“Industry Q&A” Featuring Rudi Schreiner of AmaWaterwaysFebruary 26, 2016 | By: DCI
Our fourth installment of the “Industry Q&A” series features President of AmaWaterways, Rudi Schreiner, a river cruise industry veteran who speaks to us about his company’s profile and provides insights on nuances among river, ocean cruising, and land tours. Prior to founding AmaWaterways with business partners Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, Rudi developed river cruising experiences at Uniworld and Viking River Cruises.
Q: River cruising continues to be a popular, high-demand travel product. How does AmaWaterways differentiate its product experience not only against other river cruise competitors in the luxury space, but also luxury ocean cruises and land experiences?
A: My personal experiences and passion for river cruising has been a driving force in how we build and deliver product and service experiences. Most importantly, our personal attention to developing itineraries, new ports and constructing new ships has positioned AmaWaterways well in the cruise industry. Most recently we penned a deal with both Adventures by Disney and Backroads, two land suppliers who see the value of offering their guests a solid river cruise product.
Q: Can you explain what sets apart a river cruise guest from an ocean cruise, and land guest? What are the typical attributes in terms of the experiences and things they value when on vacation?
A: Guests opting for river cruises appreciate that our ships are a luxurious means of experiencing world-class destinations. While we place a high importance on our ships, the motivation is not the ship itself as it is in ocean cruising. Our guests are often interested in deeper, destination-focused experiences. Comparing river cruising to land tours, we find that customers almost double their amount of leisure time. Not only are our ports centrally located, but there is no packing and unpacking and issues like traffic to deal with. River cruising maximizes both leisure and in-destination time.
Q: Does AmaWaterways currently work with destination marketing organizations? If so, how? How can destination marketing organizations help cruise operators like AMA?
A: We would love to be a larger part of the promotional efforts of city destinations who host river cruise passengers. We find there is often a limited focus on river cruising itineraries; instead the focus remains largely on promoting land products. Cities with the potential to develop a river cruise industry can also offer valuable assistance. Vienna, Austria and the Port of Vienna is a good example of how local interests pushed for significant investment to welcome high-spending river cruise visitors into central Vienna.
Q: How would product development for a river cruise product differ than product development for land-based tour experiences? What are the top 3 considerations that may differ?
A: Product development is a very personal responsibility at AmaWaterways. I personally visit prospective destinations, and work closely with local governments and tourism interests when assessing new ports. The top 3 considerations are: 1. the local government’s ability to assist and invest in port development; 2. the destination’s readiness and willingness to welcome visitors and most importantly, 3. logistics involved with assuring a river cruise ship can access a port destination.
Q: Some cruise lines are so focused on the onboard experience that they may struggle with sourcing land partners to offer quality experiential and immersive pre and post cruise offerings. How does AmaWaterways ensure that these types of experiences are available for its passengers?
A: We don’t struggle with this problem because our operations teams in Los Angeles and Switzerland plan all activities and guest excursions centrally, ensuring that the type and quality of these experiences are in line with the AmaWaterways brand. We rely heavily on well-vetted local DMCs and operators to execute these offerings under our purview. In our ‘Gems of Southeastern Europe’ itinerary, for example, we offer many optional excursions; whether it is a walking tour along the Danube or a bicycle excursion trip, all tours and excursions are included on AmaWaterways.
Q: Where do you see the industry going in terms of distribution? Will the travel trade channel still be the primary distribution source for AmaWaterways? What distribution networks are most important for AmaWaterways?
A: AmaWaterways is focused solely on travel trade and it will continue to be this way. We have invested significantly in our preferred partnerships with AAA Travel, American Express Travel, Signature Travel Network and Virtuoso, among others, to ensure that expert travel consultants know our product and can advise their customers on why AmaWaterways is the choice for them. AmaWaterways is deeply respected and preferred by travel advisors in the luxury space. In fact, we were voted ‘Best River Cruise Line’ by the Virtuoso Travel Network for the fourth consecutive year at Virtuoso Travel Week in August 2015.