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Cruise trade body Clia UK & Ireland has promised to increase its activity in the river cruise sector to help agents make the most of increasing demand.

Two new specialist river cruise training modules will be unveiled in January, while a new UK river cruise event is also in the pipeline, Clia UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer (pictured) revealed.

Speaking at the River Cruise Convention in Cologne, Harmer said that while it was important for agents to get to know the popular destinations, it was also essential to learn about more off-the-beaten-track places.

More training would also help retailers stay abreast of all the innovation in the sector, with new itineraries, shore excursions and new ships that are “innovative and stylish”.

The number of UK passengers taking a river cruise leapt 14% to almost 130,000 last year, with European rivers accounting for 90,000 passengers. The UK is the fourth-largest source market for cruising on Europe’s rivers behind Germany, the US and France, with the average price of a river cruise remaining strong at £1,300.

Harmer stressed that agents should be targeting the ‘baby boomer’ generation who have more disposable income and are keen to immerse themselves in a destination.

“The destination is really vital, but so is the on-board experience,” he said, adding that baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – were a key market for river cruises.

He described the generation as being the “wealthiest, most active and most physically fit generation of consumers ever.”

Harmer said 80% of cruise holidays sold in the UK were bought by baby boomers.

“They see travel as a necessity and not a luxury,” said Harmer.

“They will also continue to travel because travel is their number-on