River cruising is high in demand, according to McLachlan Tours’ general manager Peter Smith.
“River cruising is a massively growing piece of the travel market,” Smith told Travel Weekly recently.
“There is a steep incline in the cruise industry, and river cruising is a part of that.”
Smith said 2014 saw over 6% of the market in Australia hopping on board a small ship and cruising down some rivers, with McLachlan Tours now the exclusive Australian distributor of leading European river cruising brand, Amras Cruises, a fresh program just released for Aussie agents to sell.
And it’s not a one-off trend. River cruising has enjoyed rapid growth in a number of international markets in recent years, with passengers from Australia leaping by 25% in 2013, affirming river voyages as the cruise of choice for nearly 50,000 of us.
But Europe continues to reign supreme in the river cruise market, with many people opting for self-drive or river cruising adventures to best experience the continent.
“Amras Cruises is a fully inclusive, luxury cruising program,” Smith said.
“You can let the river take you where you’re going, and do your sightseeing from there.”
But given the largest portion of the cruise industry pie belongs to ocean cruising, the river segment has to work a little harder.
“Most people when they do a cruise will start off doing a South Pacific ocean cruise,” Smith told TW.
“It’s something where you either love or hate it, and thankfully most people love it. Then you do another one, and go further afield.”
“What we find is if there’s one negative, it’s that people don’t like having dinner with so many people, for example,” he added.
“So the next step is to go to small ship cruises, and river cruises are small ships, so river cruising falls on the back of when you’re sick of having dinner with 2000 of your friends on ocean cruises.”
And while Smith said he has nothing against coach tours, river cruising has the luxury of offering the same experience without the hassle of moving rooms every other day.
“We have all the benefits of coach tour, someone to look after you, speak the language, tell you what to do, without the hassle of having to get on a coach everyday,” Smith said.
And while the market still hovers around an older age bracket in cruising overall, Smith says the trend is very much coming down in age.
“It used to be very much 60+ but that’s not the case anymore,” he said.
“It’s certainly not a holiday for young kids – there’s no giant water slides or wave pools on a river cruise – but for people without young kids that are anything from 30 and 40 upward, river cruising is the way to go.”