In terms of travel products agencies focus on, overall results have not changed in recent years, with the same six products dominating. However, the one change in position among those top six is river cruises, which moved from sixth place in 2018 to fourth place in 2019. Senior editor Jeri Clausing talked with Monika Leuenberger, president and CEO of Avenues of the World Travel, about the trends she sees in river cruise sales.
Q: Are you booking more river cruise than you used to, and can you talk about why?
A: We are booking about the same amount of river cruises. I believe that last year's low water and resulting inconveniences had some people think twice about it. Bookings for 2020 look better this year over same time last year [for 2019].
Q: There have been a lot of new river products introduced in recent years. What impact are these having on the market?
A: There is a bit more confusion about all the options out there. Everyone knows about Viking, but other river cruise companies don't have the same visibility. Crystal Cruises is bringing more luxury travelers onto river cruises. This is where we shine. We make sure the experience/product matches the traveler's needs.
Q: In your experience, do river cruises compete more with ocean cruises or with tours?
A: I think they compete with both equally. Today's traveler wants to experience different destinations and ships. Even if they fall in love with river cruises, they will not do a river cruise every year; they will alternate with another vacation type. River cruises have increased the desire for smaller ships.