Emerald Waterways is in negotiations to build three more ships, which will be due for delivery in 2017, its owner revealed last week.
It came as the line launched its two newest ships - Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn, with Julie Kendrick, head of commercial and marketing at Midcounties Co-operative Travel as the godmother of Emerald Sun, after winning a TTG competition in conjunction with Emerald Waterways.
Speaking at the ceremony, Glen Moroney announced that Emerald “was in negotiations to build three new ships,” which he said would “sail on new rivers that the line doesn’t currently sail on”.
Speaking following the ceremony, Emerald Waterways marketing manager David Winterton confirmed that the new ships would be identical sisterships to the line’s current 172-passenger vessels, and would also include four grades of cabins.
“They will be due for delivery in January 2017, and will sail on three new rivers for the line,” he added.
The move will bring the number of ships within the Emerald fleet to eight, with another vessel – Emerald Belle – set for delivery next year.
Winterton admitted that the line’s growth had been significant, particularly because it still remains a newcomer to the market.
“We launched exactly two years ago last week, the company is doing brilliantly,” he said.
In particular, Winterton said Emerald was performing notably strongly with the British market.
“On [sister line] Scenic, around 60% of the passengers are Australian, 20% British, and the rest are made up of Americans and Canadians.
On Emerald, around 55% of the guests are British,” he said.
Winterton attributed the rise in popularity to the “great value offered by the line”, as well as Emerald Waterways’ growing presence in the trade.
“A year and a half ago, we didn’t sell through travel agents in the UK. Now agents account for up to 30% of our sales,” he said.
“We want to continue growing our business through the trade – we’ve just taken on a fourth sales manager, who will be covering the midlands, and we’re working very closely with a number of cruise specialists. I would urge any agents that sell river cruise, or want to, to get in touch.”
Meanwhile Winterton said the line was also keen to work with agents that wanted to do branded brochures.
“We always have a call to action for agents on our advertising, whether that’s in print or on TV, but we also want to do co-branded mailings with agents. Lots of agents have a big database of ocean cruise customers, but lots of these customers are often looking for something new to try – we want agents to say to them, ‘have you tried river cruising’, and send out to them our special 32-page brochure which would have their branding on as well.”
Elsewhere, Winterton said he was convinced river cruise would continue to grow in popularity.
“Emerald alone has gone from zero ships to eight in just five years. Scenic is also bringing in new ships, as are lots of other lines. We’re 93% sold on all our ships for this year, and we’re seeing a younger market – people in their 40s and 50s - coming onboard as well,” he said. “All the trends suggest that river cruising will become bigger and bigger.”