Stuart Perl, AmaWaterways UK managing director, issued the challenge onstage during Clia’s River Cruise Conference in Paris.
Perl, who was named chair of Clia’s river cruise working committee earlier this year, said: “For all of us, river cruising is becoming a sector that we should be proud to be in and we are the people who are delivering that growth.
“Agents are the lifeblood of us, the river cruise operators, so thank you very much.”
Outlining the growth in the sector, Perl highlighted a 21% increase in passengers from 2016 to 2017 and the figure of 18 new ships currently under construction to launch in 2019.
“We have the momentum,” he said.
Setting out his plans, Perl said the river cruise sector “thrived on working together, sharing knowledge and working in a sector which is at the beginning of a massive growth period”.
“I would like to challenge you. We have 21% growth in river passengers between 2016 and 2017 and total passengers during that time of 210,000.
“We are hopeful that in 2018 the total number of passengers may have risen to 220,000 – I would like to challenge you, that for 2019 we can put the word ‘million’ into our declaration of passenger numbers and raised that bar further to a quarter of a million passengers.”
He finished with a rallying call to agents, asking delegates: “Are you up for that? Come on are you up for it? That’s my challenge to you.”
Earlier touching on Brexit, Perl said he believed it “isn’t just river cruise sales that Brexit is having an impact on… it is everything".
“There are a lot of people who are just holding firm [and waiting to book],” he said. “But let’s look at the positive of that. Those people who are not buying river cruises now who would like to are causing pent-up demand for the future.”