Tauck is doubling its family cruise offerings in 2017. // © 2015 Tauck
Feature image (above): Bookings will open on the 2017 season in November/December, and pricing will be announced in March 2016. // © 2015 Tauck
As river cruising continues to grow dramatically, Tauck is offering resources and products that agents can use for two expanding segments of the market: families and first-time river cruisers.
The company is doubling its family cruise offerings in 2017, increasing its departures to 20, as well as adding a fourth itinerary to the Tauck Bridges family sailings. Bookings will open on the 2017 season without pricing in November/December; once pricing is announced — in the first week of March 2016 — travelers will have a window to cancel if they wish.
Katharine Bonner, senior vice president of river and small ship cruising for the company, noted that in 2008, Tauck launched its family river cruises with the popular Danube itinerary.
“We didn’t just tweak it into a family-friendly cruise — we really overhauled it for this group,” Bonner said.
Since then, Tauck has added the Rhone and the Rhine, selling out nearly all departures.
“Then, we looked at the Seine and all its angles: the Impressionists, the World War II battlefields, and we put together an exciting group of cruises for 2017,” Bonner said.
The Tauck Bridges product, with which family river cruises are linked, caters to a fairly broad range of ages, but Bonner says the sweet spot is the 12 to 13 year old, “just before they go to high school.” There are two- and three-generation family groups onboard, according to Bonner, with grandparents looking for bonding time with their grandchildren.
“Everything, except perhaps our Christmas Market cruises, sells from the top,” Bonner said. “So if your clients want suites, they should definitely book early.”
Group sales are big in the family sector. Bonner says that, on average, there is one large group on every family cruise departure.
“A grandparent will have a milestone wedding anniversary and bring a group of 20 to 30 people,” she said. “I see a new trend in spending: People are realizing that time is short, and they are spending money on experiences rather than things.”
Another potential market for agents to sell is the first-time river cruiser, and Tauck has created a 24-page “First Timer’s Guide to River Cruising.” The guide provides a wealth of information for the river cruise traveler, including when to travel, the differences among Europe’s most popular rivers and differentiation among cruise lines. Bonner says that Tauck has been working on the guide since the end of last year.
“We put the guides online, and they were so well-received that we printed them and sent them out with our brochures to those who haven’t sailed with us before,” she said. “About 50 percent of our passengers are new to Tauck and new to river cruising.”
A great tool for agents, the guide can be downloaded and sent electronically, or agents can request print copies online.
CEO Dan Mahar says the primary goal of the guide is education, rather than simply promoting Tauck.
“The guide has nearly 6,200 words of text, and the word Tauck appears just 43 times,” he said.
Sea-going cruisers, who make up the majority of river cruise passengers, tend to be uninformed about what to expect and how the two products are different, according to Bonner.
“That’s a real opportunity for the agent,” she said.