Travel Professional NEWS® speaks with Avalon Waterways
With 2017 upon us, what new things can we expect to see this year?
Two New Programs – Active Discovery on the Danube and Avalon Fresh.
Active Discovery on the Danube:
For travelers ready for a cruise with real get-up-and-go, in 2017, Avalon Waterways is also introducing a NEW Active Discovery on the Danube cruise featuring action-packed activities throughout Europe. On this cruise, travelers have the opportunity to bike, hike and canoe along the Danube … Milk cows or mow grass with a scythe. Explore an ice cave, take an archery lesson, descend into an underground salt mine or ascend up a mountain during a guided climb. They can also choose to learn more about the local language or how to make some of the region’s foodie specialties … This is a cruise focused on engaging in the unfamiliar.
Some Active Discovery on the Danube highlights include:
- Engelhartszell-Schlögen Oxbow-Linz: Active – hiking tour to retrace the WWII smugglers route plus guided hike on the Danube Trail. Discovery – beer tasting at abbey brewery, Linz music theatre program or pub-crawl.
- Linz-Mauthausen-Grein-Spitz: Active – biking along the Roman Limes. Discovery – Mauthausen concentration camp visit and Q&A with a count at Clam Castle.
- Spitz-Krems-Vienna-Wachau Valley: Active – canoe tour down the Danube, biking from Spitz to Durnstein or hiking the vineyards of Vienna. Discovery – meet with an apricot orchard farmer, chef cooking local produce or enjoy a wine-tasting
- Vienna: Active – Sightseeing by bike or run. Discovery –Spanish Horse Riding School, Belvedere Palace, Viennese cooking class and/or private entry to the Museum of Fine Arts.
Innovation doesn’t stop at Avalon’s unique design and award-winning ships. Creativity finds its way to every nook and cranny of the Avalon Waterways’ experience.
For instance, we think our travelers deserve healthy food options. And, we think they should taste great. While we have always provided travelers with a selection of nutritious, delicious recipes, this year, we’re bringing fresh ideas to the table … Quite literally.
We have teamed up with two of Europe’s rising culinary stars – the Wrenkh brothers – to design Avalon Fresh: An exciting collection of wholesome menu items so mouthwatering it’s hard to believe they’re healthy. Our focus for this new menu collection is fresh, local ingredients from small farms married with a sprinkle of ingenuity, leaving Avalon cruisers feeling great throughout the day. Gluten-free options are also available.
Ensuring our guests have no trouble maintaining a healthy lifestyle on vacation, we’re also making it easier to stay active on every itinerary with state-of-the-art onboard Fitness Centers and a selection of complimentary bicycles on every ship.
What do you expect to be your most popular ships in 2017?
N/A (our Suite Ships are very consistent and equally in demand … and all are new/young).
What do you expect to be your most popular itineraries in 2017?
Our most popular itineraries are:
Outside of Europe, our Mekong cruises have been selling very well (aboard the new 18-suite Avalon Siem Reap). We’re also seeing a lot of interest on our Irrawaddy cruise in Myanmar (a new bucket list destination).
Finally, we recently introduced a new special interest itinerary we are expecting to sell-out quickly … Active Discovery (details provided above).
With Travel Professionals on the rise, will you be offering any new training or incentives for Travel Professionals to focus on your line?
While it’s not new, Avalon Waterways offers agents an important and complimentary opportunity to become an Avalon Waterways expert through our Avalon Waterways Specialist training program, which launched with all new content in 2016. We also have a dedicated Secondary Phone Field program, for Home Based Agents from qualifying hosts, that enable agents in the field to connect one on one with our Sales Team to help fuel bookings with personalized marketing, consumer events and sales assistance.
What three things do you feel set your product apart from the competition?
2) Open-Air Balcony
See below for details on each differentiator.
VIEWS. We didn’t change history. Only the way our travelers see it.
The view is why we travel. That’s why Avalon Waterways has redefined the window of opportunity for river cruisers worldwide.
Our staterooms (over 70 percent of them) feature beds that face the windows and the incredible sights river cruising is famous for. In fact, on two full decks of every Suite Ship® in Europe and Southeast Asia, Avalon Waterways offers travelers a unique point-of-view: One where the view is the whole point. Other cruise ships give their guests a never-changing view of the wall. We took a different approach … One featuring wall-to-wall wonder.
In every Panorama SuiteSM, we angled our beds to face out so our guests can enjoy the breathtaking views passing by. And in doing that, we opened our rooms up to give our travelers more stateroom and bathroom space. More space and a better view from the comfort of bed? That’s what happens when you pay attention to the details.
And, while our competitors offer travelers small windows, our staterooms showcase wall-to-wall windows, giving guests panoramic, floor-to-ceiling views of Europe’s awe-inspiring landscapes. In fact, ours are the largest standard windows in river cruising – 30 percent larger than the others out there. Even better? Our wall-to-wall windows open 7-feet-wide, inviting the outside to come in.
OPEN-AIR BALCONY® . When it comes to balconies, other cruise companies have chosen to sacrifice room space in order to provide travelers a small – often very cramped – balcony. In contrast, we’ve come up with an alternative that invites our guests to enjoy 100 percent of their room, 100 percent of the time.
