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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021 • SELLINGTRAVEL.CO.UK

TONIC WATERS Cruise lines hope that growing 'vaccination confidence' will spark a return of clients to Europe's rivers

how to sell...

Spain Dubai Workations

STANDING BY TRAVEL AGENTS

Ocean Cruising

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I AM YOUR BEACH I am Gran Canaria. #somuchtolivefor

Discover the full story

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Contents /

3

All around the world

inside this issue Trend-watching 06 New beginnings: Fresh ideas for new experiences 08 What's new 2021: How new product is shaping bookings 11 Travel Talk: With Arena Travel and Seychelles Tourism Board 12 Four-sight: Vaccine confidence paves the way

what's new 2021

08

Globe-hopping

workations

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16 Spain: This perennial favourite is gearing up for a summer comeback 20 Six of the best: Summer hotspots in Alberta 21 Dubai: Outdoor activities and experiences aplenty 24 Atlantic Canada: Natural appeal across four provinces 25 How to sell: Cruising the world's oceans 28 European river cruises: Why they are a top seller for the over-50s market 33 Six of the best: Workations

spain

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dubai

atlantic canada

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24

european river cruises

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Trade talk 34 The review: Industry update plus health passport interview

new beginnings

06

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4 / Welcome EDITORIAL EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Steve Hartridge

ASSISTANT EDITOR Jessica Pook CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

January/February

It's time to dream

Bev Fearis, Julie Baxter & April Waterston

WRITERS Laura Gelder, Debbie Ward & Jane Archer

PUBLISHING PUBLISHERS Steve Thompson steven.thompson@sellingtravel.co.uk Sally Parker sally.parker@sellingtravel.co.uk

ADVERTISING MANAGER Lisa Merrigan lisa.merrigan@sellingtravel.co.uk

CIRCULATION MANAGER Shani Kunar

MANAGING DIRECTOR Matt Bonner

CEO Martin Steady

DESIGN & PRODUCTION DESIGNER Caitlan Francis

PRODUCTION & STUDIO MANAGER Clare Hunter

PRODUCTION ADMINISTRATOR Steve Hunter (PRINT) ISSN 2056-9319. © BMI PUBLISHING LTD 2021.

SELLING TRAVEL IS PUBLISHED BY BMI PUBLISHING LTD: 501 THE RESIDENCE, NO. 1 ALEXANDRA TERRACE, GUILDFORD, GU1 3DA, UK. T: 020 8649 7233 E: ENQUIRIES@BMIPUBLISHING.CO.UK BMIPUBLISHING.CO.UK • SELLINGTRAVEL.CO.UK WE ARE MEMBERS OF THE CARIBBEAN TOURISM ORGANIZATION, VISIT USA ASSOCIATION, LATA, PATA, MENATA, SATOA, THE FOREIGN AIRLINES ASSOCIATION AND THE INSTITUTE OF TRAVEL & TOURISM. WHILE EVERY EFFORT IS MADE TO ENSURE ACCURACY, BMI PUBLISHING LTD CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ERRORS OR OMISSIONS. COVER IMAGE: BUDAPEST, HUNGARY CREDIT: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM This publication is printed on Revivew 100 Media and Revive recycled coated, recycled paper grades that are FSC® Recycled certified and Carbon Balanced.

Please note that Selling Travel, owned and published by BMI Publishing Ltd., is not connected in any way to Selling Travel e-magazine published by SMP Training Co. and based in British Columbia, Canada. The latter online publication focuses exclusively on sales skills and all aspects of professional selling within the travel and tourism sectors. To benefit from this travel industry sales training resource visit sellingtravel.net

A

s January rolled into February there were signs that we might soon begin to plan for a time free of the stranglehold the pandemic has on our daily lives. Let's not be so bold as to call this a 'road map' – for such a thing details how to get from a starting point to an end destination and few would claim we have that in place right now – but a sketchy vision of a world where travel is possible is emerging. In early February, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary hailed the UK vaccination programme as “a stunning success” Steve Hartridge before quickly adding that vaccinations, not lockdowns, offered EDITOR the way out of Covid-19. You would expect the boss of an airline that lost a reported 306 million euros in the last quarter of 2020 to suggest that people should be encouraged to get out of their houses and start travelling again as soon as possible. But he had a point in noting that if all 'highrisk categories' are on track to be vaccinated by February, and half the UK population is vaccinated by April, travel for many could be a realistic prospect by early summer. Of course, the rest of Europe – and indeed the world – needs to catch up with the UK's impressive vaccine roll-out, but if the vaccine makers can keep up or increase the pace of their production levels some countries around the globe could be ready by early summer to welcome back millions of Brits newly-injected with 'vaccine confidence'. In the meantime, there is no bar on dreaming and agents can still plan ahead for those sunnier days by updating themselves on all the latest destination news and trends. Not everyone can go as far as Travel Counsellor Yvonne Campbell, who has relocated to the Caribbean and is taking advantage of Barbados' long-stay visa to turn herself into an expert on the island (see our Travel Talk interview at www. sellingtravel.co.uk), but for others we hope the following pages offer some inspiration during these bleak and uncertain winter days. Stay healthy, stay hopeful and keep dreaming!

With this issue Your Guide to Canada's classic driving routes From British Columbia out west to Prince Edward Island in the east Canada is packed full of exciting road trips. Discover six of the best to recommend to clients by seeing sellingtravel.co.uk/magazines

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for every new booking in January and February

Please visit www.titanagents.co.uk to claim your voucher online

Terms and conditions apply. Valid for new bookings made between 01 Jan 28 Feb 2021. Agents responsible for any tax implications. No cash alternatives. Agents must claim each incentive by the end of the calendar month the new booking was made in. For more details see www.titanagents.co.uk

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Trend watching

6 // New New beginnings beginnings

Bali

Feel-good factor On Bali’s southwest coast, family-owned Nirjhara opened its doors at the start of 2021. Described as a ‘secluded and environmentally-conscious haven’, the property has 25 suites and villas, including seven treehouse canopy suites that offer waterfall, river, jungle or rice paddy views. As part of its ‘slow food’ approach, 95% of its ingredients are sourced from the hotel’s vegetable garden and neighbouring farms. nirjhara.com

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Trend watching New New beginnings beginnings //

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Rwanda

Floating safari Get closer to the action with a stay onboard the Mantis Kivu Queen uBuranga, a houseboat-style hotel due to sail Lake Kivu in Rwanda from mid-2021. Featuring 10 cabins, a swimming pool, a spa, a viewing deck with a hot tub and a restaurant and bar, the luxurious vessel offers a relaxed way to explore Rwanda’s largest lake. And when they disembark, passengers will have the chance to track endangered mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. mantiscollection.com

Colorado

Take the scenic route Clients can take in the rugged terrain of Colorado and Utah from the comfort of a glass-domed train on Rocky Mountaineer’s brand-new luxury train journey, due to launch in August 2021. The Rockies to the Red Rocks route is a two-day rail journey between Denver in Colorado, and Moab in Utah, with an overnight stay in the historic mountain town of Glenwood Springs. Passengers will wind past the Colorado River and marvel at the red rock formations lining the cliffs in Ruby Canyon. rockymountaineer.com

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Trend spotting

8 / What’s new 2021

Building back

better

The travel sector still faces an uncertain 2021 but the pandemic is already shaping booking patterns and new brochure offerings, say Debbie Ward

W

hen travel returns it will come back with a bang. At least that’s the hope of the trade, with signs that pent-up demand will lead to both higher spirits and consumer spends. After the turmoil of 2020, the vaccine roll-out should herald a greater normality – perhaps from the summer on – but uncertainty is the watchword. Meanwhile, new product from operators reflects both pandemic trends and longer-term hopes.

madeira, Portugal

New product Villas, the perfect accommodation for ‘bubble holidays’, have been among easier recent sells and specialist Oliver’s Travels has launched a Maldives collection featuring some of the destination’s largest. By contrast, it is also debuting more Scottish castles for staycations and has launched chic French island Il de Re and foodie favourite Piedmont in Italy. Agents will receive new offers from Planet Holidays for Athens and islands’ twincentres with September departures. The operator has added smaller Greek islands such as Leros and boosted accommodation, particularly on Santorini. Domes of Corfu is among the new-launch hotels for 2021. Madeira and Malta are new for Sovereign and the operator has expanded across the UAE, Caribbean and Thailand. Among its highlight properties is the new IKOS Andalusia. Other big-name hotels opening in 2021 include Bvlgari Hotel Paris; Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid; Kempinski Palace Engelberg in the Swiss Alps and Six Senses in Rome and Ibiza.

