After winning awards in three categories at the Silver Travel Awards in October 2022 for Best Escorted Tour Operator, Best River Cruise Line and Best City or Cultural Break Provider, we spoke to Sarah Fowler, Head of Brand and Acquisition at Riviera Travel, about their holidays, customers, recent adverts and plans for the future.
1. Can you give me a brief overview of the types of holidays Riviera Travel offers? And to which destinations? Or maybe, it’s better to ask where don’t you go?
We have a broad range of holiday types that we offer, but we’re probably best known as the UK’s leading operator of luxury river cruises and escorted tours. We also have a collection of ocean and yacht cruises – we specialise in very small ship cruising – generally under 200 guests. And we also have a collection of Solo holidays, both river and yacht cruises, and escorted tours – designed exclusively for Solo travellers with no single supplements. In terms of which destinations we visit, it’s pretty much everywhere! We have the most tour and cruise options in Europe, with 20 river cruise itineraries to choose from. And we have 65 escorted tours to choose from across the UK and Europe, including 19 in Italy – our most popular tours destination. And our Worldwide tours cover all four corners of the earth, from Asia to the Americas. There’s really something for everyone.
2. And do you have a typical Riviera customer? I know you’ve done quite a bit of research on this lately.
I wouldn’t say there’s a ‘typical’ Riviera customer, as the range of holidays we offer appeal to different types of travellers – but one thing that unites all our guests is their desire for enrichment and discovery whilst on holiday. All our holidays include insightful excursions led by expert local guides, so our guests come away feeling that they’ve really got under the skin of the history and culture of their chosen destination.
3. Your recent adverts have really been super, in fact I ended up feeling that your river cruises are for pretty much everyone, from ‘unwinders’ and ‘recliners’ through ‘peekers’ to ‘self explorers’. Would you agree?
Absolutely! There is so much breadth of experience that can be enjoyed on a river cruise with us. There are guided tours and included visits every day, but also lots of free time – the ships moor right in the heart of city centres so you can step ashore and explore under your own steam if you’re so inclined, or simply relax on board and enjoy the luxurious facilities. We often sail during part of the day, and there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting up on the top deck watching the world go by with a cocktail in hand. It’s also a great foodie experience too – our chefs on board prepare delicious four course dinners each evening which reflect the local cuisine.
4. How does the phrase ‘Forever Curious’ reflect what happens on a Riviera cruise or land tour? It is certainly applicable to most Silver Travellers I know, people love to see and experience something new when they’re away.
Forever Curious really embodies the spirit of our guests – even though they may be getting older, they still have a thirst for exploration and seeing the world. And what we offer is a way to do this without any of the hassle or stress that comes with planning a self-guided holiday. Our experts know all the best things to see and do in a particular destination, and we incorporate these into the itineraries with visits or experiences fully included in the price of the holiday, so our guests can relax and fully enjoy the experience.
5. What is on offer for those who really enjoy luxury? Is this the Riviera holiday? And what about those who go for more adventurous holidays, really pushing themselves quite hard even though it’s a holiday?
Our most luxurious holidays are our river and yacht cruises. Our fleet of river cruise ships are five-star and amongst the youngest in Europe, having been custom built to our specifications, and designed with the needs of the British guest in mind. For the more adventurous traveller, our range of worldwide holidays would appeal – for example our 22 day tour of New Zealand which takes in a different destination almost every day.
6. Do you think people are looking for extra reassurance currently, given the last two years? Silver Travellers are pretty savvy, and many have travelled overseas for decades, however are we more cautious nowadays? Or just wanting the security of knowing ‘back up’ is there if needed?
Yes, I think so. Although the world is getting back to normal for travel now, the disruption of the last two years has certainly caused people to consider ‘what if’ much more than they may have in the past. That’s one of the advantages of travelling with a tour operator like Riviera Travel – for example when flights have been cancelled or changed, sometimes at late notice, we take care of this for our guests, and ensure that they can still get to their destination and enjoy their holiday experience – they don’t have to worry about trying to make their own arrangements or what may happen in the event that something does go awry, as we’re always on hand to help and support.
7. What plans does Riviera have for developing or extending their holiday types for the future? Could there ever be a move to add ocean cruising? Or high intensity escorted tours on land?
We are always looking for new ways to grow and innovate our range of holidays according to the changing needs and desires of our customers, and we regularly survey them to ask what they’d like to see from us. Just this year we launched a new range of Signature tours – a collection of escorted tours with smaller groups and the addition of enhanced included experiences, for those who want a more exclusive experience. Our range of ocean and yacht cruises is already popular and there’s a very good chance we’ll be adding to this portfolio in future; in fact just this week we’ve launched a new cruise for 2023 on MS Seaventure – a boutique expedition ship – which will circumnavigate Iceland. Plenty more exciting new holidays in the pipeline too – so watch this space!