The Rideau Canal will be the site of a unique new travel offering next spring, as Europe’s Le Boat makes its Canadian debut in May 2018.
In an exclusive interview with PAX during a recent visit to Toronto, Le Boat’s Cheryl Brown and Andrew Le Duc – managing director and head of global customer engagement, respectively – detailed the company’s plans for Canada both as a destination and market for travellers looking to experience a different style of travel.
The boat rental company will launch its popular holiday model in Canada that month operating from May 18 to mid-October, offering 16 new Horizon watercraft (built exclusively for Le Boat in Poland) for rent along the Rideau with plans to expand to 32 boats by 2023. The launch has also brought the establishment of Le Boat’s Canadian headquarters in Smiths Falls, just south of Ottawa.
“It’s a very independent way to travel,” Le Duc said. “People have the opportunity to get off the beaten path and explore things; seeing the destination from the water gives you a very different perspective.”
In addition to being Le Boat’s first North American itinerary, the Rideau joins France’s Canal du Midi as the second waterway designated by UNESCO World Heritage Site to be offered by Le Boat, Brown said, adding that similar to Canal du Midi, Le Boat is producing a guidebook for travellers taking part in the new Rideau program.
“The Rideau is the best of all the cruising grounds we have with the lakes and canals – it takes the best elements of all the regions,” Le Duc said, citing opportunities for outdoor activities including fishing and hiking as among the big draws for guests.
Although the launch is months away, Brown said that more than 15 per cent of Rideau bookings have been sold, adding that as the first Le Boat program to offer autumn sailing opportunities, the Rideau has generated a lot of interest amongst European travellers.
Drawing an “affluent and global” clientele, Le Duc said, the average Le Boat guest is 55 years old, often travelling as part of a multi-generational family with older children or in a group of friends or couples. For groups, Le Boat’s larger vessels offer up to four cabins providing comfortable accommodations. And with the majority of Le Boat guests being first-time boaters, travellers get a 45-minute demonstration on the company’s easily-manoeuvrable watercraft.
“We take them through their first lock and then send them on their way!” Brown said, adding that Le Boat’s watercraft are well-bumpered in anticipation of nautical novices. Currently in Europe, Le Boat has 900 vessels in eight countries, including the U.K., Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and France, the latter of which is Le Boat’s most popular destination at 70 per cent of bookings, Brown said.
Travel agents play a large role in Le Boat bookings too, Brown explained, accounting for more than 35 per cent of its overall bookings. The statistics vary between countries as well, she added: Germany, for example, accounts for 26 per cent of Le Boat’s bookings overall, with 50 per cent of those made via travel agents, compared to 100 per cent of the company’s Israeli bookings coming from travel agents.
Although Le Boat is only just setting sail in the Canadian travel market, Brown said that the company expects to see more than half of its Canadian bookings come through travel agents (who can earn up to 15 per cent commission on bookings), adding that the Le Boat product is ideal for niche agents seeking a unique product to sell clients.
“We’re starting from scratch in Canada but we expect this market to be very similar to Germany,” she said.
Le Boat’s latest brochure will launch this fall, offering 62 pages of destinations for boaters; agents can pre-order the brochure by clicking here.
Full details on Le Boat are available at www.leboat.ca.
(From left) Le Boat's Cheryl Brown & Andrew Le Duc with Nancy Benetton-Sampath, associate vice-president, LogiMonde Media