River Cruising Sees 30% Year-Over-Year Increase For 2021

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw


Uniworld’s  S.S. Antoinette.


While river cruise operators still face many unknowns for the 2020 season, pent-up demand is generating strong forward bookings for 2021 and beyond. 

Virtuoso agents in Canada and the U.S. report river cruises are among their best-selling products for 2021, with new bookings 30% ahead of the same time last year for the U.S. and Canada combined, according to Tim Morgan, General Manager, Canada at Virtuoso.

"Over the last two weeks in particular, international travel conversations and bookings, particularly European tours and river cruises, have begun in earnest for 2021 and 2022," Morgan told Open Jaw. 

"Based on transactional data, we’ve seen bookings trend upward each of the last three weeks, as pent up demand, the hope of a vaccine and lifting of government travel restrictions, and generous and flexible supplier booking terms are driving consumers toward international travel in 2021."

Open Jaw reached out to individual lines who all report a similar upswing.  

Avalon Waterways is "definitely seeing positive trending for 2021 as well as a level of engagement from advisors which I have never experienced before," said Stephanie Bishop, Managing Director for parent company Globus family of brands.

UK-based operator Riviera River Cruises saw an overall 300% upswing for new bookings for 2021 across all markets compared with the same time last year, according to Marilyn Conroy, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing North America. 

Conroy says the increase is due in part to pent-up demand and the company's proactive outreach to North American advisors.

According to Michelle Palma, Vice President, Field Sales - North America, luxury line Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is also seeing "strong demand" for 2021 out of the Canadian market for FIT and group sales.

Uniworld recently launched its 2021 brochure and will begin distributing it next week. It plans to open 2022 sailings for booking on 05JUL.

This strong demand is encouraging operators to start cranking up their marketing machines, rolling out specials, and opening up inventory for 2022 and beyond, according to TravelWeekly.

Crystal River Cruises, which generally leads the pack in opening early bookings, put its full 2022 inventory out in JAN. AmaWaterways put its 2022 itineraries online a full six months ahead of schedule. Viking, too, has opened additional inventory on both 2022 and 2023 river itineraries. And other lines that wouldn't normally push out their 2022 trips until fall said they are preparing to follow suit, writes TravelWeekly.

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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