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16 Dec, 2003

WTM 2003 Report 1: Tour Operators Change With The Times

Announcements made at the World Travel Market 2003 by tour operators and marketing companies show that they are becoming more specialised, flexible and techno-oriented, even as they add new destinations and tour products.

From the World Travel Market 2003 in London. 11th in a series of dispatches taking an in-depth look at issues, policies, strategies and trends as well as new products, processes and ideas that emerged at one of the world’s largest travel trade shows.


Announcements made at the World Travel Market 2003 by tour operators and marketing companies show that they are becoming more specialised, flexible and techno-oriented, even as they add new destinations and tour products. Here are some examples of the changes taking place. The last two items indicate how marketing companies are going after the affluent traveller.


Explore Worldwide, which claims to be Europe’s leading small group adventure holiday company, has added both the Arctic and Antarctica to its programme for 2004/5. Other new destinations include Tasmania, Mozambique and South Korea. Also featured for the first time are classic rail journeys, including Poland to the Crimea and Dhaka (Bangladesh) to New Delhi (India).

The brochure features 19 new itineraries, making a total of over 300 trips to 120 + countries in what has become known as ‘the bible of adventure travel.’ Comments Simon Tobin, Managing Director of Explore Worldwide: “Our team has been busily researching over the last year to put together a number of new itineraries to some fascinating places. Tasmania, for example, is one of Australia’s least-visited states and yet one of its most beautiful with lush rainforest, scenic mountains and quirky country towns.”

Other new features include the Arctic and Antarctica using the Finnish icebreaker, the MN Polar Star, for nature lovers, a 20-day inside the Hidden Kingdoms itinerary to India, Bhutan and Bangladesh for culture-buffs and a cycling trip in Burgundy for soft adventure lovers.

Extra flexibility is available, too ù for the first time on many trips there will now be the option of upgrading to a single room, from as little as ú25 per trip. However the Explore principle of shared accommodation in same-sex twin rooms still remains: “it is a great way of meeting other single people whilst keeping the cost down,” says the company.

The new 18-day Explore Tasmania trip costs from ú2105 pp and the 22-day Dhaka to Delhi rail journey costs from ú1265 pp. Both prices include flights, all local transportation, accommodation, some meals and the services of a tour leader.


Travelpack, which claims to be one of the UK’s leading specialist tour operators and fare wholesalers., has launched a dedicated sports travel department, ‘Travelpack Sports’. This is in response to a demand for tailor-made tours and itineraries surrounding some of the world’s premier sporting events such as England’s One Day Cricket Internationals and Rugby Tests.

Travelpack has brought in specialist staff with over 15 years experience in sports travel to head up the new division. John Mitchell, Sports Manager, and Maureen Atkins, Sports Consultant, were official agents for the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995 and the Hong Kong Sevens from 1991 to 1998, among other credentials and experience in sports travel management.

While the actual attendance of a specific sporting event is the main purpose of all trips booked through the new division, Travelpack Sports is developing a series of itineraries that also encompass the key tourism highlights of the host destination. For example, for England’s Cricket Tour to Sri Lanka in November and December 2003, Travelpack Sports has arranged tours from 17 to 29 days that include visits to the ‘Lion rock’ fortress of Sigiriya, the World Heritage City of Dambulla, the cultural city of Kandy, the ‘Little England’ hill station of Nuwara Eliya, and the economic and political centre of Colombo.

Prices for the Sri Lanka tours start from ú1,053 per person and include flights, accommodation on a B&B basis, and visits to wildlife parks, temples and cultural events. Match tickets are not included in the price as they were not released at the time of announcement. However, customers are guaranteed tickets, which are then invoiced at their face value.

Tamara Strauss, marketing manager, comments: “With a long history of selling flights and holidays to some of the world’s premier sporting destinations it made sense to broaden our reach to include groups of supporters and clubs. Travelpack Sports will not only guarantee access to certain games and matches, but will liaise with the relevant Travelpack destination departments to ensure that tailor-made itineraries are crafted for each customer.”

Initially targeting supporters groups and clubs, Travelpack Sports is looking to work with schools and rugby clubs in 2004 to arrange tours to South Africa and Australia. Travelpack Sports is working on trips to the Dubai and Hong Kong Sevens in 2003/4, and the England Rugby Tour to Australia in 2004.

Established in 1981, Travelpack is a wholesaler of fares to the travel trade through a network of six offices in the UK.


Newly formed Planet Holidays has launched its first dedicated wedding brochure offering tailor-made wedding packages throughout Cyprus and Greece.

The handbag-size wedding brochure includes 32 pages of wedding venues all over Cyprus and across seven of the Greek Islands, including Crete, Santorini, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos and Athens’ cr?me de la cr?me Grand Resort Lagonissi. A civil wedding at the local town hall can be followed by an Anglican or Catholic blessing at the venue of choice; from a stunning ceremony in the grounds of a luxury hotel to a blessing in a quaint Cypriot church or monastery.

