Agents who want to offer their clients something special might want to explore the services of Ewaterways, an electronic distribution channel and reservation service for 1,200 small ships, yachts and deluxe barges cruising along coastal waterways, rivers and canals all over the world.
Tamara Mallin, director of sales, North America, said, “Where there is water, we will attempt to have a vessel there. We can give agents access to cruises they couldn’t otherwise find.”
Mallin explained that the company’s CEO and COO are from the aggregator business in the U.K. and saw a void in the niche product. They took the model from river cruises and expanded it, starting up more than three years ago; Ewaterways has been in the American market for a year. Its head office is in London, and the company has offices in Bangkok and Vancouver.
Mallin said the commission structure starts at 12 percent, and the company recently paid an 18 percent commission.
“We can help the agent not only with generous commissions, but with experiences for their clients in untapped areas where they couldn’t have sourced the product themselves,” Mallin added.
Small Ships, Broad Budgets
Ewaterways connects agents with vessels with capacity ranges from four to 150 passengers. The cruises can be reserved by FITs or chartered by groups and, often, the agent could not go directly to the supplier. For example, they work with a small operation in Turkey with whom they can charter an eight-person gulet (traditional two-masted wooden sailing vessel) for $1,000 per passenger. Ewaterways has well-known partners within river cruising and offers another means to sell a non-preferred company at a generous commission.
“We are another partner helping them fill their vessels, another means of distribution,” Mallin said.
Mallin said that Ewaterways’ product has a broad budget range, and the company tries to accommodate all sorts of clients — they are not just for the affluent.
“Different tastes have different requirements,” she added. “You can sail the Dalmatian Coast in eight- to 20-person sailboats, for instance and, in some cases, you can share a cabin and avoid the single supplement.”
Similarly, a gulet may hold 12 people, but can be affordable for six.
Europe to the Amazon
Itineraries include major European rivers from the North Sea to the Black Sea, the fjords of Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, inland canals. Ewaterways connects agents with expedition cruises around the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon and the polar regions as well as luxury cruises in French Polynesia, the Maldives and the Caribbean.
Mallin said its Asia product is particularly exciting, with short duration add-ons of three or four days on the Mekong or River Kwai.
“The product team in Asia is very familiar with the needs of North American passengers; typically, charter vessel crew can communicate in English,” she added.
One of the main issues preventing agents from doing business with small companies worldwide is reliability, and Ewaterways addresses this through their affiliation with CLIA and USTOA.
The whole operation is Web-based, and Ewaterways has no brochures but, with quotes, it can make a Microsoft Word or PDF mini-brochure on a vessel or region. The Ewaterways site has special offers and group sections and is searchable by the kind of vessels — coastal, river, sailing, expedition, hotel barge, yacht — and by locations from the USA to Fiji. Ships vary from vintage vessels to new-builds launching next year. Their services allow you to purchase just the cruise or combine it with air transportation, ground transfers, hotel stays, and additional sightseeing options directly from the Web site. The company has done a few Webinars and plans to do more.
“Register and start searching; it’s refined and detailed,” Mallin said.