Tom Morgan, head of trade for the UK & Ireland at Riviera Travel, talks river cruise bookings, safety protocols and supporting the trade
When will Riviera resume departures for river cruise?
We haven’t got a fixed date for resumption of our river cruises – it’s a waiting game at the moment. We have our British Isles cruises departing in July and we’re pretty confident we’re going to get them out the door; we wouldn’t have put them on sale if we weren’t. We’re working towards departures in June, but it’s very dependent on what other countries in Europe decide we can do.
How are bookings doing?
They are doing well. We had our best day of trade sales for nearly a year back in February. We also had our best week last week and we’re very close to beating last week this week, so that’s another increase in bookings*.
Since Boris Johnson’s roadmap announcement we’ve seen an increase in demand – in the first week after the announcement we saw a spike in 2021 bookings for UK holidays and British Isles cruises. The majority of bookings are still for 2022, but it’s still really positive when you consider how much of the high street is still closed. I think there will be large demand for 2021 later in the summer.
The majority of our customers are 65-plus for river, and we noticed the first upturn in bookings when the vaccination programme first started. Our trade team got out to visit agents after lockdowns one and two, and there’s definitely a sense that this time things are happening for good – and that’s reflected in the bookings and conversations we’re having with agents.
What destinations are performing well?
Our British Isles cruise has had a phenomenal take-up, and the feedback from agents has been super-positive. In terms of river, the Douro, Danube and Rhine are proving popular as always. Christmas markets are booking exceedingly well, and also did well at the start of the year when people perhaps felt they didn’t have the Christmas they wanted to last year and wanted to plan something special for next year. Our Budapest and Black Sea river cruises are also doing well for 2022.