Maintaining Riviera Travel's 'heart and soul' 40 years on

As agents, destination & supplier partners, and the Riviera team gathered aboard MS Jane Austen in Paris to celebrate the operators 40th anniversary, one thing remained clear: Phil Hullah & co. are striving to keep the operators "heart and soul" fully intact as it celebrates the last, and looks ahead to the next, 40 years of business.

Opening the celebration sailing's business update, Phil made no bones to emphasise that: "although an enormous amount has changed about Riviera Travel the business since 1984, in many ways, the heart and soul of the business, its values and where it came from remain incredibly consistent."PHOTO 2024 03 26 11 16 03

Spotlighting what he views as the business' core fundamentals: delivering exceptional holidays, guaranteeing outstanding value for money, and obsessing over customer service, the operator's CEO continued: "Riviera has been crafting and delivering exceptional touring holidays for 40 years now. We've got the deepest destination know-how and that means we're able to develop incredibly authentic experiences: the right kind of itinerary, delivered at the right pace."

A team effort

"We're really proud to work with so many amazing suppliers and partners," said Phil, with many of those thanked aboard the Seine celebration cruise.

"These strong relationships over the whole of the last 40 years have played a huge part in the success of Riviera."

That team effort will be key if the operator is to reach the ambitious goals outlined by Phil during the presentation: doubling the passenger occupancy from just short of 100,000 to 200,000, see its net promoter score reach or exceed 80, and develop profitability, all by 2030.

And beyond the team spirit and 'heart and soul' that the team strives to maintain, Phil explained the growth will be fuelled by: "Firstly, extending our range... secondly, evolving the holiday experience... and then last but not least, keep obsessing about guest experience and make sure we deliver on that time and time again."

Where next?

Robin Shaw, chief operating officer, gave a glimpse into the operator's next 40 years (or at least the next few), explaining that the team are "steadily building" the Riviera profile in the USA, anticipating "that will be an area where we do grow the business."

Even over the last couple of years there are important lessons to be learned, least of all, the success of the trade team's aggressive approach to, a sentiment echoed by Robin and the trade team frequently, "become the easiest company to work with for the trade."

The trade share of business has grown from 15% to 25% in the last couple of years. Robin said he "see[s] that trade trend continuing to a large extent."

Anticipation was ramped as discussion on two new upcoming ships, Riviera Rose and Riviera Radiance, began. The debut programmes for both are already, as Robin put it, "selling like hot cakes."

Riviera Radiance exterior

Demand itself is also undergoing a shift: recent Riviera research uncovered that demand for longer stays, the same demand that sparked the launch of the operator's Grand Tours, remains strong.

For 2025, the maximum group size on Riviera tours will be reduced to 36, following "huge amounts of customer feedback" on the previous 50-guest limit often exceeding guest preference.

Phil wrapped up the discussion on Riviera Travel's future, explaining that "there is a huge opportunity to continue to grow in the channels that we already operate in. Just by taking more of that market share in those growing markets will fuel a very significant part of the growth.

"It's not necessarily about a whole new product offer. We anticipate that there will be core business growth in river cruises, short-haul tours and long-haul tours."

Riviera Travel's 40th anniversary celebrations go far beyond the celebration cruise this week: see how you can get involved with our recent episode of Trade Secrets with the operator's head of trade and partnerships, Vicky Billing.