There’s an emerging trend in the Australian market, and it’s growing off the back of that major boom in river and ocean cruising.

 

It’s called self-drive European boat holidays (although we like to refer to it as self-cruising).

They’re essentially like self-drive holidays, except instead of driving for hours on land, you rent out a boat and cruise down a canal to the heart (and often less visited) destinations in Europe.

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David Reid, the local Director of Sales and Marketing for Le Boat (one of the companies specialising in the unique touring option) told KarryOn that although the self-drive boating holiday is still relatively unknown in the market, the company is seeing interest grow, especially among those who have recently taken a river cruise and are looking for another way of exploring the region.

While the concept of self-cruising or self-driving boat holiday can be intimidating at first, Reid said travellers tend to feel more confident in the idea after learning that they don’t need a license to rent out the boat, they’re given all the information they need before setting off and their boats are equipped to ensure all onboard have a safe, relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

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“Everyone still thinks that because it’s a boat, that you have to have a boating license or experience. But you don’t.”

David Reid, Le Boat Director of Sales Australia and New Zealand

“Once you’ve checked in, you’re given a very detailed briefing on how everything works and at the end of the day if there’s any issues you just have to call for assistance. And you’re only going 7kms an hour.”

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However, despite the shortage of awareness, Reid said over the last few years the company has experienced significant growth, so-much-so that recent attacks in Europe haven’t affected the company’s confidence in reaching targets and new Australian travellers.

“What was ironic was that we didn’t see any cancellations, just people deferring their bookings,” Reid said.

“We’ve still had the same amount of interest from new travellers, just the conversion rate has been a little lower, with people holding off travel plans.

“That has made this year tough, but thankfully that’s changing and the market is picking up for Le Boat.”

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To help meet demand and exceed guest expectations, Reid revealed the business is investing $40 million over the next five years on a new range of boats called The Horizon.

Sixteen vessels were released this year and dozens more planned for 2017. They will be utilised in a range of destinations and take the boating experience to the next level with sliding doors, extra outdoor space to walk around, en-suites in every room, built-in barbeques and more glass to increase the viewing areas inside the boat.

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“People have higher expectations, and a lot of our clients may have been on the larger river ships and expect to have a similar experience onboard,” Reid explained.

“However, the great thing with this market is they may have seen a region on a river cruise and thought, I want to go and do that independently but they still have the same expectations.”

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Also new for Le Boat next year will be extra floatillas in Italy, which means travellers can rent their own boat but cruise down the canal with a group of boats, a new brochure featuring The Canal Du Midi in Burgundy and an app that is free to download for clients and acts as an interactive guide book while they’re on holidays.

“We’re looking forward to a good year,” Reid concluded.

Have you ever booked or tried a Le Boat self-drive boating holiday?