European river cruising has evolved to cater to more markets and younger demographics over the past two decades, says Pam Hoffee, President of Avalon Waterways.
In Australia this month, Hoffee took time out of her busy schedule to chat exclusively with LATTE, highlighting the evolution of the river cruise sector since she joined Avalon Waterways in 2003.
Avalon has 14 ships in its European fleet, the latest of which is Avalon View which entered service in April last year. Currently, the cruise line operates on the Rhine, Main, Danube, Moselle, Rhône, Saône, Seine and from April next year, the Douro when ‘Suite Ship’ Avalon Alegria debuts.
Reflecting on how European river cruising has changed, Hoffee said: “In the past, river cruising was seen as a very passive trip and that every brand was identical.
“The hardest part for Avalon Waterways – and for all of the river cruise brands – was all the ships were the same. All the companies were the same. Luckily, they were all really good!” she said.
“Customers could just pick whatever cruise line and they were going to have a good trip…and that has changed so much over the last few years,” she said, reflecting on the latest innovations.
“Every brand does have a different personality and every brand is different,” Hoffee explained.
“I think what’s really been a huge change is that we’ve all, and I’m sure it’s any industry as it matures, luckily the brand comes to life and comes up with its own personality. Certainly, Avalon has, and so that’s been exciting to watch that take shape over the last 20 years.”
“Evolving from this kind of passive experience that people thought was geared towards older Americans, mostly sitting on the deck drinking their Chardonnay, it’s now obvious it’s not the only thing that you could do on a river cruise,” Hoffee said.
Tapping into new markets is one of the reasons Avalon Waterways appointed TV personality, Melissa Doyle as Australian Ambassador in July. Doyle experienced her first river cruise (actually, any cruise) in July 2022, sailing on the Danube aboard Avalon Impression for a Storyteller sailing. Doyle enthused about her experience with her 100 thousand-plus followers on Instagram at the time (see her post below).
Hoffee said Doyle’s ambassadorship was targeted clearly at the Gen-X audience in Australia.
“She’s lovely for starters!” Hoffee said. “Having her as a representative is really important because she’s also non-cruiser.”
“To have somebody who is totally new to cruising was a really great find because she speaks to the new cruiser and the new-to-river cruising audience, and that’s the market who is transitioning to river cruising.”
“She is in the Gen-X demographic, like myself. We’re the new market coming to river cruising and I think it’s really interesting that we’re seeing that, especially out of the Australian market.
“We saw a huge increase in Gen-X bookings on Avalon this year, and Melissa really represents that new to cruise that we’re seeing come.
“There was this perception that river cruising was for one type of traveller, and that’s really changed. I think there is still an appeal to the person who wants to have a very relaxed and passive vacation if they wanted to – great we could do that. But it’s certainly not what most Avalon guests are looking for, or what we offer.
“We offer a very dynamic and engaging type of trip and our Active & Discovery Cruises are really the symbol of that. Mel went on one of those last year and she found all the choices that were available. And she loved that.”
“Mel’s first-hand view of cruising, from doing a hike one day, to spending the day in her cabin and taking in the view watching the world go by, to taking a cooking class on another day – these ideas resound with our audience. She brought those experiences to life.”
“Having somebody with her recognition in Australia, how respected she is, to have her storytelling is really a fantastic partnership,” Hoffee remarked.
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Doyle joined Hoffee and the Globus family of brands team in Australia, headed by Gai Tyrrell, at an event for trade partners and media, in Sydney a few weeks ago (pictured above).