Fred Olsen Travel is ramping up marketing activity for river cruise holidays following the FCO’s updated advice which paved the way for the sector’s return.

The agency, which operates shops in East Anglia and on the south coast, has created a digital magazine highlighting the breadth of river cruise product available and the health and safety measures being taken by operators.

Paul Hardwick, Fred Olsen Travel’s head of commercial, has also recorded a video to further promote river cruising as part of the agency’s “river cruise takeover”. Both elements are due to be published and shared to the brand’s database on Friday (July 31).

Next week, the windows of all branches will be filled with river cruise content.

Hardwick told Travel Weekly: “We’ve always been strong on river cruise – it’s a speciality of ours, and we had been growing our river cruise bookings quite aggressively over the past few years.

“In 2019, river cruise accounted for 10% of our business and that was twice as big as it was in 2018.

“It was great to see the Foreign Office realise that river cruising was a safe option – and we’ve created these marketing tools to push out to our databases because we see an opportunity.”

He added: “Ocean cruising might take a bit longer to return, so those clients might look to the rivers instead. Feedback we’ve been getting from the shops was that they wanted us to harness the message around the safety in river cruising and highlight it more.

“We haven’t seen a massive upturn since the FCO advice changed, but we’re hoping the digital magazine and the video will help.”

When asked how the market was performing generally, Hardwick said bookings for this year had made up half of last week’s total bookings. “There’s definitely an appetite for travel this year,” he added.

He said the Mediterranean and Canary Islands were performing strongly, and said: “There are some big bookings coming in – we had Cunard world cruise booking for 2022 confirmed which was great to see.”