American Queen courts UK trade

mpany is poised to announce deals to sell through luxury tour operators as it courts the UK trade for the first time.

This follows the creation of a UK office headed by Graham Clubb, ex-chairman of Viking River Cruises.

The American Queen Steamboat Company owns American Queen, the largest riverboat in the world, and offers itineraries on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Since acquiring the ship in 2011, the operator has sold cruises proactively only to the US market.

It has also just bought a second ship, Empress of the North, for an undisclosed sum. This will be renamed American Empress and offer itineraries in the Pacific Northwest from April 2014.

Clubb, who is also general sales agent for Europe and Africa, says the company will soon be working with luxury and escorting touring tour operators to feature American Queen.? “We are on the verge of signing up a few luxury and touring operators,” he said.

Light Blue Travel has been appointed as UK booking agent. UK sales are tipped to make up 10% of business by next year, boosted by ITV’s The Mighty Mississippi with Trevor McDonald and new film Mud.

“Until now the company has not been geared up for international sales,” said Clubb. “We already feel there is a buzz around travelling on the Mississippi and these are once-in-a-lifetime trips. We are already getting a good response from travel agents looking for high-end, tailormade trips.”

Agents will be offered 10% base commission, with incentives to earn up to 12%. Prices start from £2,495 for seven nights including flights, transfers, full board, excursions, port charges and one night’s pre-cruise hotel stay.

The company is to join cruise trade body Clia as a global member, and offer agent training and fam trips this year. A brochure is due to published within two months.

Light Blue Travel managing director Rupert Thomson said: “This is a product that needs to be talked through over the phone.”