To allow guests to share the expense of the wedding, friends and family can purchase a Planet Holidays wedding gift voucher which will be put towards the cost of the happy couple’s wedding. A sample wedding package costs from ú438 including all administration costs, all official paperwork costs, and a panoramic sea view wedding at the Rethymno Royal Mare Hotel deluxe in Crete. It includes a decorated venue, flowers, cake, candle-lit champagne dinner for the bride and groom, decorated bridal suite, special post wedding breakfast and accommodation for the bride during her next stay at the hotel.

For venues where the package is less comprehensive, Planet Holidays wedding assistants can organise everything from photos to violin players and will guide couples through every stage of their arrangements right up until the big day itself.


Kuoni has launched a broadband website as part of its plan to revolutionise the way holidays are being sold. Sue Biggs, Kuoni Managing Director, comments, “This new site is in line with Kuoni’s philosophy of creating dream holidays. It focuses on the customers’ emotional and aspirational experiences whilst planning their holiday, bringing their chosen destination to life, rather than simply following a functional process.”

Matt Rooke, E-Business Manager, claims Kuoni is the first longhaul company in the travel industry to offer this service. “The customer is able to obtain a real taste of the holiday they would like to go on with images from video, audio as well as the 360? all round views of the destination and even their chosen hotel room. We are proud to offer this new service as it is as close to try before you buy as you can get.”

Kuoni are taking advantage of this changing market environment, and over the coming months are launching 50 broadband websites packed with videos and 360? images covering their most popular destinations and hotels around the world. The first country site launched on 10 November covers Kuoni holidays to Barbados (www.broadband-barbados.co.uk), which can also be accessed from the main homepage (www.broadband-travel.co.uk).

Visitors can view the site from the main homepage which links through a series of maps to regions and countries worldwide. The Barbados site reflects how all the other country sites will look and includes an introduction along with over 30 minutes of video footage and a selection of 360? images of the destination and hotels selected.

The hotel pages include key facts such as hotel grade, Kuoni’s Opinion, location and main facilities. The visitor can link through to the Kuoni online booking facility to complete the booking.

Broadband internet access increases access to the internet by up to 10 times the speed of most common home internet access. Another advantage is the opportunity to include larger images and moving images on a website which for intangible travel products, such as holidays, helps considerably in bringing a destination or hotel virtually to life.

According to national research, broadband access is available in 10% of UK households. However, in line with Kuoni’s product aimed at the more affluent market, a customer survey of their target market indicated 40% had broadband access. In addition, the growth in broadband usage is phenomenal (250% in the last 12 months) due to extensive marketing campaigns from BT and the internet service providers, with current figures showing a growth of 40,000 new users every week.


Carefree World will launch their 2004 brochure in December featuring extended itineraries in Cuba and Mexico and a new Vietnam programme! Featured destinations will include Ho Chi Minh City, Dalat and the Central Highlands, Nha Trang beach resort, Whale Island, Danang, and Hoi An, as well as excursions to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. This is a marked new destination for Carefree World, an independent operator which has so far specialised in tailor-made itineraries to Cuba and Mexico


Indian food is a firm favourite with the British public, but a calorie-laden takeaway from the local High Street curry house is certainly a far cry from the natural and nutritious cuisine that is eaten in India itself. This winter, Goaway, specialist operator to Goa and Kerala is offering a free master-class in Indian cuisine when clients buy a two-week trip to Kerala.

Clients who spending seven nights at the Marai Beach cottages, just a short distance from the cities of Cochin and Allepey, will also get to learn to cook Indian cuisine “that will put their local takeaway to shame”. They can take a trip to the nearby spice fields of Kumilly or the bustling markets of Cochin and “become a connoisseur of the roots of Keralan cuisine”. Next, they can jet off to the three-star Udhay Samudra Hotel on Kovalam Beach for seven nights and join the chef there for some top cooking tips. Prices start at just ú 699 pp, including return flights from London to Trivandrum, taxes, private transfers, and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Goaway has also launched an updated website (www.goaway.co.uk) that has enhanced links to all the featured properties in Goa and Kerala. Photographs of local sites, beaches, and the hotel rooms are accompanied by descriptions of each resort, price and airport schedule information. The site also features links to Goaway’s sister company Czech it Out, which specialises in short breaks to Prague.


Discover Egypt, the UK specialist tour operator to the Nile and beyond, has launched its 2004 Egypt brochure with some new additions including new cruise ships, new hotels and an extended programme in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

In operation for five years, Discover Egypt is best known for its seven-night Nile cruises. The operator has added a number of five-star boats and the newly refurbished Deluxe Nile Adventurer to its selection of flagship four-star Viking boats. The lead in price for a seven-night cruise is ú429 pp including return flights, full-board accommodation, transfers and 10 excursions.

The new brochure includes an extended range of hotels, including the Movenpick Jolieville Hotel on Luxor’s Crocodile Island, the Oberoi Hotel in Aswan, three new properties in Sharm el Sheikh, the Nile Hilton in Cairo and the Hilton Plaza in Hurghada. The price for a seven-night hotel stay in Luxor leads in at ú399 pp including return flights, taxes, and seven night’s bed and breakfast accommodation.