Intrepid Travel is running its first season of Antarctica expedition cruises in winter 2021/22 on-board Ocean Endeavour. Elsewhere it’s playing safe with new UK and Ireland experiences like trekking the Wicklow Mountains, hiking the Cairngorms with reindeer and exploring Hadrian’s Wall. “The trips are designed to support local communities impacted by the pandemic and help travellers uncover the hidden spots away from the tourist trail,” says Zina Bencheikh, Managing Director EMEA. UK and Europe cycling itineraries are also seeing healthy demand. “For the safety conscious, cycling offers natural social distancing and lots of time outdoors. It’s also one of the most eco-friendly ways to see the world,” says Bencheikh. “Some of the most popular choices for next year are Cycle the Lake District and, booking further ahead, Vietnam, Jordan and Morocco.”

Upgrades and bucket lists While numerous jobs and businesses have been lost to the pandemic, financially stable clients may have saved on commuting

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Trend spotting What’s new 2021 /

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Petra, Jordan

Nuwara Elyia, Sri Lanka

Safari, south africa

costs, nights out and 2020 holidays and be looking to splash this extra cash on so-called ‘revenge travel’ to make up for a year of missed travel opportunities. In the wake of the vaccine roll-out announcement, Saga launched a Once in a Lifetime collection following a spike in website searches for the likes of the TransSiberian Railway, India and New Zealand. ‘Saving and upgrading’ is very much the trend, agrees Kuoni, which has seen bookings a year or more ahead for bucket list safaris and holidays with extra luxuries such as business class tickets, helicopter transfers and hot air balloon flights. Upgrades are also trending for Sovereign, but in line with ongoing Covid concerns. Head of Trade Partnerships, Simon Garrido, explains: “Families are booking suites to have more space and their own pool facilities. All-inclusives mean guests can be confident of the resort’s food and hygiene standards. They can also monitor social distancing better than when eating out and they can choose to eat meals in their room if there’s space to do so.”

Active clients are seeking cycle tours

Sovereign’s clients are also extending from seven to 10 nights and others to 21 days. Also, thanks to ‘workation’ opportunities, the operator is offering long-stay packages in the Maldives, Mauritius, the Mediterranean and Caribbean, discounted by up to 60%. Oliver’s Travels is also experiencing workation demand, particularly for the shoulder seasons. “As a result, phone signal and strong wifi connection in properties is regularly enquired about and is important to customers when they are deciding where to book,” points out Co-Founder, Oliver Bell. Villas and small properties are trending for Planet Holidays, with most requests for August onwards. Managing Director, Mathilde Robert expects 2021 to be a game of extremes. “There are two types of clients: the ones who have little disposable income but still want a holiday and will be looking for very cheap deals, which will be hard to find, especially in high season, and the top- endof-the-market clients who did not have a holiday in 2020 and will want to spend more and upgrade,” she said.

Blackrock castle, Ireland

“Financially stable clients may have saved on commuting costs, nights out and 2020 holidays and be looking to splash extra cash on so-called ‘revenge travel’ to make up for a year of missed fun”

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Trend spotting

10 / What’s new 2021

Seychelles

Everest Base Camp

Space and family

tent

Discover more travel trends at sellingtravel.co.uk/articles

Santorini, greece

seals in Antarctica

Bucket list ambitions are being coupled with a desire for space in Intrepid’s forward bookings, with Vietnam, Nepal and Peru best-sellers and polar trips, including its new Antarctica cruises, drawing interest. “We’re seeing strong demand for all types of wilderness travel as people want to spend more time outdoors, from the Galapagos to Costa Rica,” explains Bencheikh. In a similar vein, PATA’s 2021 Travel Patterns Report notes increasing demand for off-grid hotels and community-based experiences in Asia Pacific, plus ‘slow travel’ immersive holidays in one location. Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) UK & Ireland, Chris Crampton, said: “Our tour operator members have reported huge amounts of excitement from clients that now have the confidence to rebook their 2020 travel plans for 2021. Chic Locations’ bookings in November were really strong, their best month since April, largely dominated by

n co

Phuket, Thailand

the Maldives. Mid-haul destinations such as Oman and Dubai are proving favourable as the flight time is manageable and they offer relaxing beach holidays with a mix of culture and adventure. There is pent-up demand for Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bali, all excellent value-for-money holidays, and villa holidays.” Oliver’s Travels is not expecting a sudden shift from last year’s habits, with the UK and France still driving bookings. “I think seclusion will continue to be a key trend, with people looking for places they can disconnect and relax in privacy away from as many other people as possible,” says Bell. “For many, this will mean staying local and visiting places that are easily accessible by car.” Clients are also keen to make up for lost family time. A quarter of Intrepid’s top 25 itineraries booked during the second half of 2020 were for family-themed tours (notably in Africa and Asia) compared to 12% during the same period in 2019. Bencheikh adds: “We’re also seeing appetite for multi-

generational or extended family groups as families want to reunite after time apart.”

Big events in 20121 The summer Olympics in Japan tops the list of major events still hoping to run but by mid-January hopes were fading. Meanwhile, Greece hopes to celebrate its bicentenary of independence with (Covidpermitting) outdoor events this summer. In France fingers are firmly crossed for the bi-annual Semaine du Golfe regatta in Brittany and the Le Mans classic car race. In December, a rare total eclipse should be visible from Antarctica and South Africa. While this year is still something of a guessing game, some themes are more certain. With restrictions remaining, staycations and European corridor hops (when possible) will dominate. Families will be looking to reconnect, so expect multigenerational holidays later in the year. And financially unscathed clients will be looking at bucket list destinations and add-ons.•

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Trend spotting Travel talk /

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“Many of our clients are near the top of the queue for the vaccine and are starting to plan ahead” Steve Goodenough, Managing Director, Arena Travel Although still relatively small numbers, bookings in January almost doubled those recorded in December, so it has certainly been an encouraging start to the year. As the vaccine rolls out, we expect things will continue to pick up steadily from February onwards. As specialists in tours and trips for more mature travellers, including river cruises and escorted holidays by rail, many of our clients are near the top of the queue for

the vaccine and it is clear that they are starting to plan ahead. Approximately half of our bookings this month to date have been for single travellers, many of whom have really felt the effects of lockdown and are the keenest to get back to travelling with like-minded people.

Hobby holidays We have seen our European river cruises and UK escorted rail itineraries doing well, reflecting interest in getting out and about to explore closer to home as soon as it is safe and possible to do so. Bookings and enquiries for our specialist products

including our crafting, art history and garden tours, as well as our bridge playing holidays, have also been noticeably picking up since the turn of the year. Although demand does seem to be on the rise, we still expect to see a strong lates market, but capacity will be far more limited than in previous years due to the high volume of passengers already transferred from 2020. We hope to encourage clients to book early with flexible cancellation policies in place they can be sure that their bookings are safe should there be further restrictions to travel. arenatravel.com

“Seychelles among the first countries to welcome fully-vaccinated visitors” Sherin Francis, CEO, Seychelles Tourism Board The Seychelles has become one of the first countries to welcome fullyvaccinated visitors from any part of the world, meaning travellers no longer need to quarantine on arrival – providing it has been two weeks since their second vaccination. We are also in the process of actioning an aggressive vaccination campaign whereby 75% of the adult population should be vaccinated by mid-March. This will also ensure the country is in a safe position

to receive non-vaccinated visitors with a negative PCR test. The UK is among our top five markets and we have continued to see a steady stream of arrivals thanks to our time being on the UK’s travel corridor list.

