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European river cruise market grew 2.7% in 2016

PHOTO: Frederik Erdmann
AmaCerto docked at Cologne during a cruise along Rhine, which remains the Germans’ preferred river destination
Some 1.36m passengers cruised on Europe’s rivers in 2016, up 2.7% from the previous year. The North American source market provided the greatest share of guests, corresponding to 38.7%, followed by Germany with 28.4%.

The 435,586 German river cruise passengers in 2016 represented a 2.8% year-on-year increase, according to satistics released this week by IG RiverCruise and the German Travel Association (DRV).

The German market gerenated a turnover of €448.7m, up 3.1% from 2015 and the average daily rate increased by 4.1% to €149, while the average cruise price remained almost unchanged at €1,030 compared to €1,027 in 2015.

The average cruise duration continued to fall in the river cruise sector, corresponding to 6.9 nights, 3.8% fewer than in 2015.

In comparison, the average length of an ocean cruise sold on the German market last year was 8.94 nights.

Most popular destinations for German river cruisers are the Rhine with a 35.5% share and the Danube with 34.4%. Both rivers, though, lost some of their market share, 2.7 basis points in the case of the Rhine and 3.6 basis points for the Danube. These shares were taken up by new destinations and less frequented rivers, for example, in France. Not least, the revival of paddlewheel propulsion helped to develop niche destinations such as the Loire River.
The main challenge faced by the industry last year was security following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 as well as in Brussels in March 2016. As a result, the season picked up slowly, but it eventually recovered to normal levels.
Looking at 2017, more than 80% of operators in the German market are optimistic as the addition of new ships continues to slow, both on Europe’s rivers and beyond. Last year, 31 new river ships were inaugurated, including 22 on European rivers. This year, only 20 new ships are expected, including 17 destined for Europe.

The majority of new tonnage on Europe’s rivers is targeted at overseas passengers. According to IG River Cruise and DRV, close to 14,000 jobs are provided on board river ships in Europe. In addition, the industry generates about 3,540 jobs in its shoreside organisations, along with another 11,000 indirect jobs at yards, in ports, with suppliers, etc.