It is with mixed emotions that we watch 2021 draw to a close and turn our focus to new opportunities in 2022 and beyond. We are very proud to have welcomed so many loyal guests on our ships since we started cruising in July of this year. Flexibility and creativity were the order of the day for 2021 and both factors will continue to influence the travel trends for next year.
2022 will be a year of tremendous rebound in international travel and I believe river cruising is positioned to capture a large piece of this re-launched travel wave. Some of the trends are new while others are familiar, yet each has nuances reflecting the current events that have shaped our personal and professional lives over the past two years.
Trend #1 Managing Perceived Risks – Ocean to River
While the days of strict “bubble” travel may be over, there is still a pronounced preference to travel with a small group of like-minded people in a trusted environment. For 2022, our ships will only welcome vaccinated guests and we will continue to respect enhanced protocols both on board and on shore, as long as they are deemed necessary. Our ships are like luxurious floating hotels with less than 150 people on board allowing us to dock in the center of towns where guests can enjoy the freedom to come and go as they like, or if they prefer, only participate in our scheduled escorted excursions – two or three included tours in both the morning and afternoon – so there is always plenty to experience.
Trend #2 Working Remotely: Blurring the Lines between Work and Vacation
With a good internet connection, we’ve all seen how it is possible to work remotely from almost anywhere. Our ships have the best free Wi-Fi on the rivers in Europe and this is attracting younger guests that are extending their vacation time in Europe by fitting in productive work hours and video conferencing in the later evening to match office hours back home.
Trend #3 Celebration Travel
It’s no secret that many of life’s long-anticipated milestone events have gone uncelebrated over the past two years and there is a huge catch-up on the horizon. With Covid-19 vaccines now available for children, AmaWaterways is expecting an uptick in multi-generational, skip-gen and multi-family travel bookings for 2022. With a choice of up to 23 optional excursions included in seven-night river cruises, each member of the family can personalize their vacation while still coming together to enjoy quality time back on board our spacious, elegantly appointed ships – many with connecting staterooms. Christmas Markets/holiday cruises and sailing dates that correspond to school breaks are showing early booking levels well above previous years.
Trend #4 Longer Stays
Extra savings have been built up and experiences are at the top of everyone’s shopping list. Travelers also have an increased sense of urgency and need to catch up for lost time. AmaWaterways’ guests are maximizing their voyages by combining back-to-back cruises through Europe or adding optional pre- and post-cruise land packages. Lesser-known destinations like Bellagio, the “Pearl of Lake Como,” with subtropical climates amidst snow-capped mountains, and the legendary Transylvania, Romania, home to the legendary tales of Dracula’s castle, are in big demand. AmaWaterways offers ten percent savings on combination cruises (such as back-to-back sailings) and many guests are planning ahead for 2023 by booking our Seven River Journeys with just one Cruise Manager taking care of everything throughout the 45- or 46-night journey.
Trend #5 Shorter Booking Windows
Many travelers have Future Cruise Credits to use and are anxiously waiting on standby, ready to leap at the opportunity to escape to a new destination, particularly one where a trusted travel provider will be taking care of them. Many travel advisors are forming groups of clients and escorting them on our spring Secrets of Egypt & The Nile and Tulip Time cruises, which include a visit to the Floriade expo (held once every ten years) or joining a hosted spring Celebration of Wine River Cruise.
Trend #6 Slow Travel
Travelers are being drawn to journeys that offer an unhurried pace with authentic experiences in less crowded destinations and a true immersion in a region’s culture and gastronomy. Samantha Brown, our AmaMagna Godmother, likes to call these unplanned, slower moments the “commas” rather than “explanation points” of a vacation. With more leisure time in every port of call, river cruises allow travelers to explore at a slower pace and fully immerse themselves in every aspect of the destination – simply wandering around towns sampling local cuisine and wines or visiting less-known art galleries and venturing off the beaten path on our complimentary bicycles. If expertly guided tours are preferred, thoughtfully curated choices abound with more than 23 included excursions on a single seven-night sailing conducted in small groups – many offered at a gentle, regular or active pace.
AmaWaterways’ new itinerary, Impressions of the Seine & Paris, was specifically designed to allow a more leisurely pace to explore the rolling countryside and rich cuisine of Normandy with an optional three-night extension into the spellbinding St. Malo region of Brittany. However, for those who wish to be more active, five incredible bike tours await.
Trend #7 Smart Travel
New hobbies and interests were developed during the pandemic and now many people are planning holidays to further explore these new subjects. Whether it’s gardening, history, wine appreciation, painting, music, genealogy or learning a new language, our itineraries and variety of included Special Interest Tours have something to offer everyone looking to take their new hobby to a higher level. Some interesting options can be found on our Heritage on the River sailing with Ancestry®, our Latin Touch cruise, the Best of Holland & Belgium or Taste of Bordeaux.
Trend #8 Regenerative Travel
Now more than ever, travelers are actively seeking ways to give back to destinations by contributing to local economies and choosing sustainable ways to explore the world. Working closely with its destination partners, AmaWaterways has developed hosted events like Oktoberfest in Vilshofen and Wine Tasting in Spitz, to support local economies and allow guests to mingle with the community and contribute directly to the recovery of the destinations we visit. AmaWaterways also received the Green Award certification for its entire European fleet in 2020, ensuring an environmentally-conscious experience for all. By replacing breakfast and lunch buffets with expanded menus, we have significantly reduced food waste and continue to eliminate single-use plastics as well as invest in technology to reduce paper use on board and on shore. (2022 e-brochure)
Trend #9 Holistic Wellness
The global pandemic has inspired more people to focus on physical and mental wellness, connect with new activities outdoors and improve their overall health and fitness levels. More people are pursuing travel options that provide ways to continue to live an active, healthy lifestyle while on vacation. AmaWaterways’ complimentary Wellness Activities include hikes and bike tours through charming destinations, plus the guidance of our dedicated Wellness Hosts on board offering a variety of small group fitness classes that can be done on the spacious, open-air Sun Deck. Exclusively on board the revolutionary AmaMagna, guests can enjoy spinning with a view or reserve, at an additional cost, the Concierge Golf Program which transports guests from the ship to up to five of the most desirable courses while cruising the Danube River.
Trend #10 The Value of Travel Advisors
At a time with evolving restrictions and policies, professional travel advisors are more valuable than ever. From COVID-testing to entry requirements to choosing connecting flights, travelers are handing over logistics to the professionals. Travel advisors are serving clients with expert knowledge, destination insight and a personal touch to ensure a seamless transition throughout the voyage. Since starting the company almost 20 years ago, AmaWaterways has always worked hand in hand with the travel advisor community and during the past two years, we have devoted ourselves to supporting them and their clients with information and tools to navigate through these challenging times.
To thank our loyal guests and their dedicated travel advisors, AmaWaterways launched an all-new Referral Savings Offer that rewards both past guests and their newly referred friends and family with savings while encouraging all guests to reserve through a travel advisor. Also, don’t miss our Loyalty Appreciation Cruises in 2022 as they offer a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with other guests that you may have met on previous river cruises.