Island niche Comprising 115 islands, our diversity and island-hopping opportunities are what set us apart from other destinations in the Indian Ocean. Despite having the world’s most photographed beach, the Seychelles is more than a fly-and-flop destination. Most of our inner islands are made from granite, creating a mountainous terrain perfect for

hiking and nature. For first-time visitors we recommend starting with our most popular island-hopping itinerary: Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, and adding more islands if clients have the time. Mahé is our largest island and home to Victoria, the world’s smallest capital; Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve is located on Praslin, which is where the native coco de mer nut grows and La Digue is our cultural island, home to the Anse Source D’Argent, one of the world’s most photographed beaches. Cover more ground with a five-day cruise or island-hop via helicopter for that ultraluxury experience. seychelles.travel

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Trend watching

12 / Four-sight

‘Vaccination vacation’ With a vaccine on the horizon, is the prospect of ‘Covid immunity’ boosting consumer confidence? And how are agents staying connected to clients?

Check in on clients

Diversify your destinations

“Being vaccinated is playing a part in holiday planning” There was a day during Peaks last year where I’d made six bookings by lunchtime. This year I had two enquiries in an afternoon which, by current standards, is quite something! It’s not our usual kind of busy, but at least there is some interest. The majority of our customers are over 60, so the prospect of being vaccinated is definitely playing a part in holiday planning and boosting their confidence to travel. However, many of the countries we sell to are either currently closed to tourism or won’t be as advanced with vaccinations as the UK, which will delay plans. We will certainly have to diversify the destinations we sell, for the time being at least. We’ve kept in contact with our existing clients and found our relationships even stronger with many customers – even those in the Rye area where we no longer have a shopfront. The team is keeping the conversation flowing by phone, email and Facebook so that when customers are ready to book they know who to come back to! Whilst the really fun part of the job – planning and booking holidays – is seriously lacking, it makes you even more determined to go the extra mile when someone does want a trip planned.

THE FAMILY BUSINESS

Anneka Desrosiers

Southern Cross Travel, East Sussex

I delayed writing this until the last possible minute as the situation continues to change on a daily basis, with the travel industry taking one step forward and then one step back. As a travel agent still active at 70, the imminent first jab does bring much optimism, however this is tempered by the realism of the timetable for the vast majority of people, not only in the UK but in Europe and worldwide. Many agents are faced with the reality that travel will not resume in the immediate months ahead and are now having to rebook cancellations from spring 2020 to new dates in spring 2022.

“There seems to be total uncertainty from small ship suppliers” Within my niche of small-ship cruising there seems to be total uncertainty from suppliers. The same hour that I received further cancellations from a UK-based cruise operator offering no-fly UK sailings (surely the most Covid-proof of cruises), I received special offers on May sailings from a U.S.-based small-ship cruise line for trips around the Mediterranean. It’s going to be a tough few months until we can answer the question: “When will it be safe to travel again?”

THE CRUISE SPECIALIST

James Hill

Go Cruise, Cruise specialist, Worcestershire

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Trend watching Four-sight /

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` Check in and keep the conversation flowing ´´ “We won’t forget those that worked with us to assist clients” This year hasn’t started the way any of us expected or hoped for! Speaking to customers, friends and family I know everyone is hoping the vaccine will be the solution to travel safely again. We only have a handful of bookings for dates up to end of March and I’m unsure how many of these – if any – will actually go ahead. I do still feel optimistic for later this year though and hope to be inundated with bookings as we move through 2021. I’d like to thank the tour operators that answered their phones, replied to emails, kept on enough staff to deal with issues and refunded and updated us promptly. We won’t forget those that worked with us to assist customers and we will book with them again. Those same tour operators have developed flexible T&Cs which give us the tools and information we need to encourage new bookings. I think as long as we are all realistic about what might happen, money is financially protected and travel arrangements can be amended, confidence to travel will return. We also won’t forget those that seemed to ignore us as we worked tirelessly with too many false promises. No need to name names – we all have a list I’m sure!

At a time when people can’t travel, we must invest in ourselves and our agencies. The latest restrictions present a good excuse to ring your customers to see how they are and how they are coping. I will be encouraging customers to get the vaccine to promote safer travel and also get them thinking about a postvaccination holiday. It’s a great way to turn a negative into a positive and will be crucial in getting the travel industry up and running again. I can’t wait to have mine, even though I hate needles! For those that are still working from home, I would recommend signing up for the daily ABTA Destination Operational Bulletins which provide updates on the ever-changing travel guidelines. I think consumers will be very wary about who they book with once they decide to travel again. I have seen articles advising readers against using online travel agents such as eDreams, Opodo and eSky who are not held to ABTA’s code of conduct and have been charging twice the price for flights. This is good news for us reputable agents as people will do their research and book based on our protection policies.

“Get clients thinking about a postvaccination holiday”

THE HIGH STREET AGENCY

Liz Beaty

THE HOME WORKER

Rebooking for spring 2022

tion a n i c c a v Post- day? holi

Next issue: Are you seeing a newfound ‘vaccine confidence’ from clients in the over-50 bracket?

Sandy Murray

The Travel Team Brampton, Cumbria

Sandy's Travel Escapes

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Visit USA News N E W S A N D V IE W S FROM V I SI T U SA MEMBERS • V I SI T U SA. O RG. U K

Digital Travel Planner maps way to USA

Nashville museum The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) has opened in Nashville, Tennessee. Located in the new Fifth+Broadway development downtown, NMAAM cover 50 genres and sub-genres of music, including spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B and hip hop. On display are 1,500-plus artefacts, memorabilia and clothing,

tnvacation.com

Central Florida

Visit Central Florida has a new online training programme for travel agents. The course provides information and updates on resorts and attractions in the region. Central Florida Travel Specialist Academy graduates qualify for discounts and upgraded benefits in

The Visit USA (UK) Association has published a new updated Travel Planner to help travellers looking for inspirational travel ideas when planning a trip to the USA. The digital flipbook guide uses strong visual content and engaging narrative to illustrate the huge diversity of experiences on offer in the USA and also lists the contact details of all Visit USA members. The Travel Planner provides a taste of a wide range of experiences – from Native America to National Parks to Road Trips to Beaches. An interactive map details the different states, highways, gateway cities and train routes and will help readers plan their trip Stateside.

Sarah Lax, Chair of Visit USA (UK) said: “This is going to be a hugely important year for travel to the USA, as and when international borders start to open up. The Visit USA Travel Planner offers up-to-date and relevant content for those planning a visit this year and beyond, along with contact information of trusted partners to help make those USA trips a reality”. As well as a digital magazine, the Visit USA website at visitusa.org.uk includes an informative Blog plus details of offers, ideas and travel opportunities from its members. Download the 2021 Travel Planner from the Visit USA website at: visitusa.org.uk/TravelPlannerST

the destination.

visitcentralflorida.org

Virgin helps NHS

Virgin Atlantic crew, pilots, ground and office-based staff are working with the NHS and St John’s Ambulance service, assisting with the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine. Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, said "hundreds" of Virgin employees had signed up to support the NHS. virgin-atlantic.com

BLOG "Riding the exhilarating rapids,

surrounded by scenery littered with breathtaking rock formations, waterfalls and wildlife, exceeded all my expectations." Read Ruby Briggs blog of her white-water rafting trip on the mighty Colorado River, which flows 220 miles along the floor of the Grand Canyon. More Blog content at visitusa.org.uk/Blog Look out for our Visit USA (UK) online Travel Update for the pick of members' news

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DAVE PATRICK SANEZ

A DV E R T OR IA L

Philippines

Gears up for 2021 T

Consumer travel aspirations for the Philippines remain high, helped by the prestigious accolades the destination received at the 2020 World Travel Awards: *World’s Leading Dive Destination: Philippines *World’s Leading Tourist Attraction: Intramuros, Philippines PDOT-TPBP participated in 2020’s virtual World Travel Market to retain vital market presence and network with the most important players in the British/European travel trade and media. It also joined the UK’s biggest consumer travel show, Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show, held in London this January to offer keen travellers inspiration for their long-awaited holidays. While the Philippines is currently closed to foreign leisure visitors, the country has been improving its travel safety protocols and service capacities and has opened up travel routes and bubbles to allow for and promote domestic travel, helping to prepare the country for when it reopens to international visitors. This will be a pivotal year for the PDOT, as it gears up for a healthy rebound, the reactivation of its travel trade and media partnerships, and the intensification of its digital marketing campaign and consumer activations. itsmorefuninthephilippines.co.uk

