River cruising sector needs to up its tech game

The river cruising industry may have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but according to a recent article on the TTG Media website it still has a long way to go in terms of its technical and online capabilities.

At the recent Clia River Cruise Convention in Amsterdam, many agents agreed that a lot of websites relating to the river cruise sector are more like something from the dark ages than the responsive, mobile-optimised sites that today's consumers are used to.

As James Hill from GoRiverCruise pointed out, many websites don't even have an online booking function - something that's essential in today's digital era, and is a standard capability elsewhere in the travel sector. He also noted that the market has no continuity, with some websites featuring a host of features and information and others very little.

"River cruise companies have got the hardware, but now there's catching up to do and they have to refocus on the soft stuff if they want to fill their ships," he told event delegates.

According to new research commissioned by Clia, there is a market for river cruise holidays but technological innovation is proving to be a major obstacle in terms of booking numbers. Of those travellers considering a river cruise trip for example, 42% ultimately book a city break instead.

Some 1.1 million travellers decided to book a cruise holiday last year, with the largest market being in Germany (34.7%) followed by North America (31.8%) and the UK (21.8%).

Lucia Rose, head of A-Rosa, explained during the event that late bookings account for a large share (37%) of river cruise business, with the average spend being £1,495 per person. It's worth noting that this spend could be much higher if customers had access to the kind of software and technical capabilities at their disposal when booking a standard city break.

Further research from Clia showed the importance of advertising for river and ocean cruising - 67% were able to recall cruise advertising, compared with a 35% recall figure for general adverts. However, these advertising efforts could certainly be heightened by adopting more digital technologies and cross-channel marketing, as well as trying to target a younger customer base.