After two years of ups and downs, the AmaWaterways management team sees “extremely positive” trends for 2022 with just weeks to go until its spring season begins.
Speaking to TMR this week, co-owner Kristin Karst, senior vice president Alex Pinelo and vice president of strategic alliances Brenda Kyllo said 2022 is shaping up to be a big year for the river cruise line, with new and returning guests more than ready to board river cruise ships in Europe and elsewhere this year.
“Everything is really falling into place with consumer sentiment with all the positive news from around the world and from the different countries we are sailing to,” Pinelo, who took over from former SVP Gary Murphy last month, told TMR. this week.
Here’s an update on what the river cruise line is expecting this year:
Typical booking windows do not exist
There is still incredible pent-up demand for river cruises and improving consumer sentiment has the AmaWaterways team optimistic for 2022, particularly in the second half of the year. However, the pandemic is still not impacting how consumers book AmaWaterways crossings.
Whereas before the pandemic the line typically saw bookings 9-12 months before departure, there is no predictable pattern at this time.
“There is no standard reservation window at the moment,” Kyllo told TMR. “We have people who already want us to open 2024.”
The second half of 2022 currently exceeds the first half, which is still suffering from the impact of COVID-19. The AmaWaterways team expects the first half to fill up (the first three sailings on AmaMagna have already sold out) as customers continue to feel more comfortable traveling and more countries begin reduce COVID-19 rules and regulations.
COVID-19 protocols will remain for the time being
The river line will continue to use some pandemic-era changes.
This includes cleaning protocols, temperature checks when guests board, and face mask requirements in public spaces. 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 does not expect this requirement to go away until countries along European rivers officially reduce their travel requirements.
The changes to the dining room (no buffets, all sit-down meals) will most likely be permanent for AmaWaterways as well, a change co-founder Rudi Schreiner has long wanted to make.
“Guests are high class customers and they don’t want to get up and stand in line at the buffet,” Karst said. “This change will remain forever.”
Shore excursions will also remain smaller groups and cater to personal and intimate experiences, Karst added.
Rising Air Components
AmaWaterways is seeing more business coming in through its growing airline team than perhaps at any time in its history, Karst told TMR. Cabins are booked top to bottom as consumers have extra money to spend after international travel has slumped during the pandemic, and more are choosing to book flights, and business class flights, through AmaWaterways .
The river line has doubled its airline team over the two months, making it easier for customers and its travel advisor partners to contact call center employees to deal with disruptions to their flights.
“We’re really invested in our people,” Karst said. “Advisors know that it is quite difficult to manage air transport through the airlines at the moment.
Advisors are always paramount
AmaWaterways has long relied on its travel advisor partners to grow its business and that is not changing. More than 95% of the line’s bookings continue to go 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 pre-booked AmaWaterways or no.
“We’ve really taken virtual meetings to a whole new level,” Pinelo said. “We’ve kept our sales team pretty much intact and we’re busier than ever.”
BDMs can help advisors host virtual events for their clients (the line has hosted more than 4,000 virtual events since the pandemic began), including virtual sip and sail events that are Karst favorites. There is also a possibility of in-person events in 2022.