river cruise sector has demonstrated how “resilient” it is as ships prepare to start sailing again against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
Andy Harmer, managing director of Clia UK & Ireland, admitted the ongoing conflict had proved “challenging” for both river cruise lines and the wider travel industry.
But he said: “The river cruise sector has proven its resilience over the past couple of years.
“We have some great examples of people who have had some great river cruise holidays. It’s a resilient industry.”
Harmer added that preparations by river cruise operators to start 2022 programmes amid the conflict illustrated the sector’s strength.
“Our thoughts are with anyone impacted by the developments in Ukraine,” he stressed.
“The fact river cruise is starting its summer season says a lot about its resilience.”
The Clia RiverView Conference will once again be hosted by Clia’s Andy Harmer and Travel Weekly Group editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley. Key speakers and sessions will include:
Ben Bouldin, vice-president EMEA at Royal Caribbean Group and chair of Clia UK & Ireland, will welcome delegates to the conference.
River Cruise Leaders Panel
Four river cruise leaders from the UK, Europe and North America will join a panel discussing trends, opportunities and challenges. The panel features Wolfgang Luftner, co-owner of Luftner Cruises; Christopher Hackney, managing director at Marella Cruises; Pam Hoffee, chief operating officer of the Globus family of brands and managing director of Avalon Waterways; and Paul Melinis, managing director UK & Europe of APT Luxury River Cruises & Tours. Kristin Karst, co-founder and executive vice-president of AmaWaterways, will take part in an insightful conversation with conference moderator Lucy Huxley.
Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos Tours and Avalon Waterways UK, and Lucia Rowe, UK & Ireland managing director of A-Rosa, will discuss how the industry is approaching sustainability and the future of sustainability on the rivers.
Grow your Sales
Jamie Loizou, UK managing director of AmaWaterways; John Fair, UK sales director for CroisiEurope; Janet Parton, sales & marketing director of Cosmos and Avalon Waterways; and Lucia Rowe, UK & Ireland managing director of A-Rosa, will share their top takeaways from the conference and advice on growing river cruise sales.
Pictures: Visit Hungary/Geza Kurka