Asia sees bigger appetite for river cruises

There is “phenomenal” growth in Asian MICE volume for US-based Uniworld Boutique River Cruises between 2018 and 2019, as company strengthens regional marketing

US-based Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has reported a 150 per cent leap in corporate passenger numbers in Asia for 2019 year-to-date, compared to 2018, as a result of stronger business event bookings.

Henry Yu, director, Asia for Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and U River Cruises, described the growth as “phenomenal”.

The company’s Asian operation is relatively young, having been established in the region only in 2014, while the US headquarters had pioneered the river cruise concept in 1976.
The Asian office made up quickly for lost time, generating an average annual sales growth of 30 per cent from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan for its luxurious river cruises across the world, noted Yu.

“Thailand and South Korea have caught up in the last two years,” he added, but pointed out that the majority of Uniworld’s Asia growth is still driven by the leisure market. On the business events front, the Asian office “works very closely” with regional trade partners and private organisations to drive brand and product awareness.

Yu explained that sales and marketing support is given to travel agency partners, with him and his team stepping in to provide customised packages and comprehensive sales presentations to the end-customer when partners are pitching for event projects.

For the Uniworld cruise line, popular sailings among the Asian corporate clientele are Castles along the Rhine (Basel to Amsterdam, down River Rhine) and Enchanting Danube (Budapest to Passau/Munich Airport, down River Danube).

He explained: “They are a hit with Asian corporate for several reasons. One, they come with easy gateways. Budget is priority for corporates. A friendly and popular gateway can reduce air ticket cost while providing a good variety of airlines to use.

“Two, these itineraries use Super Ship (SS) Antoinette and Super Ship (SS) Maria Theresa. Super ships come with greater capacity to accommodate larger groups and have several onboard venues for meeting use.

“Third, these itineraries leverage the sterling reputation of River Rhine and River Danube – both well-known European rivers.”

While the company’s river cruises tend to be lengthy affairs – onwards of eight days, Yu said itineraries can be adjusted to suit time-starved corporate groups.

“Requests for shorter itineraries, approximately four-day/three-night, are very common when it comes to corporate events due to budget and time limitation. We can adjust the programme to match clients’ requirement.

“Both Uniworld and U River Cruises can break their regular eight-day/seven-night itinerary into two sectors. For instance, Enchanting Danube can be spilt into one sector covering Budapest to Vienna (four-day/three-night) and another covering Vienna to Passau/Munich Airport (five-day/four-night). Our trade partner will usually arrange a pre-extension of one night in Budapest to make both sectors even (in duration).”

While Uniworld cruises are positioned as a crème de la crème of luxury river cruises, Yu said U is a perfect option for fun, activity-driven corporate teambuilding and corporate social events.

U is stylish and offers immersive onboard and land experiences that are longer in duration. The current fleet is made up of two 120-pax matte black ships – The A and The B, with the latter scheduled for a relaunch in 2020 along with three new programmes down River Rhine and Danube.

Watch the full session from the Asian MICE Cruise Conference below:

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