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Avalon Waterways finds richer experiences on shore

Courtesy Avalon Waterways

Steve Born, vice president of marketing for Globus Family of Brands, does a Q and A on river cruise research.

You recently completed consumer research for your Avalon Waterways river cruise brand. What were the primary findings?

The top three factors in making a cruise purchase were, in order of importance: the land experience — people want to know what they’ll discover off the ship, the villages and towns, the travel experiences, etc. they’ll encounter in ports; second, the quality of dining on the ship; and third, the overall ship quality and amenities. 

It sounds as if the second two relate more to large ship cruising and the first might be more unique to river cruising.

That’s true. The great news there is that we’re converting blue-water cruisers to river cruising, and they traditionally value dining and ship amenities very highly. But here, in the case of river cruising, the land options and quality of sightseeing experiences become the first criteria they use in making a purchase or choosing a company to cruise with. We think that’s good news for Avalon.

What percentage of your river cruise clients come to you from large ship cruising backgrounds?

80 percent of our travelers have been on at least one blue-water cruise, and the majority have been on at least four or more big ships. That, too, is great news for river cruising. Due to the numbers in that big ship cruise category, we have an endless pipeline of potential customers for Avalon river cruises.

What is the consumer profile or demographic for clients who currently cruise with Avalon Waterways?
Our typical river cruise client is 55 plus, an empty nester, well-educated, with heavy cruising/international travel experience. Many are couples, with a disposable income of $150,000 or more. They’re making a decision about where to travel, not whether they will travel.

Does a renewed emphasis on experiential options off the ship give you a shot at better numbers of repeat cruisers?

Good question. While we have no actual experience to report on since this research was completed in April, it is our hope that new or additional sightseeing options or experiences on a river will result in repeat travel on that river. We already have a 35 percent repeat clientele from year to year, and this year we introduced five new cruises for those customers to consider. They include Tulips of Northern Holland, Austrian Highlights and Bavaria, Capitals of Central Europe, Highlights of Germany and Enchanting China and the Yangtze River.