The recent news that Peter Deilmann Cruises is dissolving its river cruise business (see page 5) has cast a shadow on a part of the travel industry that has, for some time, seemed to have no limits on its growth. The news came two days after Viking River Cruises announced it had canceled the christening of its new ship, the Viking Legend, due to unfavorable water conditions. And just five days before that, Viking reported that it was backing away from a deal to sell a significant stake in its company.
These news stories, occurring in such a short period of time, have shaken some of the confidence agents had in river cruising. So it was with great interest that I sat down to lunch with Guy Young, president of Uniworld River Cruises, recently in Santa Monica, Calif.
“In Europe, our business this year is actually flat to what it was last year — and last year was excellent. In this economic environment, that’s very positive,” Young told me. “Some of our other destinations have seen a decrease, but Europe is holding steady. Plus, in Europe, we have a new ship, the River Beatrice, and the feedback on that has been incredible.”
Young pointed out that many of the other lines have new ships in Europe as well and, while the capacity of the waterways could become an issue in the future, river cruising continues to earn high praise from new passengers.
While Young’s remarks are reassuring, such recent turmoil throughout the travel industry provides a reminder to agents to remain vigilant when it comes to the solvency of the companies with which they do business. For its part, ASTA has circulated several reminders lately encouraging agents to thoroughly vet travel suppliers; to review their consumer travel insurance products so as to fully understand coverage for supplier defaults; and to maintain detailed records of all transactions.
It would hardly be surprising to see further consolidation throughout the travel industry this year. So far, Peter Deilmann seems to be making an orderly and responsible exit from the river cruise business. Sadly, the same might not be said for the next company that heads down that path. — K.S.