Barge Hotels demand rising in luxury travel

Despite the global economic uncertainty, the sector of luxury travels is growing faster than overall travel. As Amadeus underlines in its report “Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel“, this segment has grown more than others in the period between 2011 and 2015, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.5%, if compared to 4.2% of overall travel.

A trend is rising, that perfectly applies to this general sector of luxury travel: hotel barging, a type of slow navigation on a converted barge. This type of tourism usually involves cultural travels, discovering non-mass places and local traditions. This is significant of a luxury- sustainable tourism. Hotel barging’s origins date back to the 1920s, when commercial barges started being converted into passengers’ accommodations in England. In the 1960s, hotel barging started being popular in France with the barge “Palinurus” (now named “Luciole”) which operated on the canals of the Burgundy region of France.

Hotel barging offers two different typologies of navigation. One is the all inclusive offer, where tourists can completely relax and are served with every luxury. The other typology is self-barging, which implicates an appropriate boat license. Self-bargers can usually benefit from the luxury of the boat and enjoy services of chefs and tourist guides, but are completely independent during the navigation.

With this purpose, network companies of hotel barging have been created. Successful examples of networks are European Waterways, H2olidays and Linssen Boating Holidays. The concept behind these networks is entrusting the management of the boats to single local realities, in order to offer the best service to the customers. The most popular destination that offers hotel barging services is France (Burgundy, the Loire Valley and the Canal du Midi), but the market has extended in Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy (the Venetian lagoon).

As we can see from Voies Navigable de France’s statistics, the number of operators in France which offer this service has risen in recent year, as a respond to the tourist demand.


Source: Voies Navigables de France


Mr. Calzolaio, CEO and founder at Lagunalonga, a barge company in the Venetian lagoon, reported to Twissen that “the experience of hotel barging can be defined as a unique, exclusive and authentic experience. The tourist demand for hotel barging in Europe is rising mainly from USA tourists, followed by British, Australian, New Zealander and Russian. In the following years, the Indian will be a double digit growing market for us”.

At Twissen we observed that this segment can potentially overperform the market. There is also a rising interest from the travel agencies, which see in hotel barging an opportunity to organise attractive travel experiences to a demanding and profitable target.

Author: Francesco Redi
President and founder at Twissen. Manager in Local Development, Tourism Policies,  EU Funds. He cooperates with several European universities, public bodies, development agencies, DMOs and enterprises.

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