ERWIN LIM

he Philippines is hugely optimistic about a rebound in the outbound UK travel market, despite the continuing challenges of the pandemic. With 7,000 islands to choose from, the Philippines is looking forward to sharing its award-winning beaches, world-class diving and natural wonders with UK travellers once again. “The UK is our perennial top-source market for the Philippines in Europe,” said PH Tourism Director Gerry Panga. “We put a premium on the British and European travellers who stay longer and spend more, exploring less-visited destinations in our country.” The ongoing mass vaccination in the UK is increasing the market’s confidence and resulting in more travel queries and future bookings for long-haul destinations, such as the Philippines. Panga adds: “Although most Brits are looking at staycations and travelling within Europe in the short term, we are buoyed by their aspiration and demand for long-haul destinations, particularly locations offering sunshine and beaches during this winter season.” The PH Department of Tourism’s (PDOT) London office and the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (TPBP) have been conducting soft marketing and online consumer activations to ensure that British travellers have the Philippines front-of-mind, under the banner campaign #WakeUpInPH.

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Globe hopping

16 / Spain

Here comes the

sun

Spain and its islands are still hoping they will be able to welcome a record number of Brits this summer, says Jessica Pook

B

efore I’ve had a chance to look at the menu, a bowl of steaming paella is placed in front of me. “Sorry I only ordered a cerveza,” I say in my worse Spanish. But as I make my way from bar to bar, each offering me a different view of the towering sand-hued Alhambra Palace, the free tapas keeps coming. Having cancelled my dinner plans, I learn that it is customary to serve tapas with every round of drinks in Granada. If it wasn’t for the fresh seafood platters and decadent meat and cheese boards still tempting me, I’d wonder how the

restaurants here make any money. Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain’s Andalusia region, Granada is often overlooked for its lack of beach –- it sits an hour inland – but if clients are after a culture-rich, food indulgent city-break Granada can deliver. There’s a distinct Moorish influence as I walk the narrow streets of the Arab quarter, which emits spicy aromas and entices me to spend on soft leather and trinkets, but nowhere is this more pronounced than at the fortress that dominates the city. Spain’s most visited attraction, the Alhambra is a romantic relic of Moorish

caldera de taburiente national park, la palma

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Granada’s alhambra, a spectacUlar relic of moorish rule

rule, dating back to the 14th century. The blazing Spanish sun accentuates every intricate carving as I find shade under a grand archway, but from one of the viewpoints I can still spy the snowcovered peaks of the Sierra Nevada, reminding me that this region is a ski resort from December to April.

Back with a vengeance Travellers were left pining for sunshine and sangria as Covid-19 quashed summer holiday plans to the Spanish region last summer. When the Canary and Balearic islands were added to the UK’s corridor list at the end of 2020, agents rejoiced at the chance to sell some Spanish winter sun –

plaza de espana, seville

though the good news proved short-lived. As January came to a close, the Spanish Tourist Office was clinging on to the hope that travel would resume in the spring, or at worst in the summer. There will likely be no shortage of takers, with pent-up demand for Spain and its surrounding islands evident for this year and next, with some operators gearing up for a record-breaking year. “Customers are eager to return to normality and as a result are not necessarily putting a price tag on their desired holiday,” said Michael Vinales, Managing Director of Olympic Holidays. “We’re seeing customers booking a range of durations, especially longer stays of two weeks and upwards, and mostly to our top-

tasty tapas

selling destinations which include Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Our island-hopping adventures are also proving very popular.” The safety of travellers remains the top priority for the tourist office as it prepares for what it hopes will be a busy summer season. “Our outlook for 2021 is an optimistic one as we are now more equipped than ever to control the virus and receive tourists with their safety being our highest priority,” said Javier Pinanes, Director of the Spanish Tourist Office in the UK. “Work is continually being carried out in the Spanish regions to prepare for the return of tourism and to build back consumer confidence. This includes the development of a new microsite called Travel Safe, to inform travellers about the requirements and conditions for safe travel to Spain, and to inspire and encourage tourists to travel here.” Nacho Gozalbo, Commercial Director of Palladium Hotel Group, is anticipating a busy summer season. He said: “The vaccine developments and our long and strong relationship with the UK market gives us optimism for the year ahead. “We know there is a huge demand for holidays to both the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. Given the proximity

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4 Active trips Cycle around Majorca: With 1,732km of cycle paths, Majorca has become a bucket-list destination for the world’s amateur and professional cyclists alike. The Government of Majorca has drawn up several itineraries which vary in difficulty in terms of the distance and unevenness of terrain, resulting in a network of sixteen scenic routes.

dramatic rock formations in gran canaria

of the islands and increased UK flight connections, we feel very confident that we will have a positive summer.”

What’s new

Tour operator Olympic Holidays has introduced a seven-day island-hopping experience around the Canary Islands. The Lanzarote and Fuerteventura Island Hop explores both volcanic islands with cycling, diving and kitesurfing. G Adventures has launched a series of hiking tours in Southern Spain, Ibiza and the Canary Islands. The tours have been designed to encourage agents to rethink popular destinations and show them in a different light. Inntravel has explored the trend for slow travel with its new Flavours of Bilbao, San Sebastian and Bordeaux rail journey. The scenic tour includes Michelinstar dining experiences, a visit to the Guggenheim Museum and a stop at Guernica, a town which was bombed in the Spanish Civil War. Pura Aventura’s new 12-day Three Caminos Inn-to-Inn self-guided walking trip traverses the Camino del Norte, the little-known Camino Vadiniense and the Camino Frances, all pilgrimages leading to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela.

Accommodation OKU Hotels, launches its collection of five-star hideaways with the opening of OKU Ibiza on April 30. It has 184 rooms and the island’s largest pool. Luxury Hotel Royal River & Spa opened its doors last December in Costa Adeje, Tenerife. In addition to 29 suites, it features 21 villas with private pools and its own spa. Opening in spring 2021 is the Zafiro Palace Andratx in Mallorca. It offers prime access to the nearby Andratx Golf Club.

Where to book it G Adventures – 0207 313 6953 G Adventures has put its eight-day Walk the Camino de Santiago--Plus trip on sale from £679pp. The tour covers the final 100km of the pilgrim’s trail. gadventures.com •

lanzarote’s coastline

Walk the Camino: Some say they have a spiritual awakening when they walk this ancient pilgrim’s passage. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful network of walking trails, all leading to Catedral de Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. This year is a Holy Year - when the Day of Santiago ( July 25) falls on a Sunday. The belief is that if you pass through the Holy Door during a Holy Year (something that occurs only 14 times a century) all your sins are forgiven. Sail the Canaries: Explore the Canary Islands by boat on a seven-day island-hopping adventure. Clients will learn how to sail a 15m yacht on this roundtrip from Tenerife to La Gomera to La Palma with time spent in San Sebastian and Santa Cruz. Ski the Sierra: The Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Granada province is home to Europe’s most southerly ski resort, with over 120 pistes open from December until April. Runs total 106km and vary from narrow tracks for beginners to off-piste options for experts.

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20 / Sponsored feature

Summer in

Alberta Beyond the soaring peaks of the Canadian Rockies summer months can be spent between Alberta’s buzzing big cities and sprawling national parks

Writing-OnStone UNESCO World Heritage Site, Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta has been sacred to Indigenous Blackfoot people for thousands of years. It’s filled with history and natural wonders, and the sandstone cliffs are adorned with ancient Indigenous petroglyphs. The carvings depict sacred people, spirits, battles and stories that date back nearly 4,000 years. A guided tour is the best way to visit.

Drumheller & Horseshoe Canyon Millions of years ago dinosaurs roamed Alberta – and there’s proof. The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller is an easy day-trip from Calgary and home to what is considered one of the best dinosaur fossil collections in the world. Don’t miss the chance to fossil hunt around the surrounding Canadian Badlands. Stop to see the hoodoos (soft rock formations) in Horseshoe Canyon on the way back.