Our Open-Air Balconies make full use of the intended balcony experience – in any weather condition, in any season – without compromising room space. We created our innovative Open-Air Balconies by pushing each room all the way out to the end of the ship. Then we made a whole wall of windows (with a giant, 7-foot opening). In front of the wall-to-wall windows, we provide travelers a love seat, chairs and table that raises-up for cocktails and dinner or down when it’s not in use (so it doesn’t obstruct the view). The result is a space where travelers can slide the doors wide open and enjoy the feeling of sitting comfortably “outside” as the amazing views of castles and villages, rolling green hills and ancient cities pass by.
We’re the only river cruise company that’s figured out how to give our cruisers everything they want –more space, indoor/outdoor living and huge views for miles in the comfort and privacy of their rooms. Our Open-Air Balconies are a retreat, an escape … A place to enjoy a snack, a drink, a good book and a stunning view.
SPACE. Avalon Waterways has taken a radically different approach to designing our staterooms and ships. Instead of listening to accountants who want more people and less space, inspired by our travelers, we did the opposite. We removed ourselves from what has been done in the past and let innovation, imagination and a relentless desire to create a smart use of space be our guide. The result? One-of-a-kind Panorama Suites on the industry’s only Suite Ships:
Unparalleled vessels that feature two full decks of 200- and 300-square-foot suites. When you compare Avalon’s Suite Ships to the rest of the industry, you’ll see there simply is no comparison. We understand that each stateroom should be an oasis for guests to escape to, not escape from. And while it’s true our Panorama Suites offer our travelers more room, they’re about more of everything. More storage, more closet space, ample under-bed storage, more luxury, more comfort and more views. And that means a more relaxing and more enjoyable vacation for our guests. And while providing “more” is one of Avalon’s mantras, we also offer fewer staterooms on each ship. This means, there are fewer travelers enjoying more space on each and every Avalon Waterways ship.
There has been a big increase in active River Cruising, what activities are currently being offered on your line? What may be next?
There has been a great deal of interest in more active excursions choices – not only from Baby Boomers but particularly from younger guests. Avalon Waterways has responded to this interest with the introduction of our “Active Discovery on the Danube” itineraries – new for 2017. Our Active Discovery itineraries (9 days from Linz to Budapest or the reverse) give cruisers the opportunity to bike, hike and canoe along the Danube. They can also explore an ice cave, take an archery lesson, descend into an underground salt mine or ascend up a mountain during a guided climb. This is European vacation focused on enjoying every moment of the journey.
See top section/question one for more details.
What generational market do you see your line focusing on as the capacity continues to grow? Do you have plans to focus on any specific market segment of River Cruise passengers?
Baby Boomers will continue to be a core demographic of river cruising for some time, but it’s important not to lump them together or assume they represent one type of traveler. That’s why we’re beginning to unveil more active options on our cruisers: Our new Active Discovery on the Danube cruises are a good example. In addition, this group is looking fore multi-generational travel options; some are single travelers and they might have special interests they want to explore on vacation. We will evolve and grow with our travelers – including appealing to younger travelers interested in river cruising.
Many of the Rivers in Europe are being said to be a bit crowded, what are your plans to overcome that? Are there new itineraries and or destinations that you are looking into?
In general, the idea that Europe’s rivers are overcrowded is a misconception. Understanding that, we are always looking at new destinations and itineraries. The Irrawaddy River is a great example and opportunity – we have been operating cruises there for a year. The Moselle River is also a personal favorite – we also have some wonderful opportunities to cruise the Moselle. And, of course the Seine and the Rhone Rivers are wonderful choices. The Seine offers a fantastic opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh and Monet while also getting a life-changing glimpse into World War II history. The Rhone River offers fabulous itineraries for those interested in the wine regions of France.
What three things would you like to share with our Travel Professionals to assist in selling your line?
1) We’re here to help you be successful! Connect with your Globus family of brands Sales Team to help you jump start your 2017 bookings or help put a group together for 2017 or 2018.
2) If you’re interested in selling more river cruising, take our Avalon Waterways Specialist course. It arms you with exactly what you need on how to sell river cruising, the market and prospecting for clients.
3) Use our FREE marketing resources! On our Travel Agent Portal, agents have access to hundreds of FREE customizable marketing materials, such as social media images, direct mailers, videos, emails and more! Visit “The Source” on www.GlobusFamilyPartner.com
Many Travel Professionals have found their niche in River Cruising, what advice can you offer to a Travel Professional looking to break into this niche?
Agents should go to their existing client database for river cruising. Past touring clients and ocean cruisers are great targets to introduce to river cruising. In addition, groups are a great option for river cruising, especially those that might be interested in a special interest area like Wine, Music, Culinary, or History. Another way to create prospective river cruise clients is a Consumer Night. This affords people the opportunity to learn about River Cruising and is a great way to draw in new clients in your community.
Predicting the future is difficult, but what do you think is next for the River Cruising market?
We expect river cruise demand to continue to rise amongst travelers and also broaden to the Baby Boomer market, who are looking for new, engaging and active ways to explore Europe. Avalon Waterways recognized this early and has introduced Active Discovery on the Danube as a way address this growing trend of active travel.