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Top tips on how to sell a river cruise

by April Waterston | 18 July 2019

We travelled to Manchester and London to host two Selling Travel River Cruise Dialogues, with the aim of introducing travel agents this fast-growing sector and updating those who already sell river cruises.

Agents had the chance to meet with the industry’s top river cruise operators to learn about what they had to offer, and how to sell river cruises to a range of clients.

Before the event, 50% of agents said they weren’t confident in selling a river cruise but afterwards 77% said the event had provided them with enough information to help them better sell cruise.

For those who couldn’t attend, below is a round up from nine operators that attended the events:

A-ROSA

Sailing many of Europe’s rivers, including the Danube, Rhine, Main, Moselle, Seine, Rhône, Saône and Douro, A-ROSA's ships have spacious cabins, a gym and spa, and are suitable for families, in particular the multi-generation market.

Selling tips: It’s important to understand your customer. River cruises are perfect for those who are more interested in seeing lots of destinations, rather than on-board entertainment and facilities. Scenery lovers and culture fans will adore a river cruise – they can see so much, often three or four cities in seven days, all whilst only unpacking once.

Did you know? A-ROSA has ordered a new E-Motion ship, due for delivery in Spring 2021. The ship has been designed specifically to appeal to families and multi-generational guests, with large family cabins, a kids club and a separate children’s pool. It also features new onboard technology, including battery propulsion, for emission-free sailing into and out of cities.

CroisiEurope

With a choice of 170 cruise itineraries on four continents and across 37 countries, CroisiEurope offers a wide range of river cruises, canal barges and coastal cruises.

Selling tips: Understand your clients’ needs and profile, and match the right customer to the right cruise. For example, for a first-timer, there is comfort in ‘tried and tested’ rivers, whereas for seasoned river cruise travellers you could pitch more adventurous, unusual or themed cruises. For families, select cruises have offers that allow children of up to 16 years old to travel for free. It’s also worth looking up destination events, for example Rhine in Flames, or the Oberammergau Passion Play.

Did you know? From October 2019 CroisiEurope will welcome La Belles des Oceans to its fleet, bringing its total number of ships up to 56. CroisiEurope has also recently added more exotic river cruises to its portfolio, allowing passengers to journey on the Ganges in India and discover the Nile in Egypt.

Fred. Olsen

Famously offering a British experience onboard, Fred Olsen's customers are also mostly British. The operator is currently looking at new ports of call along Europe’s waterways including Luxembourg on the Moselle.

Selling tips: Think about your market - river cruising is not like ocean cruising and is more akin to a series of city breaks, so don’t just target your ocean cruise database – look further afield.

Did you know? Fred Olsen’s Brexit promise means it will fully refund and a offer a free cruise if Brexit affects travel.

Leger Holidays

From the romance of the Rhine Valley to the warmer climes of the Douro in northern Portugal, Leger Holidays offer a range of experiences within their river cruise collection.

Top tips on how to sell: Always offer customers all the travel options toget to their river cruise – not everyone wants to fly! Also, focus on just how relaxing and great value river cruises are. Unlike ocean cruising, the scenery can be spectacular and you really get to see the country you are travelling through whilst still getting the opportunity to disembark and explore great cities and cultures.

Did you know? Leger works alongside Silver Service coaches and offers stress-free local pick-ups for clients who don’t want to fly. The operator is currently offering low deposits bookings from its 2021 brochure.

Pandaw

Operating river cruise expeditions on the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia; the Red River plus Halong Bay in Vietnam; Laos, China and Thailand on the Upper Mekong; the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers in Burma; and the Ganges  and, from 2020, Brahmaputra River, in India

Selling tips: Few trips offer as diverse a landscape as a journey on the Mekong Delta. With floating markets, bustling trading towns and vibrant river life contrasting with the silence of the Cambodian countryside, travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia by boat offers a different perspective to journeying on land.

Did you know? Pandaw has launched a new 14-cabin 'K-class' ship to sail the rivers in Myanmar. The ultra-shallow vessel is ideal for soft adventure river expeditions. Also, the operator is offering free travel for under 18s on selected dates during the UK school holidays.

Sanctuary Retreats

Born in Africa in 1999, Sanctuary Retreats manages six expedition cruise chips on rivers such as the Yangtze in China, the Nile in Egypt, and the Irrawaddy in Myanmar.

Selling tips: With a Sanctuary Retreats cruise, passengers can experience Egypt, China or Myanmar’s ancient wonders from the comfort of an air-conditioned cabin. Customers will get good value for their money too – all temple and museum entry fees and excursions are included in the cost.

Did you know? New to Sanctuary Retreats river cruise portfolio is the Sanctuary Nile Adventurer, a 32-cabin boutique river cruiser that is currently being refitted and is due to launch towards the end of September.

Scenic

For 2019, all of Scenic’s Rhine, Main and Danube vessels have had a number of innovative upgrades, including Salt Therapy Lounges. Royal Owner’s Suites have also been renovated, with contemporary furnishings and decor, including baths with a river view.

Selling tips: Highlight that river cruising is the perfect way to enjoy several city breaks on one holiday. With river cruising, you dock in the centre of a city and so passengers can have plenty of freedom without the long coach trips to and from ports which ocean cruising often involves. In each port, guests can either join a guided walking tour straight from the ship to see the local landmarks and sights, or explore on their own.

Did you know? Scenic’s Space Ship fleet features electronic beds and 'vitality pools'.

Shearings Holidays

Offering a range of three-, four-, and five-star river cruises, Shearings aims to provide for a broad customer base.

Selling tips: Promote it! Get to know some key facts from the training out there and promote with confidence – especially to people who are looking for city breaks, touring customers or cruisers looking for smaller ships and different itineraries.

Did you know? A key selling point is that Shearings offers a choice of air, rail or road transfers on most itineraries. The option by luxury coach includes porterage all the way.

Titan

The escorted tour specialist charters two of its own ships: Serenade 1 along the Rhine and the Bellejour along the Danube. It also offers Uniworld ships in Europe, North Africa, Russia and the Far East.

Selling tips: River cruising is a completely different market to ocean cruising. River cruisers go for the range of excursions and destinations rather than the cruise experience itself.

Did you know? Titan offers VIP door-to-door airport transfers on all river cruise bookings.

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