TORONTO — The start of AmaWaterways’ 2022 European sailing season is coming up in just 16 days.
The river cruise line couldn’t be more ready. Eager travellers are ready too.
“We’re getting a lot, a lot of bookings for 2022,” especially for May onwards, says AmaWaterways co-founder and Executive Vice President, Kristin Karst. “And we expect that even at this moment there are some people on the sidelines waiting to reserve. We anticipate a huge influx of last-minute reservations.”
Karst along with Senior VP Sales, Alex Pinelo, and Vice President, Strategic Alliances, Brenda Kyllo, offered an overview of booking trends, season highlights and more as part of a virtual media tour yesterday.
Even for a cruise line that operated more than 320 sailings in 2021, bookings for 2022 and beyond are up, way up for AmaWaterways. After two years of the COVID pandemic roller coaster, “being positive is a positive again,” says Karst with a smile.
STRONG CONNECTION WITH THE TRADE
AmaWaterways maintained its strong connection with its travel advisor partners throughout the pandemic. The company launched its virtual ‘Sip & Sail’ Cocktail Hour series all the way back in April 2020. Agents trust AmaWaterways, “and we have earned that trust over the past 20 years,” says Karst, noting that the cruise line will celebrate its 20th anniversary in July 2022.
Now that Canadians are getting ready to travel in earnest, the connection between AmaWaterways and travel advisors – who account for 97% of the company’s bookings – is making the river cruise line among the top-of-mind go-to vacation options for agents, and clients.
And yes, Canadians are booking, and those numbers should ramp up even more in the wake of the eased travel measures coming into effect Feb. 28.
In fact, a Canadian booking just came through in the past few days for AmaWaterways’ wildly popular ‘Seven River Journeys’ series, which has tapped into the post-pandemic longer duration travel trend.
“Canadians like to travel longer. They’re asking for back-to-back cruises. They’re also booking higher stateroom categories, balcony staterooms,” says Karst. “That’s a trend we’re seeing from all across North America. There’s an overall feeling of, it’s been two years, we’ve saved a lot of money and we want to travel in style. There’s also a sense of ‘we don’t know what’s coming tomorrow so let’s do it, let’s live for today’.”
There’s also an uptick driven by a desire for milestone trips, she adds, to make up for missed anniversary celebrations, birthdays and more.
‘MORE TO LOVE’ PROMOTION
AmaWaterways is poised to make the most of the pent-up demand with its new ‘More to Love’ promotion, offering a bundled package with cruise, air, pre and post options, transfers and more. “Travel agents have been asking us for a promotion like ‘More to Love’,” says Kyllo, who is based in Montreal. The packages are, of course, commissionable. “It really gives peace of mind not just to the traveller, but also to the travel agent who has always been at the forefront. I think it’s really going to resonate with Canadian travel agents.”
Air-inclusive packages are a huge plus right now as airlines continue to deal with extremely high call volumes.
Pinelo adds that when it comes to air gateways, no fewer than 15 gateways are available across Canada.
Pinelo also notes that AmaWaterways’ strong reputation in the market is a real plus right now. The pandemic has been a rough go for all travel companies and even some of the biggest names haven’t made it through. “Trust in the financial stability of a company is key” right now, says Pinelo. “We have no debt on our ships, all of our ships are paid for.”
“WE LOVE OUR CANADIAN TRAVEL ADVISORS”
AmaWaterways’ health and safety protocols include full COVID-19 vaccination for all passengers and crew. Everyone wears masks in public spaces and the company is emphasizing smaller groups in shore excursions and the like.
We asked the team about Canada’s Level 4 advisory against cruise travel. While Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has said that Canada’s own 2022 cruise season will be saved, there’s no word yet on whether or not the advisory will come down for Canadians looking to cruise abroad. Kyllo noted that several major insurance companies have been covering cruise travel in recent months.
Not only are Karst, co-founder and President, Rudi Schreiner, and the rest of the AmaWaterways team looking forward to welcoming back Canadians on board their ships, they’re also looking forward to continuing their strong relationship with Canadian travel agents.
“I have always felt that Canadian travel advisors are so professional, and kind, and knowledgeable,” said Karst. “And I do believe that Canada is coming back extremely strong. We are ready. We love our Canadian travel advisors and our Canadian guests.”