Waterton Lakes Waterton Lakes National Park is equally as stunning as Banff and Canmore – minus the crowds. Located 272km from Calgary, the drive down to Waterton breaks into the expansive mountain-scape you see on postcards. There are hiking trails for all ability levels – try the Bertha Falls or Red Rock Canyon. And don’t miss stopping by the historic Prince of Wales Hotel, which overlooks the namesake lakes.

Calgary Visit historic Inglewood, which has some of the best locally-owned boutiques, restaurants and breweries in Alberta’s largest city. East Village has easy access to the park on St. Patrick’s Island and the downtown core, which includes historic Stephen Avenue or 17th Avenue, the place to be for nightlife, shopping and dining. Calgary Zoo, Calgary Tower, the Central Library and Studio Bell are highlights of a city tour.

Edmonton The North Saskatchewan River Valley in Alberta’s capital city is the perfect spot for a summer picnic on the green. But it’s in neighbourhoods like Old Strathcona where you’ll find some of the best local restaurants in the city – whether you’re in the mood for a casual 50s-style diner or fine dining, with many chefs emphasising farm-to-table dining. It’s also filled with exceptional locally owned craft breweries and distilleries.

Elk Island National Park Less than an hour from Edmonton is Elk Island National Park, an important refuge for bison. The national park is home to the bison conservation facility, which encourages visitors to learn about these shaggy giants with tours and demonstrations. Elk Island is also a dark sky preserve, offering campers the chance to sleep under a blanket of stars after a day spent hiking, kayaking or wildlife watching.

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proof

Dubai, a destination that rarely stands still, has plenty of outdoor activities and adventures to offer nervous travellers mindful of Covid-19 risks, says laura Gelder deSert Safari

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hot desert wind blows between rows of vast metal warehouses but inside each one the air is fresh and cool and there’s abundant space to enjoy the contents – from sparse galleries with blank white walls showcasing avantgarde art to a trendy plant-based café and stylish community spaces. Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue is a marble factory-turned arty warehouse destination in the Al Quoz industrial district and attracts a cool crowd of locals. When I step into A4 I realise I could be anywhere (though most likely somewhere like Brooklyn or Shoreditch) but I hadn’t expected a co-working space like this in Dubai. The minimalist room is festooned with green plants, the smell of fresh coffee permeates the air and there’s a gentle

soundtrack of tapping keyboards. People are perched on stylish chairs gazing at Apple laptops and up the industrial staircase a group from a well-known soft drink brand are brainstorming. One of the effects of Covid-19 on the developed world has been the rise of remote working and it’s likely to make plenty more hubs like this pop up, full of digital nomads whose travels now combine business and pleasure.

sculptural works and murals by local artists, a dedicated podcast room for audiophiles, weekly art tours, movie nights, workshops and community pop-ups. Other arty options include Jameel Arts

thinking outside the box Alserkal Avenue is just one of the emirate’s arty destinations and a great place to work or hang out without worrying about crowds. Recently opened in Downtown Dubai is another hybrid venue, Foundry. Part art hub, part co-working space, it pays homage to the city’s creative scene with

the la Mer diStrict

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Discover more Dubai features at sellingtravel.co.uk/articles

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

“While Dubai is well-known for its luxury hotels and fiercely air-conditioned shopping malls, there are a number of outdoor attractions which will sate those still unsure of mixing outside their bubble indoors”

camel trek

Centre, a creative space with an open-air sculpture park, and the beachfront district of La Mer in Jumeirah – one of Dubai’s most recent and prolific street art hubs, blending murals and graffiti with a plethora of restaurants serving international cuisine on shaded terraces. Dubai experienced a rush of visitors around the turn of the year and no wonder – a combination of scorching temperatures, relatively short flights times and being on the government’s corridor list made it an attractive option. When the UK’s travel corridors open again Dubai will remain a great option for sun-seekers looking to escape ahead of the summer. The destination is one of many to be awarded the WTTC’s Safe Travels stamp and Dubai Tourism’s Senior Manager of International Operations, Shahab Shayan, says a robust strategy was put into place from the start of the pandemic. “The key priority was to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our residents and guests,” she says. “We also launched the ‘Dubai Assured’ compliance programme, awarded to tourism and retail establishments that comply with health and safety protocols; inspectors check venues every two weeks to ensure compliance.”

While Dubai is well known for its luxury hotels and fiercely air-conditioned shopping malls, there are a number of outdoor attractions which will sate those still unsure of mixing outside their bubble indoors.

What’s new? Accommodation: Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown opened in October, close to the Dubai Mall. The 269 rooms feature bespoke shisha lamps and carved wooden wardrobes while the bathrooms pay homage to the country’s pearl diving heritage. Eateries include healthy Open Sesame and Orange Feels, which has a vast selection of Aperol-based cocktails. Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk is attached to WAFI Mall. The 498 rooms and 97 serviced apartments have floor-to-ceiling windows with views of old Dubai, Dubai Creek and the skyline. Guests can dine on French cuisine at Brasserie Boulud or taste the Far East at Taiko. There is also a Sofitel spa, gym, an outdoor pool with private cabanas and a kids club. Address Jumeirah Beach is the first beach resort from the brand. Situated in Jumeirah Beach Residences overlooking the Gulf, the property has a Spa, rooftop infinity pool, private beach, gym and spa and dining

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top outdoor experiences

the colourful spice souk

options include Lebanese/Brazilian fusion restaurant Li’Brasil. ME Dubai is designed by the worldrenowned late architect Dame Zaha Hadid and is in The Opus by Omniyat building in the Burj Khalifa district. It has 74 rooms, 19 suites, a Spa and three food spots but guests can also explore the building’s F&B outlets including ROKA, a branch of London’s Japanese robatayaki restaurant. Attractions: Quranic Park opened last year in Khawaneej, a rural residential area on the edge of city. The tranquil outdoor spot is inspired by Islam’s holy book and has lots of gardens to explore, paths to cycle and picnic spots. The Palm Fountain is Palm Jumeirah’s latest waterfront attraction, spread over 14,000 square feet of seawater. The fountain’s super shooter reaches 105 metres and comes alive with over 3,000 multi-coloured LED lights. The world’s highest Ferris wheel is due to open in Spring 2021 on Bluewaters Island. Ain Dubai is 210 metres high and bordered by shopping malls, restaurants, residences and a souk. EKart Zabeel opened in December on the rooftop of The Dubai Mall Zabeel. The environmentally friendly electric karts are on an race open-air track with views of the Burj Khalifa.

Where to book it If Only – 0141 955 4000 A five-day all-inclusive private beach stay in the family-friendly JA Beach Hotel is from £1,049pp and includes flights and transfers. The hotel is part of JA The Resort with neighbouring JA Palm Tree Court, has a private beach and a huge range of activities and dining options. ifonly.net •

mountain biking in hatta

Shifting sands: The classic Dubai excursion, a desert safari offers a taste of the region’s authentic Bedouin culture with dinner under the stars as well as the chance to explore the dunes by car or camel, witness the local wildlife or even take to a hot air balloon for a bird’s eye view. Back in time: The Al Fahidi Historical district is a window into the very different Dubai of the mid-19th century. Located along the Dubai Creek, its sand-coloured buildings are topped with wind towers which provide natural air-conditioning, and visitors will find museums, craft shops, cultural exhibits, courtyard cafes and art galleries. Get high in Hatta: Hidden in the Hajar Mountains, the region of Hatta has long been enjoyed by locals as a retreat away from the city hustle and bustle, but has more recently become an adventure hub. Visitors can try mountain biking,

axe-throwing, zorbing and even kayaking on the Hatta Dam and, if they stay overnight, experience sleeping in a trailer at the Sedr Trailers Resort. Far from ‘trailer trash’, this swanky modern resort’s American-style converted airstreams are stationary but positioned among ragged red peaks with striking views of the Hatta Dam. Hit the creek: Around the corner from Al Fahidi, Port Saeed at the Dubai Creek is a pleasant spot for people watching and spotting traders transporting various goods in wooden boats. The best way to see this relatively unchanged part of Dubai is to step aboard a traditional Abra boat and get out on the water. Life’s a beach: There’s plenty of sand to go around in Dubai and most beaches aren’t crowded. Black Palace Beach (also known as Secret Beach) has perfect views of the Burj Al Arab but is often deserted because it has no facilities.

