After an up-and-down two years, AmaWaterways’ executive team is seeing “extremely positive” trends for 2022 a few weeks out from the start of its spring season.
Speaking to TMR this week, co-owner Kristin Karst, SVP Alex Pinelo, and VP of strategic alliances Brenda Kyllo said that 2022 is shaping up to be a big year for the river cruise line, with both new and returning guests more than ready to get on board river cruise ships both in Europe and elsewhere this year.
"Everything is really falling into place with consumer sentiment with all the positive news around the globe and from the various countries that we sail to," Pinelo, who took over for former SVP Gary Murphy last month, told TMR this week.
Here is an update on what the river cruise company is expected this year:
Typical booking windows don’t exist
There is still an incredible pent-up demand for river cruises and improving consumer sentiment has the AmaWaterways team bullish on 2022, particularly the second half of the year. However, the pandemic is still not left impacting how consumers are booking AmaWaterways’ sailings.
While prior to the pandemic, the line typically saw bookings made 9 to 12 months prior to sailing, there is no predictable pattern right now.
“There is no standard booking window right now,” Kyllo told TMR. “We have people who want us to open 2024 already. “
The second half of 2022 is currently outpacing the first half, which still is suffering from COVID-19’s impact. The AmaWaterways team expects the first half to fill up (the first three sailings on AmaMagna have already sold out) as guests continue to feel more comfortable traveling and more and more countries start to wind down COVID-19 rules and regulations.
COVID-19 protocols will remain for the time being
The river line will continue to employ some changes made in the pandemic era.
That includes cleaning protocols, temperature checks when the guests come on board, and face mask requirements in public areas. Masks will still be optional outside on the sundeck and crew members will continue to wear masks at all times, at least for the foreseeable future.
Vaccination will still be expected and Karst told TMR that she doesn’t expect that requirement to go away until countries along the European rivers officially wind down their travel requirements.
Changes in the dining room (no buffets, all sit-down dining) will most likely be a permanent one for AmaWaterways, too, a change that co-founder Rudi Schreiner had long wanted to make.
“The guests are high-class clients and they don’t want to get up and stay in line at the buffet,” Karst said. “That change definitely will stay.”
Shore excursions will also remain smaller groups and cater to personal, intimate experiences, Karst added.
Air components on the rise
AmaWaterways is seeing more business come in through its growing air team than maybe any time in its history, Karst told TMR. Cabins are being booked from the top down, as consumers have extra money to spend after International travel’s pullback during the pandemic, and more and more are opting to book air, and business class air at that, through AmaWaterways.
The river line has doubled its air team in the two months, giving guests, and its travel advisor partners, an easier time reaching call center employees to deal with disruptions with their flights.
“We are really invested in our people,” Karst said. “Advisors know that it is pretty rough to deal with air through airlines right now.
Advisors are still paramount
AmaWaterways has long relied on its travel advisor partners to build its business and that’s not changing. More than 95% of the line’s bookings continue to come through travel advisors.
The line will continue to offer its FAM program (any space available within 60 days of sailing in Europe and on the Mekong is available) and its BDMs will continue to make themselves available to meet with advisors, whether they have booked AmaWaterways prior or not.
“We really took virtual meetings to a whole new level,” Pinelo said. “We kept our trade team pretty much intact and we’re busier than ever.”
BDMs can help advisors put together virtual events for their clients (the line did over 4,000 virtual events since the pandemic started), including virtual sip and sail events that are a favorite of Karst. There’s also a possibility for in-person events in 2022, too.