LATTE chats with Line Abadie, distribution director for Le Boat, about travel trends in the industry, speedboats and family holidays.
Can you tell us about your role with Le Boat?
I’m the distribution director, which basically is overlooking the sales and call centres. We have several call centres: one in France, one in Germany, one in Sydney, one in South Africa, and we have one in Canada. I overlook distribution to partners, travel agents – all sales.
How did you get involved in the luxury travel industry, and what do you love most about this line of
I’ve been involved in travel for over 30 years, particularly in boating, because I love boating. I grew up near the sea. I started in the canal boating waterway business about 30 years ago, and what I like about it is that it has been growing up to now.
Your position requires you to work with a number of teams from all around the world. What fresh
perspectives and insights does this give you into global travel trends?
Well, it’s different depending on the countries. In Australia, for example, we distribute more through the travel trade. So, wholesalers, and travel agents. In Europe, we are growing very fast on the direct distribution side, and online is one of our major growing distribution channels. So, for me, online is a key means for growth. And I think we can do that together, and we do. When we grow online, we grow the travel agents and wholesaler performance as well.
And are there other trends in terms of boating that you see?
The trend about 30 years ago was a lot of 50 to 60-year-old people, and the more we grow the more we see families and groups of young people coming into these types of holidays. So it’s getting younger because the image that we are now spreading is different as well. It’s not necessarily slow cruising on the canal, it’s active, it’s relaxing – it’s something for everyone. If you want to relax then you can relax for a week, if you want to be active there’s lots of things to do on the waterways to be active. So there is a wide range of customers now, which was not the case years ago.
So what sets Le Boat aside from other boating and cruise companies?
We’re one of the oldest with more than 40 years of experience. But at the same time, we have the largest fleet with 980 boats, we have the largest distribution channels, and we are worldwide. We’ve just opened a new base in Canada. So we are in Europe. Most of the destinations for Canada are now long boards market. And we are also very innovative,not only in terms of the new destinations in Canada, but also the type of boats we are putting on the market. We are bringing new boats every year.
River cruising is very different. Those big ships where you hire a cabin, is not what we do. With us you hire a boat, so you take your boat for a week with your family, and you go wherever you want. We give you all the tools, all the information and off you go.
So, Canada, very exciting. What can we expect from Canada?
We already have 16 boats over there, that arrived two weeks ago. We build our boats in Poland, in a very big company, so they came all the way from Poland to Canada – by road, then boat, then by road again – and then they arrive in our Canadian base called Smiths Falls, which is not far from Ottawa. The official opening is in June, but our first customers are cruising in May so that is very exciting for us. It’s the first year operating in Canada and it’s already very popular.
What luxury environments and modern technologies can we expect to see onboard your fleet as you
continue to change and bring in new vessels?
We offer everything from budget boats to premium boats. We have luxurious boats like the new Horizon and Visions that we have in our fleet, with air cooling systems but the most innovative technology is in the way the boats are driven. Now you’ve got bow thrusters, as well as thrusters at the back, meaning you can literally move your boat only with the joystick making it very easy, even a seven-year-old child could moor the boat using just the joystick. New customers who may be concerned about driving the boats find this type of equipment very useful.
Why should people consider a boating holiday for their next getaway?
A boating holiday and a different way to discover locations such as France or Belgium. Most of the people visiting France would go to the big cities, stopping in at hotels along the way. Going into France through the canals is a different experience – like getting in through the back door. You go at your own pace, you decide your daily itinerary, you can stop and go around on your bike, buy fresh baguettes and go back to the boat, do your own cooking, go to the marketplaces, or have the kids biking while you cruise as they can follow you along the parks. Boating is a different type of holiday experience offering a relaxing yet active holiday at the same time.
Which destinations are most popular with the Australian market at the moment?
The Canal du Midi in France is our most popular tour allowing travellers to explore the South of France – rich in history, and its world heritage-listed areas, and towns along the way. This really appeals to Australian’s and New Zealanders making it the most popular destination. The Burgundy region is also a favourite, so the Australian market loves anywhere that has good food and wine.
How do you market your vision of travel to prospective clients?
Our strongest area to sell, is the driving side of things. When you don’t know the product, and you say, “You can drive it without a license”, clients will look at you confused, doubting that this is possible. Our role is to let them know this is possible and it is easy. This is our primary focus, to let them understand that it’s not speed boats but it can also be big boats that go eight kilometres per hour, which is quite slow. We also explain that when they arrive they will be briefed on how to drive the boat and when they are comfortable they are able to do so. We have been here for 40 years, have 980 boats and most of our customers have never driven a boat before – proving that it’s true that it’s easy. Selling is our first value.
The second value is always, “Can I bring kids, will they be bored, am I going to be bored?” This thinking pattern subsides once they’ve set foot on the boat, as they understand that kids will love the experience. Kids have the ability to do whatever they want, whether that’s relaxing or being active. This enables you to have the kind of holiday you want to build, you build it yourself.
You’ve recently added the “Foodie Cruise” to an itinerary in the UK. How do you incorporate luxury
experiences like that with the self-driving idea?
That was a UK experience, and I was not very much involved in that. However I do know that each time we tried to organise something for our customers itinerary wise, they would not want to do that. What our customers want is for us to give them the information about the region in which they are cruising, ranging from the tourist attractions to everything from gastronomy and wine.This was they can build their own gastronomy cruise, if they want. Our guests want to be free to use the information we provide them with so they can form their own holiday.
LATTE signature questions: What is the best coffee experience you’ve ever had?
My mother is Italian so she does a very good coffee but my last great experience was in Germany. It depends where you go, and which coffee shop you visit, but don’t ask me which coffee shop it was because I won’t remember. It was near Frankfurt and it was a black coffee. The second best one I had was two or three weeks ago, in Jerusalem. It was a latte and it was fabulous. It was very tasty, not too hot. It was inside Jerusalem, where there are a range of unusual places. You don’t think you’re going to have great coffee in Jerusalem because normally they serve you what they call Turkish coffee but this was fabulous. It’s funny how the best coffee for me was not in France, and not in Italy.