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24 / Sponsored feature

Feel freedom Atlantic Canada’s wide-open spaces and pristine natural beauty make the perfect stage for a memorable and inspiring post-lockdown escape

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fter a year of restrictions and indoor incarceration, the great outdoors has never been more tempting and the need to experience the remarkable never more powerful. When the time is right to travel again, book your clients a trip to Atlantic Canada, just a five – six hour flight from London, and they can tick off bucket list experiences like taking a helicopter for a picnic and watching whales.

Kayak through the wild

Thrill seekers will love paddling through Gros Morne National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site in Newfoundland and Labrador, past the rugged coastal shallows of Bonne Bay. Sturdy sea kayaks will carry beginner and expert paddlers through fjords and float above colourful underwater worlds. Kayakers can see seals sunbathing, whales and porpoises playing and eagles scouting for fish while guides tell the history of Bonne Bay, including how indigenous cultures have fished there for centuries. SAMBRO ISLAND, NOVA SCOTIA

Walk a rural idyll

Prince Edward Island’s Confederation Trail is for all levels of fitness, gently rambling through the rural island’s prettiest spots. The 278 miles of rolling stone dust trail runs east to west, from the French/Irish fishing community of Tignish to Elmira, once the end of the line for the island’s railway. Branch trails reach to capital Charlottetown and many quaint small towns. The trail is at its green and leafy best in spring but woods, farmland and coast can be explored all year by bicycle or foot.

Take a bird’s eye view

GROS MORNE NATIONAL PARK, NL

This Nova Scotia tour is a picnic like no other for the adventurous at heart. Guests helicopter from the urban core of Halifax, over the spectacular coast to the remote and rocky Sambro Island, home to the oldest working lighthouse in North America. The Heli Picnic Island Escape includes views of Halifax’s starshaped fort and an indulgent feast of local cheese, charcuterie and wine on a private beach frequented only by seals and seabirds, where guests learn the secrets of Sambro.

A whale of a time

CONFEDERATION TRAIL, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

WHALE WATCHING, NEW BRUNSWICK

New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy is visited by some of the world’s rarest whales and no wonder, its sheltered habitat is the perfect place to raise a calf and it’s home to the world’s highest tides which bring an abundance of seafood. On a whale watching trip in Fundy you could spot finbacks, humpbacks, minkes and the endangered right whale as well as playful porpoises, supple seals and wheeling seabirds – all from a respectful distance of course. atlanticcanadaholiday.co.uk •

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the return of

Ocean cruising The cruise sector has had plenty of time to prepare for weighing anchor and agents have a vital role to play as it counts down to its long-awaited restart, says Jane Archer Why sell it Agents who get on top of selling ocean cruise holidays cannot go wrong. Cruisers are a loyal bunch, taking two or more holidays at sea a year, and most book through the trade, which means lucrative earnings for all. After almost a year since fears for the spread of Covid-19 forced ships to stop sailing, there is an additional incentive for getting on board with cruise – namely huge demand from seasoned cruisers. Peter Shanks, Silversea UK and Ireland Managing Director, says: “We know two million people in the UK take a cruise each year and one million are addicted.” The industry has agreed strict protocols to protect against the virus once ships can sail again, including testing passengers before boarding and regularly during the cruise, reducing capacity to allow for physical distancing and dropping self-service buffets. Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International’s President and CEO, says: “The vaccine will be a game-changer; people had to sacrifice summer 2020 so summer 2021 will be a big holiday.”

Who to sell to There really is a cruise out there for everyone. Floating resorts from the likes

fjord cruise capital, bergen

hurtigruten’s state-of-the-art eco-friendly ship roald amundsen

of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line have everything a family could wish for, from specially-designed accommodations and fast-food outlets to fine-dining emporiums and laser tag, water slides, go-karts and many more fun activities. Not to your client’s’ taste? They might prefer Star Clippers’ sailing ships or an adventure on the high seas on one of the stylish ships being built to take on the ice-

fred olsen’s black watch

strewn waters of the Arctic and Antarctica. Sybarites will be in seventh heaven on the ultra-luxury lines’ small ships, where Champagne is on tap. Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises VicePresident UK and Europe, says the line’s ex-Southampton cruises are in big demand. “Close to home is most popular at the moment,” he reveals.

What to sell Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has bolstered its fleet with the addition of two ex-Holland America Line ships. They start sailing as Borealis and Bolette in May on new cruises around the British isles, including the lochs and isles of Scotland, plus the waterways of Belgium and France. In 2022, Bolette will sail an 18-night voyage around the Balkans. Celestyal Cruises plans on restarting operations in March with the seven-night Three Continents cruises visiting Greece, Egypt, Israel and Turkey on Celestyal Experience, the former Costa neoRomantica. The ship, which has an adult-only

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26 / How to sell... Come winter, ships head to the southern hemisphere - South America and Antarctica as well as Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

How to sell Agents are now even more critical when it comes to selling cruises, says Alex DelamereWhite, P&O Cruises’ Vice-President of Sales and Marketing. Clients will be more cautious when choosing a cruise line, he warns. “Talk about the future of cruising, not what is happening now,” advises Silversea’s Peter Shanks. MSC Cruises’ UK Managing Director, Antonio Paradiso, notices clients are looking for value. “Cruise lines are offering the best value possible – and also being as flexible as possible – to support agents,” he says. Don’t neglect the new-to-cruise market, counsels Stephen Winter, Ponant’s International Sales Director, after seeing the line’s summer sailings attract first-timers. “We created a lot of fans,” he says. Saga Travel CEO Nick Stace says part of the messaging has to be about safety, about giving people peace of mind. “A cruise will be the safest place from which to see the world,” he promises.

Kangaamiut, Greenland

fun with royal caribbean

outdoor area and suite concierge for top-paying passengers, will revert to the island-hopping cruises around Greece it built its reputation on, hopefully as early as April. Celebrity Cruises now includes all drinks, wifi and tips in the fare. Celebrity Silhouette is due to start cruising from Southampton in May. Come autumn, Celebrity Infinity should set out on new voyages around Spain and Portugal from Lisbon. Luxury line Silversea is going even more inclusive, starting 2022-23, by adding flights and at least one free shore excursion per port to the drinks, wifi and tips already included in its cruise packages. An epic voyage in March 2022 will take in 72 destinations on a journey from Piraeus (Athens) to Stockholm.

When to sell

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the seaS

Summer hopefully still belongs to Europe – the Mediterranean for sun-seekers; the Baltic for history; the Norwegian fjords and Iceland for majestic scenery; round-Britain cruises for top-value staycations. It’s also when expeditions head into Arctic waters. The South Pacific and Caribbean are great year-round for sun, sand and sea, although itineraries in the West Indies can be disrupted by hurricanes, which blow in between June and November.

What’s new Adventurers can get their chills on a voyage to the geographic North Pole next July and August on Ponant’s new icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot. Hurtigruten plans to launch expedition cruises from Dover in April on Maud, the former Midnatsol, with itineraries visiting villages and islands around the British coast that are rich in flora and fauna. Come December, Seabourn’s first expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, sails from London on an inaugural ultra-luxury cruise to Norway in search of the Northern Lights. Silversea is launching SALT, a culinary/ cultural experience that makes its debut in the Mediterranean in April on Silver Moon, a new ship specially designed with a SALT restaurant, bar and kitchen. New cruise line Tradewind Voyages sets sail from the UK in May on the Golden Horizon, a replica historic tall ship, before following the tradewinds to India and Asia. • Book it with... Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines An eight-night Spectacular Fjordland Adventure is priced from £1,299pp for July. Passengers will pass glaciers and waterfalls as they sail into the heart of Norway. fredolsencruises.com

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sailing The river cruise sector hopes that ‘vaccination confidence’, particularly among those in the 50-plus bracket, will see clients make a rapid return to European waterways, says Jessica Pook

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watch from my balcony as the water starts to darken with the vanishing sun, signalling that it’s time to head to the top deck for an unobstructed view. As I take my seat, the reassuring purr of a motor begins and before long I’m enjoying the ever-changing scenery of the River Danube on a sunset cruise, losing track of time as another cityscape slips behind rolling hills. Vienna, the second stop on my fourday Riviera cruise, captivates me with its sparkling clean streets and cultural credentials. Built on music and art, it’s a city that enjoys the finer things in life; a place where grand palaces are used as art galleries and opera houses draped in gold recite the works of home-grown,

all-time-great composers. Even the horses are in a class of their own – the majestic white Lipizzaner stallions performing their equine ballet is a must-see. As we wind further down the river my thoughts turn to tomorrow and waking up in Budapest. Images of hilltop castles and steamy thermal spas fill my mind as we edge ever closer, one bend at a time. But as the sky changes to a dusky pink and pockets of lights begin to twinkle along the shoreline, I’m reminded that the journey is just as magical as the destination.

