Australian river cruisers are becoming more adventurous, and choosing new exotic destinations, according to APT director Robert McGeary.
While the Mekong, the Danube, Seine, Rhine and Rhone remain among the most popular, APT is also seeing more Australians wanting to cruise the Nile and the Chobe in Africa.
Many are now combining the cruise with land tours. Cruising on the Volga River in Russia between Moscow and St Petersburg is also growing in popularity.
“On the Mekong, Australians love Vietnamese chef Luke Nguyen because he is such an engaging person. His food is of the highest standard and Australians love fresh food and wine,” says Mr McGeary.
“Our cruises are designed for the Australian market and Australians like all-inclusive itineraries. The big thing for us is to make the experience special and we can customise our holidays to meet travellers’ needs.
“Our core market is 55 years of age who are semi-retired and their children have left home. They are healthy, want to travel and they trust APT to give them a wonderful holiday experience.“
On Africa’s Chobe River, the Zambezi Queen is proving popular with two and three night cruises a great way to experience game viewing from a boat.
A huge amount of elephants congregate around The Chobe River and to get a front row seat is very unique.
On the Nile, APT has two cruises: Oberoi Philae Luxury Nile Ship and the Sanctuary luxury dahabiya for small group touring in Egypt.
Bookings for both are growing.
After over 90 years in business, APT is one of Australia’s most enduring travel brands.
But while it is maintaining momentum with its traditional market, it is also moving with the times and changing product to suite the new generations arriving on its ships with fresh demands and tastes.
The traditional piano man, for instance, will give way to local artists and authentic cultural experiences. And it is tapping into the environmental, social, responsibility and wellness trends, with hosts aboard many of its vessels and Zen Wellness Studios, which feature stretching, cardio and core strengthening.
APT CEO Steve Reynolds says its fleet of small, ships and river cruisers really pioneered Australia’s love affair with cruise.
Its partnership with AmaWaterways means it will benefit from a fleet renewal, including three new vessels next year. Among them is the AmaMagna, the biggest river ship which offers more variety and larger spaces.
He believes super has put Australian travellers into the luxury league. “You have a much larger market of customers in the luxury space”
But he adds: “Australians are very unpretentious,” he says, talking at APT’s Sydney showcase in the Westin Hotel.
“They are very comfortable travelling in luxury with other Australians. Because they don’t feel that they are unworthy of travelling in that style.
“Austrians are very egalitarian, comfortable and very easy to get along with whatever the style of travel.
“So it might be shorts at lunch and smart casual in the evening. But it will always be chic, stylish and very APT Australian.
The next big thing for APT?
Mr Reynolds believes it is social and environmental responsibility – another example of the company’s response to a changing group of people moving into its core demographic.
He believes the Kimberley is achieving harmony between its clients and the local people who help the destination thrive.
“The best example is the Imintji community. We lease the Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge in the King Leopold Ranges of WA. They live on the land adjacent to our lodge and our partnership is one of the most successful.
“Our environmental footprint is relatively low. We use solar panels and recycle a lot of food and turn it into fertiliser.
“The money we pay in the lease has allowed them to build their own site. And the elder is an artist who sells her art to our clients. So the money is being reinvested in the community and is encouraging the community to become self-sufficient.
“For me the greatest metric is the level of education. And when you see truancy drop, you can see that the community values education. Everybody benefits and it’s mutually rewarding.
“I see this as the long-term innovation is around social and environmental responsibility.”