Travellers are “unquestionably optimistic” about the future, according to European Waterways while claiming a rise in post-pandemic lockdown bookings.

The hotel barge cruise specialist recently launched its season following the reopening of borders by EU nations and reported that pent-up demand is leading to “brisk” booking activity for 2020.

Advance bookings for 2021 are claimed to be up 170% year-on-year including reservations from various markets, including the UK, US and continental Europe.

Derek Banks, managing director of the company with vessels which navigate the inland waterways of the UK and Europe, said: “Travellers want to travel. For many people, hotel barge cruising is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they want to do it at the first opportunity they get.

“They are especially attracted to our excursions, which do a ‘deep dive’ into the fascinating history, cuisine, and architecture of the regions we cruise, many of which contain UNESCO World Heritage sites.”

An early booking disocunt of 10% is being offered on selected 2021 departures, including the Caledonian Canal in the Scottish Highlands and the Canal du Midi in France.

Banks added: “In the age of social distancing, hotel barge cruising is in the right place at the right time.

“We sail the picturesque canals and waterways through often unspoiled countryside, in the less populated regions of the country.

“Since most barges hold just six to 12 guests, social distancing is easier, if necessary, with exclusive excursions and private tours arranged during less crowded times.  Families and small groups often book the whole vessel and have it all to themselves.”