Mature and ready Long popular with the over 50s demographic, river cruising is expected to be in great demand this year as this age

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Cochem Castle, Reichsburg, Germany

breakfast onboard an a-rosa cruise

Basel, Switzerland

group enjoys the benefit of being high up the vaccination roster. Operators such as TUI are reporting that 50% of bookings have been made by those 50-plus, thanks to a growing ‘vaccine confidence’. Titan, like all lines, has updated its hygiene protocols with features such as a pre-departure medical evaluation, PCR testing for guests and crew and an adapted food and beverage service in order to minimise social contact. Most operators have also introduced flexible dates and overseas medical assistance as part of their insurance policy. Joseph Grimley, Director of Trade Sales for Scenic and Emerald Cruises, is cautiously optimistic: “While the vaccination rollout is a positive development for the travel industry as a whole, it is too early to comment how this will impact travel and cruising in the future,” he says. A-ROSA River Cruises tested new protocols – including the wearing of mouth and nose coverings in some public spaces – during five months of sailing in 2020 and say they have “high hopes for later this year and into 2022” when it comes to setting sail. Lucia Rowe, Managing Director of A-ROSA River Cruises UK & Ireland, believes vaccinations are giving travellers cause to dream. “There is a lot of pent-up demand, especially in the over-50s market. By late

Budapest, HUNGARY

March, approximately 32 million people in this age group should have received their first dose of the vaccine and I think at this point, when customers have some real date parameters they can plan within, we could see a surge in demand.” Steve Goodenough, Managing Director of Arena Travel, says many of its clients are near the top of the queue for the vaccine and it is clear that they are starting to plan ahead. “We have noticed increased levels of enquiries and bookings for our longer river cruise itineraries, perhaps signifying demand for ‘trips of a lifetime’ after so long confined to home,” ,” he said.

Iron Gates gorge on the Danube

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30 / River cruise Viking UK’s Head of Sales, Neil Barclay, says now is an ideal time to persuade customers to plan ahead. “By booking early they can take advantage of early bird discounts and have their choice of dates and preferred stateroom,” he explains. “Christmas market cruises are very popular and often fully-booked months in advance so it’s best to book now to avoid disappointment – we are anticipating an increase in demand for 2021.” Barclay also thinks hotel barges will sell well in 2021. “Since hotel barges hold just a small number of people, they create the perfect ‘travel bubble’ for groups of likeminded friends, special-interest clubs and families – who will have the barges all to themselves. Themed cruises are especially fun because everyone is sharing their particular passions with people they know.”

coloGne’s popular christmas market

Three themed cruises

Three festive cruises The classic Rhine: Traditional Christmas Markets on the Rhine with Titan is a four-night round-trip sailing from Cologne. It showcases the German city’s many markets as well as the riverside towns of Koblenz, Mainz and pretty Rudesheim, where cobbled streets are filled with festive

rheinstein castle on the rhine

stalls. A highlight of this cruise is the passage through the Rhine Gorge where steep hills are dotted with craggy castles. The diverse Danube: Scenic’s Danube Christmas Markets cruise is a one-week voyage from Nuremberg – home to arguably Germany’s premier Christmas market – to Hungary’s grand capital, Budapest. Stops include Vienna, where a festive market adds some seasonal sparkle to the city’s cultural draw cards. Bonjour Noel: Christmas in Southern France with Emerald Waterways is a four-night cruise along the Rhone between Avignon and Arles, with Christmas markets, seasonal parades and concerts providing ample entertainment.

european waterwaYs’ enchante cruise on the canal du midi

“We have noticed increased levels of enquiries and bookings for our longer river cruise itineraries, perhaps signifying demand for more ‘trips of a lifetime’” steve Goodenough, managing director, arena travel

Where to book it TITAN; 0808 252 8867 An eight-day Melodies of the Danube cruise, including a classical concert in Vienna, is priced from £1,499pp. titanagents.co.uk •

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Food, glorious food: European Waterways offers six-night foodthemed charters cruising through tranquil countryside aboard its luxury hotel barges, L’Impressionniste in Southern Burgundy and Enchanté on the Canal du Midi. Breaks include immersive excursions like truffle hunting, gourmet dining and onboard cooking classes by master chefs, vine dining at local wineries and shopping with the chef. Foot passenger: CroisiEurope has a range of hiking-focused cruises including a Douro River-based cruise in Portugal. The Porto to Salamanca itinerary includes walking tours with a qualified mountain guide and sees guests stride along the scenic Atlantic coast in Porto, through vineyards and the Douro National Park’s famous Vultures’ Cliff. Groovy moves: Saga has a Sounds of the 60s on the Rhine cruise, promising live swinging 60s music every evening from host Jeremy Huggett and the Band of Gold. While passing the rolling scenery of the Rhine Valley, guests can enjoy hits by the likes of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Dusty Springfield.

JESSICA POOK Although she was one of the youngest onboard each time, Jessica enjoyed both her river cruises - along the Seine and the Danube - reporting for Selling Travel. Whilst she yearns for more opportunities for adventure travel, she admits “there’s nothing more relaxing than chugging along the great rivers of Europe”.

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DISCOVER Ancient history, style and sophistication on the Nile

Gliding down the world’s longest waterway there is an ancient past still alive in majestic monuments and relics, threaded along the river banks of the Nile. This captivating backdrop is mirrored in Sanctuary Retreats’ four ultra-luxurious river cruise boats, each elegantly designed to ensure a distinct sense of being in storied Egypt. Your river cruise adventure awaits.

CHINA

EGYPT

MYANMAR

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Over 70% of the world’s Black-browed Albatross population

More than 220 species of birds, home to 5 species of penguins Imagine a place that is so far off the beaten track you have miles of stunning landscape, beaches and magnificent bird life all to yourself. Imagine a silence that is only broken by the call of the birds, and your own footsteps as you explore these beautiful islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. This is the Falkland Islands, one of the last great wilderness destinations where your trip becomes an adventure. Four wheel drives are our mode of transport, and our little planes will take you to islands abundant with penguins, albatrosses and petrels that are there for you alone to discover and enjoy. At the end of each day you can look forward to traditional cosy Falkland Islands hospitality in the hotels, lodges and guesthouses scattered around the islands.

