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River Cruising - March 2015

“The new additions to riverboat fleets (with more ships on the drawing board) have widened the customer base for river-cruise holidays, which, if current trends continue, will increase exponentially, throughout the coming decade.”
- Jessica Kelly, Senior Tourism Analyst

This report looks at the following areas:

  • Why are European river cruises so popular with Americans?
  • What differentiates German riverboats from those operated by North American companies?
  • How are travel agents still able to profit from river cruises?
  • Why do younger cruisers prefer short cruises and how are riverboat operators responding to their needs?
  • Why are Egypt and Russia – two of the world’s political hotspots – impacting the demand for river cruises?

River cruises represent a tiny percentage of the overall cruise industry, but the market is expanding rapidly, and increasing, according to some sources, by double-digit percentages, year on year. There are a number of reasons for this sudden spurt in river cruises – the surging number of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-64) who are entering (or have entered) their retirement years, the upgrading of ships and the launch of new ones (particularly those sailing the rivers of Europe) and an overhaul of the way in which the river-cruise industry is run.

Every aspect of river cruising – from management to marketing – is being streamlined, to respond to a clientele who values its creature comforts. Baby Boomers represent the principal demographic for river cruises and they like having comfortable (if not luxury) accommodation, good food and diversions (from trips ashore to on-board lectures) that are not merely entertaining but also educational.

These 50-years-plus passengers are a sophisticated group who, while they might occasionally opt for an ocean cruise, primarily enjoy the slow pace, historic ambience and ecological wonders – not to mention the variety – afforded by a cruise along such diverse waterways as the Amazon River and the Rhine.

Asian rivers such as the Yangtze, the Mekong and the Irrawaddy have entered the scene in recent years but the prime venues for river cruises are still the waterways of Europe, led by (in terms of traffic) the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhône/Seine, the latter with Paris as its major draw.

The total European river-cruise fleet currently comprises 260 vessels – one third of which have been built only during the past decade. According to CLIA UK & Ireland, between 2012-13 alone, 27 ships entered service. Another 24 will join the fleet in 2015 and 2016.

Looking around the globe, at present, only a handful of American and European-owned riverboats operate in Asia, on the Amazon and other ‘exotic’ rivers. As the riverboat segment of the cruise industry continues to expand, however, and as holidaymakers who have explored Europe want to venture further afield, demand will inevitably lead to more riverboats making their debut in other areas of the world as well.

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction

    • Data Sources

      • Overview

        • Cruises – from niche to mainstream
          • The rise in river cruises
            • The diversification of the ships
              • Mega ships
                • Ocean liners
                  • Small cruise ships
                    • Yachts
                      • Tall ships
                        • Coastal/expedition vessels
                          • River-cruise boats
                          • The Expansion of River-Cruise Fleets

                              • New-builds
                                • Figure 1: Sampling of new river-cruise ships, showing launch year & passenger capacity, 2014-17
                              • The river-cruise experience
                                • The river-cruise product
                                • European Rivers and their Key Attractions

                                    • Figure 2: Principal European waterways, showing distance & countries they traverse, 2015
                                  • The Danube
                                    • The Douro
                                      • The Elbe
                                        • The Guadalquivir
                                          • The Po
                                            • The Rhine
                                              • The Rhône
                                                • The Seine
                                                  • Russian waterways
                                                  • Non-European Rivers

                                                    • Asia
                                                      • Asian waterways and river-cruise highlights
                                                        • The 6,300-km Yangtze – the longest river in Asia
                                                          • The 4,350-km Mekong – a trans-border waterway
                                                            • The 2,170-km Irrawaddy River – Myanmar’s most important commercial waterway
                                                              • Egypt
                                                                • The Nile and river-cruise highlights
                                                                  • The 6,853-km River Nile – the longest river in the world
                                                                    • North America
                                                                      • Iconic waterways and river-cruise highlights
                                                                        • The 3,782-km Mississippi River – the third-longest river in North America
                                                                          • The 2,000-km Columbia River – the largest river in the Pacific Northwest
                                                                            • South America
                                                                              • The Amazon and river-cruise highlights
                                                                                • The 6,437-km Amazon River – the second-longest river in the world
                                                                                • Leading Source Markets for River-Cruise Holidays

                                                                                    • Figure 3: Global share of the cruise market by source country, 2014*
                                                                                  • US
                                                                                    • Figure 4: US residents travelling to Europe, 2008-14*
                                                                                  • Germany
                                                                                    • Figure 5: Number of German river-cruise passengers, average river-cruise cost & length of stay – selective years, 2005-13
                                                                                  • UK
                                                                                    • Figure 6: Comparison of UK ocean cruisers versus river cruisers, 2009-13
                                                                                    • Figure 7: UK river-cruise market, by destination, 2009-13
                                                                                • Demographic Profile of River Cruisers

                                                                                    • 50-plus the target market for river-cruise lines
                                                                                      • The greying population – Europe
                                                                                        • Figure 8: Median age of the population in selected European countries, 2010, 2020, 2030 & 2040
                                                                                      • The ageing Baby Boomers
                                                                                        • Figure 9: Projected population percentages for the over-65 population in key European markets, 2010, 2020, 2030 & 2040
                                                                                      • Baby Boom also a grandparent boom
                                                                                        • The greying population – US
                                                                                          • Figure 10: Projected figure for US population, showing estimates at five-year intervals by age group, 2015-40
                                                                                        • The march of the Millennials
                                                                                        • Economic Factors and the River-Cruise Market

                                                                                            • Figure 11: International tourism expenditure, top 10 countries, 2009-13
                                                                                          • The emerging middle class in China, Russia and Brazil
                                                                                            • Unemployment rates
                                                                                              • Figure 12: Average GNI & unemployment rates for selected source countries for international travel, 2013 & 2014
                                                                                            • Average per-capita incomes
                                                                                            • Riverboat Operators

                                                                                                • Overview of major players
                                                                                                  • Europe
                                                                                                    • France – CroisiEurope
                                                                                                      • Germany – Nicko Tours GmbH
                                                                                                        • Russia – VODOHOD
                                                                                                          • US: river cruises operating outside America
                                                                                                            • Viking River Cruises
                                                                                                              • AmaWaterways
                                                                                                                • Avalon Waterways
                                                                                                                  • US: river cruises operating within America
                                                                                                                    • American Cruise Lines
                                                                                                                      • Selling river cruises
                                                                                                                        • The role of the travel agent
                                                                                                                          • Agents provide a personalised service
                                                                                                                          • Marketing River Cruises

                                                                                                                            • Destinations are the lure
                                                                                                                              • Traditional media versus new media
                                                                                                                                • Viking river cruises: a marketing leader
                                                                                                                                • Cruise Industry Organisations and Trade Fairs

                                                                                                                                  • Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)
                                                                                                                                    • CLIA moves its headquarters
                                                                                                                                      • CLIA’s goals
                                                                                                                                        • Trade fairs
                                                                                                                                          • Cruise Shipping Miami
                                                                                                                                            • Selling Cruise Conference – UK
                                                                                                                                            • What Next?

                                                                                                                                              River Cruising - March 2015

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