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Sunday,  July 14, 2024 3:52 AM 

Smooth sailing for Avalon Waterways in 2017

Smooth sailing for Avalon Waterways in 2017
Pictured, L-R: Patrice Geske, marketing manager - Canada, Globus family of brands; Terri Burke, managing director, worldwide, Avalon Waterways; Stéphanie Bishop, managing director - Canada, Globus family of brands.

Avalon Waterways has rebounded strongly after a difficult 2016, posting double-digit growth this year and noting that 2018 bookings are trending ahead of 2017 – with Canada an integral component of this performance.

That was the message of the river cruise company’s Managing Director, Terri Burke, who was in Toronto yesterday to provide media with an update on its 2017 performance so far and prospects for the coming year.

The company’s rebound has been spurred by the strong performance of its Mekong cruises in Asia, while its Romantic Rhine itinerary remains the most popular of its European cruises. Burke also said that Avalon had registered 75 per cent growth in its singles market from 2017 to 2018, bolstered by its waiving of the single supplement on every European itinerary.

Charters, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly popular: the company has doubled its booking of chartered cruises since last year.

Special interest cruises are now ‘a space that we own,’ Burke said, a result of Avalon’s concerted investment in its Special Interest Tours in recent years. The company is also expanding its Active Discovery itineraries, a range of tours that encourage exercise and discovery in tandem, to the Rhine in 2018; Burke said that while these tours can be chosen onboard, the MyAvalon online portal also allows guests to book from home before they depart.

Avalon Tapestry II will sail on the Journeys Club Cruise in June, 2018.

Burke detailed the company’s aspirations for an ‘Avalon community,’ in each of the destinations it visits. “Our guests go beyond what’s happening on board,” she commented. Avalon has taken steps in this direction by inviting firemen, hospital staff, and more from the local communities onboard in its Hungarian, Austrian and Slovakian ports to learn more about river cruising and the company in general.

In addition to demonstrating Avalon’s interest and investment in local communities, she said, it served another crucial purpose: ensuring that the relevant authorities in its ports are familiar with the company, its ships, and how to deal with any situations that may arise.

Other new developments include the appointment of a new culinary director, Jorg Penneke, while a new icon in the menu tells guests which meals are made from local produce – ensuring the most authentic culinary experience possible, Burke said, for its onboard passengers.

2018 will see the introduction of a new ship, Avalon Saigon, in South-East Asia, in addition to a new itinerary in Vietnam and Cambodia. Next year will also see the company debut its Journeys Club Cruise, hosted by Burke, on June 23, 2018, with the Tapestry II sailing from Paris to Normandy.

Burke also took the opportunity to reaffirm Avalon’s commitment to its Panorama Suite Ships, which form 80 per cent of its fleet. “They are truly one of our pillars,” she commented, saying that the view onboard remains a key component of the experience for its river cruise guests. The company’s guest-centric model, she said, remained key to its progress – ‘the feeling of being home away from home.’

Encouragingly, both Burke and Stéphanie Bishop, managing director of the Globus family of brands for Canada, said that Avalon’s numbers had remained resilient despite unrest in Europe.

In fact, bookings to France, which has recently witnessed a spate of terrorist incidents, are up for 2017; meanwhile, Burke said that Christmas market itineraries are already full, with the company having made an investment to significantly increase the number of festive cruises on offer.