AmaWaterways is set to make a bigger splash in the Australian market, with the US-headquartered river cruise line establishing a dedicated office in Australia in 2024.
Founded by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and the late Jimmy Murphy in 2002, AmaWaterways now has a fleet of 29 custom-designed ships operating in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.
Gary Murphy, Co-Owner of AmaWaterways teased the move in front of an audience of 5,000+ at Virtuoso Travel Week’s opening session on Sunday night during a brand presentation.
Speaking first, in person, and exclusively with LATTE about the strategy, Murphy said the vision for Australia is to create a standalone operation, supported by a reservation and a product team, emulated somewhat on AmaWaterways’ office in the UK, located outside London. He said interest had already been strong following a social media post LATTE shared last weekend referencing the expansion to Down Under.
Murphy will travel to Australia in the coming weeks to flesh out an operational hub. Sydney is the obvious and likely choice for an Aussie outpost, but he indicated Brisbane is also under consideration.
No stranger to Australia, Murphy has a long-standing relationship with the destination having met his wife in Cairns. “We’re looking forward to coming back,” he said.
AmaWaterways has been represented in the Australian market for several years through an arrangement with partner company, APT and its owners, the McGearys.
“We have a great relationship with the McGearys,” he said, telling LATTE that since the pandemic the Australian company had wound back inventory on AmaWaterways’ ships.
“We now have to go in and fill that space,” he explained. “AmaWaterways’ relationship with APT will run through 2024, but from 2025 it will be up to us to promote and sell the ‘Ama’ product out of Australia.”
“We have a great partnership with the agency community. They know where the passengers are. More importantly, they know what passengers to put on our ships,” he said.
Murphy acknowledged it will be a “big job” for AmaWaterways, given APT has such strong brand recognition in Australia. “But now we’ll be able to promote our entire product range,” he said, noting that APT had been primarily focused on AmaWaterway’s two-week itineraries. APT will continue to be able to book passengers with AmaWaterways on select itineraries.
“Australians are great travellers and we operate a lot of seven-day cruises. We can partner with people on land touring to marry up with a voyage.”
“We have the Nile, we have the Mekong, we have all the rivers in Europe, we have Southern Africa and we have two ships coming out of Colombia – which Aussies are going to love. We have all that now available to the ANZ market,” Murphy told LATTE.
“We’re looking forward to embracing the market.”
LATTE sought comment from APT on the new arrangement.
Meanwhile, Ellen Bettridge, President and CEO of fellow river cruise operator, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises welcomed AmaWaterways’ entry into the ANZ market, telling LATTE she was “not surprised at all” of the brand’s entry.
“They’re a smart company. They’ll continue to work hard but we’ll give them a run for their money,” Bettridge said. “It’s a different experience for a different customer to Uniworld, and there’s lots of customers out there for all of us.”