In the one week after AmaWaterways officially introduced – and opened bookings for – its Magdalena River cruise product via webinar, the line received 3,000 inquiries.
"Because 97% of our business comes through the trade, when we do a launch we always exclusively go out to our travel advisor partners, give them time to absorb, education themselves on what's going on, prepare their marketing tools and then go out to their clients and start booking. But right away we saw immediate group requests," said Janet Bava, chief marketing officer for AmaWaterways in an exclusive sit-down interview with Travel Market Report at last week's Seatrade Cruise Global conference.
"It's just phenomenal what we're seeing," she added.
Even more incredible, she said, is that the river cruise company hasn't yet had to put a lot of marketing dollars into selling the product yet.
"A lot of it has been from the travel advisor community and the media… Usually when you have a new product and new capacity you tend to spend a lot of marketing dollars to advertise. We're strategically saying, no, we want to let the travel advisors have first dibs and have the first opportunities to sell this and promote it to their clients and we understand that it's not immediate But the immediate reaction has been phenomenal."
Up and Coming Destination
"Colombia as a country, it's such an attractive and up and coming destination," said Bava, explaining why she believes the response to the new offer has been so exceptional. "It has come out in every travel magazine in the last year. It's a destination that people want to go and explore and they're fascinated [by], and the people that do go, love it."
She added that Colombia's close proximity to the U.S. is also attractive to a lot of passengers.
The attractiveness of the country and the ease of getting there aren't only pulling in loyal AmaWaterways river cruisers. The majority of the FIT bookings coming in from advisors are from new-to-brand cruisers.
"I think this is the next hot destination in Latin America," Bava said. "It's a great entry product for people who don't think river cruising is for them. They're going to come and experience it as new to brand and they're going to say, wow, yes, show me where else I can go with AmaWaterways."
TMR also spoke with Bava about how business for 2023 is doing overall.
"It's a really strong year in terms of revenue. Really strong year in terms of bookings," she said, adding that the only area where the company is seeing any kind of softness is in areas where the airfares are high. And, even then, she said, it's not really stopping people from booking.
One area that's not seeing weakness this year is the Danube.
"We love the fact that the Danube is finally picking back up again. We all know that it slowed down a bit after the war last year. I think it's really nice that people have begun sailing the lower Danube. Our travelers are more educated. They're realizing the war's 3,000 kilometers away."