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@FITB Tourism @FITB Tourism ilovethefalklands +500 22215 info@falklandislands.com falklandislands.com

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Globe hopping Six of the best... /

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Long-stay

‘Workations’ Thanks to extended work visas and super-speedy wifi, remote working has taken on a whole new meaning. Here are six destinations that are in it for the long-haul

The Cayman Islands Remote workers can now spend up to two years living and working in the Cayman Islands under the Global Citizen Concierge Programme (GCCP). Global citizens can begin their day with a stroll along Seven Mile Beach, snorkel with stingrays during lunch hour and wind down with post-work rum cocktails in the evening – but clients will need a healthy salary of £78,000 to qualify. visitcaymanislands.com

Iceland Find inspiration in the wild geysers and dancing Northern Lights of Iceland. The country’s tourist board has extended its long-stay work visa from three to six months and is welcoming overseas workers. It’s also one of the best Brexitproof destinations. Any catches? Applicants must be earning over £60,000 a year and should probably invest in a couple of pairs of thick thermal socks! visiticeland.com

The Bahamas Why stick to one Caribbean island when you could hop between 16? With the Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) programme, visitors, professionals and students can travel between chic Nassau and Paradise Island to the laidback Exumas and Cat Island. Stay at the Graycliff Hotel for a 50% discount on hotel rates and become PADI certified as part of a Workation special. bahamasbeats.com

Dubai Adventurous clients could swap the Tube for a sand dune buggy with the help of Dubai’s latest one-year virtual working programme. Jumerirah Emirates Towers’ new remote work offer means guests have access to stylish work spaces complete with IT support and complimentary printing. After-work hours can be spent relaxing on the hotel’s private beach or indulging at the Spa. visitdubai.com

Barbados Barbados has introduced the Barbados Welcome Stamp scheme, allowing foreign travellers to work remotely on the island for up to a year. To accommodate workers, beachfront property Cobblers Cove is offering special rates for longer stays with those staying over two weeks enjoying a free laundry service for clothing, as well as their own personal housemaid and super fast Wi-Fi. cobblerscove.com

Mauritius Mauritius has introduced a new one-year Premium Visa to attract longstay visitors to the island. Those staying at Sun Resorts can take advantage of a business suite as part of a new Work.Stay. Play package. The accommodation also includes a dedicated concierge service, which can assist with car rental, setting up a local sim card and even arranging school transfers for those travelling as a family. mymauritius.travel

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Trade talk

34 / The review news

Positive forward bookings Travel companies are seeing positive forward bookings with client data showing that a large portion of the market is planning ahead and wants to travel as soon as is possible. Sam Clark, Managing Director and co-founder of Experience Travel Group, believes that while the vaccine roll-out is fueling consumer confidence travel will remain uncertain until 2022. “Vaccines have already made a big difference. Forward bookings have been rising steadily ever since the first vaccines were approved,” he said. “Travel companies shouldn’t be waiting for a ‘green light’. There isn’t going to be a moment when everything is suddenly back to normal. The big question is whether destinations will let in travellers who have been tested and/or vaccinated – we cannot have one without the other.” Titan Travel says that demand for long-haul product is strong. Inspirational worldwide trips top its best-selling lists for 2021 and 2022, with hot spots including Canada, Japan and Africa. River cruising is proving popular and UK short breaks are performing better than ever, Titan claims. G Adventures is seeing healthy bookings, with its new European tours selling well.

• Online training for Italy The National Italian Tourist Office has introduced its first online training programme for agents. The four modules concentrate on Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Art Cities, Food and Wine and Unique Selling Points. Agents that become an Italy Specialist before May 31 have the chance to win a getaway to one of its art cities. italyonlinetraining.co.uk Managing Director Brian Young believes flexibility is essential to provide travellers with the confidence to book. “We’re seeing destinations such as Asia and Central America performing well, plus our new European collection,” he says. Michael O’Sullivan, General Manager at Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, Saint Lucia, has noted an increase in big bookings. “Over the last few months we’ve seen a growth in extended bookings, with people looking to work from the resort and spend more time on our island,” he says. Little Emperors, which represents 4,000 global luxury hotels, says it is receiving enquiries and bookings for 2021 with a big spike of family bookings for May half term.

Travel associations unite The newly-created Travel industry Alliance (TIA) says it will collaborate with the government on key issues affecting travel and tourism. Representing the travel, tourism and aviation sectors, the nine associations boast more than 7,000 member companies combined – both inbound and outbound – across the leisure and business markets. The nine members are: AITO (The Specialist Travel Association), ATTA® (African Travel and Tourism Association), BAR UK (Board of Airline Representatives), BTA (The Business Travel Association), CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), CTO (Caribbean Tourism Organization – UK & Europe Chapter), LATA (Latin American

NEWS IN BRIEF

Travel Association), PATA UK & Ireland Chapter (Pacific Asia Travel Association) and UKinbound. The TIA’s immediate objective is to focus on safely restarting travel. It aims to do this by working alongside the Government, to encourage the FCDO to pull back from issuing advisories due to Covid-19 and instead become a purely informational source. Secondly, it hopes to enable travellers to be able to access the UK without any quarantine at the earliest opportunity, whether through pre-departure testing, test and release or some other measure. The TIA will be surveying their combined member companies to gather data which will reinforce their work in the future.

• ETG’s slow travel focus Experience Travel Group has launched its Revitalise Collection with 18 new holidays focused on slow travel. The twin-centre trips aim to be enriching for travellers and sustainable for destinations. Client have the choice of Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Maldives, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia and Oman. experiencetravelgroup.com

• Active Europe from G

Adventures

G Adventures is expanding its offering in Europe with more active and sailing options. The trips highlight remote, local experiences in new regions for the operator, including Northern Cyprus, Madeira, eastern Iceland, northern Greece and Slovenia. gadventures.com

• Shearings adds UK tours The escorted coach tour company has expanded its UK product to over 200 holidays, in anticipation of another ‘staycation’ summer. UK coach holidays start from £219pp, whilst coach pick-up points and self-drive breaks are priced from £99pp. shearings.com

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Trade talk The review /

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NEWS

Is the UK government wasting the travel industry’s precious time? Chris Justice, President BLOK BioScience, speaks to Laura Gelder

As the vaccination programme rolled out across the UK the travel trade let out a collective sigh of relief, despite the fact that ‘back to normal’ remains a way off yet. But Chris Justice from British bio-technology company BLOK BioScience, believes the Government is ignoring his company’s ready-made solution – one which could help agents by boosting customers’ confidence in booking holidays. This January BLOK BioScience wrote to ministers to ask why the Government has commissioned building a vaccine passport app. “It doesn’t make sense for them to start this project from scratch when we have the solution already built,” says Justice. “With the vaccine roll-out now in full swing, the Government needs to act fast to introduce a tamper-proof and privacy-centric way for individuals to prove their vaccination and test status.” BLOK BioScience launched its digital health pass BLOK Pass in December, which, alongside its testing solution, has been rolled out to care homes, gyms (including the David Lloyd group) and schools and will soon be used by tour

operators, cruise lines and airlines too. part of the criteria for accessing places. The app enables a staff member (which BLOK Pass uses lateral flow testing which could potentially be immigration or airline can be done on-site at a fraction of the check-in staff and potentially event or cost of PCR tests (the NHS standard test) attraction security staff) to check the and offers results in minutes rather than health status of a person by scanning days – though they are less sensitive than their phone. The system then checks their PCR tests – making them well suited to the health status and a traffic light system rapid ebb and flow of travel. signals whether they are fit to Many airlines are already using A enter (green), required to lateral flow tests but Justice take an action such as a believes the Government health test (amber) or pose an passport could could play a more proactive infection risk and should role in creating standardised boost consumer protocols which make use of not be given access (red). confidence Organisations can this kind of test in the travel configure their own entry industry. He also believes that criteria around variables like fears around lack of security for Covid-19 test results and vaccination such personal data have impeded records, also integrating with third-party progress. “People are rightly concerned at systems such as the NHS’ Test and Trace. how their personal data can be used and Justice is critical of the Government’s shared by companies,” says Justice. slow response to the travel industry’s The BLOK Pass is the only Covid-related plight. “They’ve been a bit of a closed shop health pass globally that is certified by the and as a result they’ve been a day late and United Nations-backed ID2020, an alliance a pound short in developing protocols to which aims to implement safe digital ID get travel going,” he says. around the world. While centrally stored He argues that the first step is having information can be tricky to protect, BLOK flexible test results that can be used as Pass gets around this problem by not creating a database at all – instead the individual’s health information is stored only their phone. With Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab saying (in late January) that it was “too early” for Britons to book a summer holiday abroad, public confidence in travel lags behind a desire for it, but Justice thinks giving a framework like a health passport would reduce the uncertainty of travel. He recognises that the BLOK Pass wouldn’t be the sole solution on the market but wants Downing Street to present the options. “We want to be part of a solution which gives people confidence to carry their health credentials with them and opens up the freedom of travel,” he says.

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Profile for BMI Publishing Ltd

Selling Travel Magazine- January - February 2021