Seatrade Europe: a look at the future of river cruising

Seatrade Europe: a look at the future of river cruising
Panellists during the opening session of day two at Seatrade Europe

River cruising was the hot topic at the second day of the Seatrade Europe conference, which took place on 7 September in Hamburg, Germany.

Day two opened with a keynote from Daniel Thiriet, co-managing director of AmaWaterways, managing director of Sea Chefs Group and vice president of IG RiverCruise. Sharing his 10-year outlook, Thiriet said he expects the industry to become more diverse, to cater to a broader target market (including millennials) and to introduce more green vessels. Thiriet also predicted that new river ships will have more cabin space for passengers and crew, outlining his concept for ‘Future River Cruises’, which will provide vessels with 431-square-foot staterooms for guests.

“Future River Cruises deploys ships larger than today and with a broader choice of facilities including up to five restaurants. Several vessels are powered by battery packs,” said Thiriet. “Eventually, Future River Cruises will extend its operations beyond Europe to new destinations including the Irrawaddy River, the Ganges and even the Congo.”

In the debate following Thiriet’s address, all panellists confirmed that they had already started diversifying their products and integrating new, younger target groups. Guido Laukamp, chief commercial officer and managing director of Nicko Cruises Flussreisen, suggested passengers should be identified and targeted by their interests and tastes, rather than their age.

Ben Wirz, managing director of GRC Global River Cruises, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, shared an overview of the new U by Uniworld initiative, which has two ships dedicated to millennials. Itineraries are available on the Seine from/to Paris in France, from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Frankfurt in Germany, from Frankfurt to Regensburg in Germany, from Regensburg to Budapest in Hungary, and from/to Budapest. U by Uniworld offers an up-market, hostel style with activities appealing to guests aged 21-45, such as painting and wine classes, mixology and cooking classes, yoga and a silent disco.

In another session, panellists discussed future river vessel propulsion systems, concluding that LNG fuel is not an option owing to the extensive space required for storage tanks onboard the small ships and the associated regulations. Instead, the executives said that electric propulsion was the most viable option. Mário Ferreira, president and CEO of Mystic Invest, used the sessions to reveal that its subsidiary Douro Azul will take delivery of the world’s first-ever all-electric river cruise ship from Portuguese shipyard West Sea in March 2019.

Security was the key focus of a separate session involving Daniel Buchmüller, chief services officer of River Advice and president of IG RiverCruise; Monic van der Heyden, commercial manager cruise at the Port of Amsterdam; and Lucas Sandmeier, general manager of operations and administration at Scenic Tours Europe.

All three executives agreed that it is essential for the river cruise sector to develop uniform industry guidelines defining suggested security standards and measures. These would include protection against unauthorised access and theft, increasing staff awareness of onboard and onshore security, and educating passengers. Buchmüller confirmed IG RiverCruise is already working on such standards.

Seatrade Europe started in Hamburg, Germany on 6 September and will conclude on 8 September 2017.

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