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River cruising may still mostly be on pause, but, according to Steve Born, chief marketing officer for Globus Family of Brands, the market’s comeback is shaping up to be an exciting one, thanks to sky-high demand, long-term growth opportunities and an evolving roster of products.
Here, Born discusses how Avalon Waterways — and the river cruise industry overall — is evolving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is Avalon’s outlook on the return of river cruising?Avalon is fully prepared and eager for the restart of travel. Our operations team is ready, and our health and safety protocols are in place; we’re just awaiting the opening of borders in Europe and our other international destinations. Right now, we’re anticipating that return to operations in June — we’re planning for it and keeping a close watch. We anticipate shorter booking windows for travelers as borders begin to open.
Avalon’s early 2022 bookings are on a record pace — we’re currently pacing at a more than 200% higher booking volume for 2022 than any other year in our history.
We’re currently pacing at a more than 200% higher booking volume for 2022 than any other year in our history.
What changes do you expect to see in the river cruise market post-COVID-19?Beyond the initial surge in business that will come from the restart, there are exciting long-term growth opportunities as cruisers look for options outside of traditional big-ship cruises. Many of the questions around cruising brought by the pandemic have accentuated the benefits of river cruising: small ships; proximity to land; big, open spaces and fresh, non-recirculated air; operational diligence; and of course, the focus on destinations, many of them off the beaten path.
All of these things have put a new spotlight on river cruising.
We’ve also seen strong growth in younger baby boomers and Generation X travelers as they make the move to river cruising. And solo travelers are another growing segment for Avalon — our best promotion of the year is our single supplement waiver, giving solo travelers a nice welcome mat to try Avalon.
How is Avalon evolving to meet the new needs of the marketplace?Beyond all the work our operations and worldwide health and safety teams have done to ensure a safe and happy cruise, our river cruising experience continues to evolve. Avalon has expanded its unique Active & Discovery itineraries, giving cruisers multiple options for how they can spend their time in port — active, discovery and classic shore excursions are all included. We now have five Active & Discovery cruises in Europe, with the newest launching next month for 2022.
How is Avalon supporting travel advisors during the ongoing pandemic?Avalon’s focus has never wavered from our travel agent partners, and in times like this, it’s more important than ever. Avalon was the first to introduce an advance commission program on future deposits to help with agency cash flow, in addition to a lot of effort to incentivize letters of credit to generate future revenue from a suspended cruise.
Advisors also need tools to help generate demand. We’re introducing a new tool on www.globusfamilypartner.com called Spark, which allows advisors — with one click — to send a selected itinerary to their client, personalized from the advisor and complete with everything needed to initiate a booking.
And of course, we have stayed available, accessible and transparent with our advisors as we have worked through this pandemic. I’d say we’ve been more engaged and connected to them than at any other time in our history, and we’re committed to staying that way for the long haul.
Avalon’s focus has never wavered from our travel agent partners, and in times like this, it’s more important than ever.
What should advisors tell their clients about booking river cruises right now?Now is the time to get back out there and make that new reservation. Great deals coupled with complete booking flexibility — thanks to our Peace of Mind Program — allows our travelers to change their reservation to any other cruise, date or Globus brand up until their final payment. There’s no risk. Life is much brighter when the booking is made and clients have that vacation to look forward to.
The DetailsAvalon Waterwayswww.avalonwaterways.com