Creating a Premium Guest Experience, with Gary Murphy

Episode 270

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Gary Murphy is Co-Owner and Senior Vice President of Sales at AmaWaterways, and his experience in the travel industry spans more than 30 years. After completing his Business Degree at California State University, Northridge, Gary’s early business experience involved positions with IBM, Group Voyagers in Europe, and Brendan Vacations, before becoming Vice President of Marketing and Sales for the rapidly expanding Miami Air International.

From there, Gary returned to one of the country’s leading tour operators, Brendan Vacations, where he served as Vice President of Marketing and Sales and, in 2000, took over the role of President. In 2009, Murphy left Brendan to become Vice President of National Accounts for AmaWaterways; in 2013, he was appointed Vice President of Sales and became Senior Vice President of Sales in 2019.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, Gary Murphy shares his philosophy on standing out as a business by creating immersive experiences for travelers and why he believes that working with Travel Counselors is a solid business strategy. We discuss the benefits of river cruising, and Gary dives into some of the collaborations he has been involved in throughout his career that have helped the company innovate and improve their offering.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Gary’s path into the river cruising industry, including the different parts of the industry he has worked in and the entrepreneurial spirit woven through it
  • The history of river cruising in Europe
  • Creative approaches that Gary has taken in developing AmaWaterways’ river cruises
  • Gary’s philosophy toward the itineraries they create
  • How AmaWaterways encourage their guests to immerse themselves in the experience of the port in which they’re located
  • Why they prefer not to include the gratuity and how that empowers guests to take ownership of the experience that they’re having
  • Strategies Gary uses when faced with challenges, particularly during the last few years
  • Why AmaWaterways love collaborating with their Travel Advisor partners, and why they believe it’s the most financially rewarding way to manage their business
  • Opportunities for competition that AmaWaterways is working on right now

Creative Approaches in Travel

As travelers, often our most valuable commodity is time — Gary guides us through how AmaWaterways plan and create their river cruise itineraries to allow guests to make the most of their vacation by enabling them to wake up each morning in a beautiful new town. He shares how they have designed their trips to take advantage of the most beautiful parts of a country while cruising during the day, and details some of the ways the company has innovated to provide the best experience possible to their guests.

We also discuss creative ways that AmaWaterways has encouraged travelers to make the most of each new destination on the cruise and their philosophy that you need to spend less time on the ship — no matter how beautiful and luxurious it is —and more time enjoying each new town or city.

AmaWaterways’ Philosophy on Travel

Gary shares how AmaWaterways does things that they feel are the best use of their clients’ time, that give them the best value and deliver a superb travel experience. He describes how the company’s founders are, at heart, adventurers with a fortitude that moves them forward through challenges. AmaWaterways understands the best way to travel, and they follow that philosophy to deliver exceptional experiences. Gary and I discuss the difference between a poor quality all-inclusive experience and a premium experience that encourages guests to experience the gastronomy of the country they’re visiting.

We touch on what makes AmaWaterways stand out in a crowded market and why they prefer to march to the beat of their own drum and curate an experience that enhances their guest’s vacation than follow the crowd.

Creative Coopetition in River Cruising

Gary discusses some of the upcoming collaborations with competitors, including The American Society of Travel Agents conference in Budapest next month. River cruise lines have come together and coordinated their ships’ timetables so that travel advisors can see the different ships firsthand.

Collaboration with guests is also a fantastic way to discover opportunities. Gary shares some of the partnerships AmaWaterways has built with other businesses after being guided by what clients are looking for to make the river cruise experience even better.


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