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AmaWaterways, whose partnership with Disney has dramatically increased the visibility of river cruising for families, is developing another highly lucrative and somewhat related market. The line’s selection of Spanish-friendly cruises, introduced this year, is being expanded in 2018 in response to the level of interest from Spanish speakers in North America.
European line CroisiEurope is the only company that has been offering Spanish-speaking river cruises, and those are marketed chiefly in Spain and only recently in North America.
The pitfall with launching dedicated cruises for a particular language group is that if they don’t fill up, there is no other market to draw upon. But Ama has circumvented this issue by offering Spanish-friendly river cruises rather than exclusively Spanish-speaking departures. This decision gives Ama considerable flexibility in selling the sailings scheduled for 2018.
Each of next year’s 10 “Sailings with a Latin Touch” will be hosted by a bilingual cruise manager, who will deliver briefings in both English and Spanish. Daily tours include a coach transfer and Spanish-speaking guide. While onboard, daily cruise programs and menus for all meals are provided in Spanish.
Ama is capitalizing on its already-present multigenerational appeal. Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of the line, says that Ama has seen a strong increase in the number of multigenerational groups onboard in the last three years.
“Looking closer at this segment, we also noticed that many of these large extended family groups were from Latin American countries and the Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S.,” she said. “By offering 10 departures designated ‘Sailings with a Latin Touch,’ we will be better able to welcome those multigenerational groups that may have family members who are more comfortable with Spanish than English.”
Families can book Latin Touch cruises with adjoining and triple occupancy staterooms on AmaStella, AmaViola and AmaLea. Other perks for families include kid-friendly dishes and ice cream parties, as well as 25 bicycles onboard.
Interestingly, the huge and still-growing Spanish-speaking American market has changed its buying pattern, with considerable potential for all agents.
“There is a hidden market of Spanish-speaking clients,” Karst said. “They do business with mainstream travel agents — not only Spanish speakers — with younger family members sometimes interpreting for older ones. That is why we have to get the word out to all agents, not just the Spanish specialty market.”
The market is certainly worth cultivating. The National Tour Association has identified the fastest-growing segment of the American population is that of Hispanic descent, and it as “a high-growth market with an even bigger future.” The U.S. Hispanic community spends nearly $5.7 billion annually on leisure travel. Hispanics travel in larger groups and spend more per trip than the general population, and they are more likely to travel with children and with more than two adults, so the potential for multigenerational and group travel is strong.
A June 2015 article in The Guardian reported that the U.S. has 41 million native Spanish speakers plus 11 million who are bilingual, which equates to more Spanish speakers than in Spain. Among the sources cited in the report is the U.S. Census Office, which estimates that the U.S. will be the largest Spanish-speaking country on earth by 2050.
The highest concentration of the Spanish-speaking market is in Western states: New Mexico at 47 percent, followed by California and Texas (each 38 percent) and Arizona (30 percent).
Ama hopes to capitalize on its accommodation for Spanish speakers and families on a range of itineraries next year, including Melodies of the Danube, April 20 and Aug. 17; Enchanting Rhine, May 12; Legendary Danube, July 14; Taste of Bordeaux, Aug. 23; Captivating Rhine, Aug. 27 and Sept. 10; Paris & Normandy, Oct. 11; Iconic Christmas Markets, Nov. 25; and Christmas Markets on the Rhine, Dec. 1.
Karst sees two Latin Touch departures in particular with a strong appeal for Spanish speakers: Iconic Christmas Markets on AmaLea and Christmas Markets on the Rhine on AmaPrima.
“The holidays are the most beautiful time of the year to visit Europe, with Christmas markets, festive decorations, regional delicacies and memorable moments at every port of call,” she said, adding that Ama offers great value on these cruises and anticipates that they will fill up very quickly.
“As we continue to welcome more Latin American guests onboard our ships each year, we are so pleased to offer these selected departures with special touches delivered in the language that they are most comfortable with,” she said. “We want to make sure our Spanish-speaking guests feel right at home and that we can provide them with the most exceptional and memorable river cruise experience possible.”