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Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways, says the company’s expansion into Asian river cruising is part of a strategy for customer retention. It’s also a lure for first-time cruisers who are looking for experiences outside the mainstream.
“We want to retain those guests who have sailed with us six, seven or eight times in Europe by giving them something fresh,” he said. “But we’re also seeing more new people — well-traveled explorers from all walks of life. They love going to villages where Westerners are rare and they become the curiosity.”
Clark says once these new river cruisers experience the river cruise travel style, they find its combination of independence and access to local experience very appealing.
“Four out of five of our customers are seagoing cruisers, and many are looking for more exotic travel,” he said.
Plus, cruisers will be happy to note that Avalon made the decision to build all-suite ships for Asia to maintain brand consistency and to ensure that all ships feature opening window walls that turn the whole room into balcony space.
Avalon’s Asia ships are also intimate and small, allowing them to get into ports despite water level concerns. This also helps to bypass elements that prevent larger vessels from going all the way into the harbor.
“The intimate size means that there’s a different onboard culture where guests can share experiences,” Clark said. “It also means we have a very high crew-to-guest ratio.”
Clark sees room for future growth. He believes there is pent-up demand for the Nile River, and, barring a major development, he sees more companies returning there — probably by 2018 and certainly by 2019.