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Uniworld’s UK boss sees strong bounceback in expanded role

The boss of river cruise line Uniworld has reported a strong bounceback in sales after taking on a newly-expanded role within parent company The Travel Corporation.

Chris Townson has been managing director of Uniworld for four years, and now also oversees touring brands Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, in addition to the Red Carnation hotel brand.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Townson said market data from US specialists showed a strong recovery, with average selling prices rising between 25% and 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

He said: “I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve seen markets go and come back but I’ve not seen markets go and come back and increase in terms of average selling price, definite trend.”

Townson said touring products across Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold’s portfolio could “fulfil” customer demand.

Reflecting on Uniworld’s sales, Townson said a new trend was customers booking consecutive week-long cruises in France to create two-week itineraries.

“All of a sudden, we’ve got a surge on this business,” he said. “So those things are playing out and as a result of that we’re going out and marketing and communicating that like we never have before.”

He added that there was a more general trend towards longer cruise itineraries, and also said a number of British passengers had been shifted from French itineraries to those on the Douro following France’s ‘amber-plus’ quarantine status.

“We’re just being very, very flexible with everything we do,” he explained.

Townson also said additional space on Uniworld vessels compared to other river cruise ships and similar space on Insight or Luxury Gold coaches was driving interest.

People are thinking “my personal space is quite significant” and “we actually want a bit more space”, he said.

The capacity of Uniworld’s ship was around 120 to 130 passenger-mark, compared with other vessels which tended to be around 180 passengers, Townson said.

Coaches used by the touring brands carried up to 40 passengers but on average took 33, he added.

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