The owners of AmaWaterways have tipped river cruise as being one of the first sectors in travel to rebound.

Speaking at a digital press conference, Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Gary Murphy, co-owners of the luxury brand, all agreed the sector had a “very bright future”.

They said that despite pausing their operations until September 30 (except for dedicated German charters), demand and interest had been strong.

Schreiner said that the brand was experiencing “a wonderful booking period” for sailings in 2021 and 2022. The line put its 2022 programme on sale in May, six months early due to increased demand.

“We had a lot of requests from people wanting to move to 2022 and 2021, so June actually was the strongest month ever for bookings for the next year – it’s partially some rebooking from 2020 but we also see strong numbers of new bookings and strong numbers of new groups and charters. There is very strong interest and I think [increased] interest is going to be on this small cruising environment.”

He said benefits of river cruising included the smaller sized vessels, being close to the shore at all times and the fact that itineraries can involve just one country.

He said he believed 58 ships from various brands were already cruising on European waterways, although he stressed it was “hard to forecast” where his line would be sailing in the “next couple of months and in the future”.

Karst said the brand was working hard with its agent partners to help “plant the seed” for future bookings among consumers.

She said: “It’s about engagement, inspiration, memories and, of course, dreams. While we are not really selling, we are planting the seed and we have kept our entire sales team intact and our reservations, and everyone is with us planning for the future.”

“It will be different in the future with the new norm,” she added. “But we will continue to travel and river cruising will rebound sooner than many other vacation experiences.”

The brand said it had seen growing interest from ocean cruisers keen to try river for the first time.

Murphy said: “We’re working with our travel advisory partners to plant the seeds because business will come back and it’ll come back very strongly when it does.”

To encourage further bookings, AmaWaterways is introducing “exclusive transfers” for those who purchase their air fare in a package in a package with the cruise. For those who buy on a cruise only basis, the transfers can be purchased.