India’s Ibex Expeditions, a specialist adventure, eco-tours and cultural-holiday company established in 1979, has launched two new eco-tours, one in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the other in Nagaland, in the North East of India. The Andaman tour looks at experiences in the rain forests, marine life, and helping save the Swiftlet birds nests. The Nagaland tour involves an interactive participation with local tribes,, staying in traditional styled Lodges and finally, helping save the endangered Tragopan pheasant through tourism dollars given for guiding to former poachers.

Other tours include family based jeep safaris to Ladakh, to Palace and heritage forts in Rajasthan and the Ayurveda of Kerala. Journeys are designed for those who choose to tread lightly. Ibex is the only Indian Tourism Company to receive four International awards and one National Award – Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India Award of Excellence 2001; WTM Environmental Company Award 2000; PATA Gold Award 1999; Green Globe Distinction Award 1999; and PATA Asia Discovery Award 1998.


Hideaways International, which claims to be the world’s premier club for discerning travelers seeking out-of-the-ordinary escapes, is launching a new direct-to-consumer marketing programme featuring best-of-kind hideaway hotels, resorts, and other leisure travel opportunities worldwide.

“Over the years, members have asked for our recommendations of international hideaways,” says Founder and President Mike Thiel. “We’re putting our favorites together in this new programme, ‘The Hideaways Collection’, and sharing our choices through a yearly publication and multiple websites. Only a small number of properties that exude a strong sense of place, quality, and provide exceptional service have been invited to participate.”

The directory is a presentation of the partner properties and will reach guests of similarly upscale resorts and hotels worldwide through in-room distribution. Additionally, online systems will deliver clients’ reservation requests and property ratings, while weekly e-newsletters will promote special rates, packages, and offers. Partner properties will also benefit from PR campaigns and marketing support.

Launching in early 2004, the Hideaways Collection plans to give affluent and frequent travellers exclusive entry to a limited number of specially selected and inspected properties worldwide. Guests will enjoy special pricing and VIP perks like room upgrades and complimentary activities.

The directory will be a key component of the services offered to over 20,000 discerning Gold-level members of the Hideaways Aficionado travel club. A new Silver club level is also being introduced online for reaching select group markets. Membership in this club is claimed to approach 20,000 in year one and more than double by year two.

The Hideaways Collection is conceived and managed by Hideaways International, Inc., publisher of Hideaways Guide since 1981. The inaugural issue will be published in early 2004, with annual issues to follow.


Caribbean Escapes Cooperative Marketing, Inc., designed to market luxury travel to the Caribbean, launched the Caribbean Escapes Collection at the WTM 2003. By invitation only, the programme will feature 25 destinations and 100 of the Caribbean’s best resorts which will be “guaranteed exposure to millions of potential guests”. The Collection will showcase the best in dining, golf and spa experiences and upscale boutiques in the 25 destinations.

The company claims this is an untapped opportunity to “stimulate highly profitable travel to the Caribbean via a campaign targetted at the prosperous jet-setter and luxury-seeker profile”. The company’s Principal Glenn Harris says the Escapes Collection offers that through “integrated efforts of television programming, alluring publications and enticing multimedia presentations.”

Highlights of the programme include an glossy publication Extraordinary Caribbean Escapes; a Specialty Broadcast Segment TV program, a dedicated website, as well as supplemental radio promotions, print advertising, public relations and targeted travel agents marketing efforts.

The publication, Extraordinary Caribbean EscapeS, will feature editorial on select properties, and fine dining restaurants, upscale shopping retailers, golf and spa reviews and will be written by leading travel writers. It will be distributed primarily through subscription sales, cross marketing on the website and the specialty-broadcast segment, as well as sales through leading bookstore retailers. It will also be placed in the guest room of each resort featured. The estimated initial viewership is over two million affluent Caribbean travellers.

The Specialty Broadcast Segment has been developed to generate television coverage for each partner. The 30-minute segment, scheduled to appear on two networks in 225 markets in the US as well as via satellite, will include the highlights of each destination. Each property can include video footage and interviews with various management or guests. The television segment will drive the viewer to book their vacation, purchase the Escapes publication, and/or view the Website. A high profile celebrity host is in the works.

The www.CaribbeanEscapes.com Website, designed to provide a pre-travel research and purchasing experience, will be marketed through advertising in travel and lifestyle publications and newspapers. It will provide information on each participating resort including room categories, rates, restaurants, available services, as well as editorial content. Partner websites will be able to “show through” the Caribbean Escapes Website and contact the property directly. Through a partnership with World Travel Vision, the Website will also feature 10 virtual tour images for each participating property as well as additional multimedia features.

A Caribbean Escapes Collection Brochure will promote special offers and destination promotions and will be distributed in key airports such as LaGuardia, O’Hare and Kennedy airports, and within Florida at hotels, tourist attractions, and upscale shopping malls. Pre-travel circulation target is 300,000 readers. Another brochure will be developed to spotlight golf in the Caribbean and distributed through various golf retailers and courses in the United States.

To participate, properties must only provide four, five-night packages and are required to place the publication in the guest rooms. The 25 destinations may choose to expand their exposure from the Caribbean Escapes Special Broadcast TV Segment with minimal investment to offset programming development costs.


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