Speaking ahead of tomorrow's double christening in Dordrecht, Holland, Patrick Clark told Cruise Critic: "We've got more ships planned for 2016".
Clark said higher than expected demand for 2015 sailings had prompted the decision to build new ships, as well as the need to “keep pace” with the expected growth in the river cruise market.
“If you look at the way the market is growing in the UK and the markets we serve, you need to build two ships a year to keep up … or you're not keeping pace," he told Cruise Critic.
He also singled out the UK as a particularly good performer -- going from zero to 10 per cent in four years and overtaking New Zealand and Canada in the process.
Speaking at a special gala dinner last night (March 20), Clark said: “It's the first time that we've had a mostly UK contingent onboard for the christening ... And that really serves to underscore how important the UK market has become for us."
UK MD Alan MacLean added: "Our first customers departed four years ago, pretty much to the day, and river has generally been on a growth curve throughout that time period, and Avalon has been ahead of that. [The UK] will equate to be around 8-10 percent of Avalon, worldwide. We're hungry to be more of that, but happy with where we are at the moment."
Clark added: Given that it started at zero about four years ago, to build that rapidly is tremendous. NZ, Australia, UK and Canada are our prime targets, and UK has bumped ahead of NZ and Canada."
Avalon will launch will two new ships -- Avalon Impression and Avalon Poetry II -- tomorrow (March 22) in Dordrecht, Holland, with British gold-medal winning Olympian Katherine Grainger as godmother to the latter. The third, Avalon Illumination, is launching in May.
--by Jamey Bergman, UK Production Editor