Just returned from what I hope will be a very successful Familiarisation trip to North Cyprus. We met on time at Heathrow's impressive Terminal 5 and group check-in was not too bad. Everyone seemed quite bright and cheerful for 06.30hrs and we proceeded without incident to Departures for our BA flight with the very grumpy stewardess who fell asleep at the back of the plane for quite a while. On arriving at Larnaca, we were met by a gleeful Sabina Shaida, MD of Mosaic Holidays, and ushered to luxury mini-buses to Nicosia where we crossed the border very smoothly and were at our hotel within 1hr 45 ins of landing. We visited some fabulous places over the next 4 days, and some quite humbling too, learnt lots about the history and conflicts, and felt the genuine warmth of the local people. This is one of the very few short haul destinations which retains its authenticity, and takes pride in doing so. It is not commercialised but has all the modern amenities, restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and hotels required for the ideal holiday. We all enjoyed sitting at Kyrenia Harbour in the evenings, drinking the local wine and enjoying the Nargila (water pipe otherwise known as hubbly bubbly).
An interesting last few weeks launching Mosaic Holidays new North Cyprus brochure. Feedback is extremely positive, and the travel agents love the quality, feel and contents. But does that mean they will support Mosaic? Well, the signs are encouraging, especially as the competition ignores us and grows very large. Mosaic is small, quality, personal - they are the key selling points, plus passionate about what they are doing. It shows from the top and works down. There is a real sense of pride, but it is hard work out there fighting for bookings. Hotels still think clients walk in off the street and ask for their destinations, their hotels and their prices - reality check please. It is dog eat dog - or differentiate, and that is what we are trying to do - differentiation through innovation and inspiration. Here's hoping!
August bank holiday is upon us and what can we say about the month? It rained almost every day. This, you would think, would spur people to book an holiday and seek sunshine abroad. Suddenly, the "staycation" doesn't seem much of a proposition and those singing about how well it is doing, must feel like Edwina Curry. Yet I'm hearing across the industry that sales are lower than expected, and the lates market is not there like usual because there is not much quality availability; prices are dropping. This is there for all to see, though there is thankfully less to sell. The absolute peak summer school holidays have sold well, yet prices for Egypt and Turkey were dropped too early by those afraid to wait. Can't blame them, but when you have demand you need to be able to capitalise and yield it to the maximum. Visited some travel agents this week and none were busy, though there was a gentle air of optimism as the rain continued to soak me every time I left my car. Everyone loves the new Mosaic Holidays (www.mosaicholidays.co.uk) North Cyprus brochure so that is really encouraging, and we are well positioned to take advantage of early bookings for next year to this unspoilt haven. Happy Bank Holiday and here's hoping for a strong September.
Well, another one bites the dust. The demise of Kiss Flights could perhaps have been foreseen, following the standing down of Noel Josephides of Sunvil, the "champion" for Viking / Meridian / Kiss - I'm not sure which it was and who is who, but can there really be no connection? I do not know, but am sad that once again an airline fulfilling a gap in the market has come down all too quickly and peoples' job have vanished overnight. Once more, the power is in the grip of the big two operators / airlines, with Monarch standing on its own as the charter champion, yet with some reluctance towards it in the market, apparently. The latter's aircraft are larger than ideal for mid-haul destinations in the eyes of smaller independent tour operators, and their handling of the volcanic ash crisis upset many. However, they are still around and should be in a stronger position right now. As for Mosaic Holidays, they had only a few clients booked on affected flights and these were protected immediately with clients being, for once, very understanding. Turkey continues to prove popular with families and couple alike - especially around Christmas.
Well, nearly finished packing and only taken 3 hours (and the rest). Off to Portugal tomorrow and the builders are movig in here tomorrow. Enough rubbish to fill a skip - and reckon we've packed enough to fill a skip too. My bag weights 14kgs, and the kids weigh the same, twice, and they are only little. Emily is excited to be flying on an orange and white plane, Alex (two years old) wants to know if there is food on board, and I'm wondering how the Iceland situation is and whether I shall be luckier departing the UK this time than I was when fog-bound for Guernsey last week. Wow, need an holiday after this stressful day.......
Having been unable to attend the ill-fated Guernsey BRIGHT road-show due to extended fog delays at Guernsey Airport, I met up with four other BRIGHT members at LGW, and spent a total of nearly 8 hours stuck there. Flybe did their best and we were eventually re-booked for Jersey the following day. We arrived on early lunch time at Jersey and I proceeded to visit as many of the travel agents as I could that were due to attend the evening's training road-show. The temperature climbed during the afternoon all the way to some 84 degrees F and by the time I visited the last agency, British Airways Travel Shop, I was exhausted and very hot. Donna Le Blancq the shop Manager was very pleasant, in spite of the shop being busy, and I'm pleased to say that every agent I visited was charming. The evening was well attended, high quality and the food was excellent. The only disappointment was that one travel agent had too much to drink and did herself and the company she was representing no favours at all. However, it did not dampen "spirits" and I think i managed to hold my own during the first training seesion I have performed since working on bsiness evelopment for Mosaic Holidays (www.mosaicholidays.co.uk). Congratulations to Pat Thompson of Travelmaker who won herself a week's accommodation for 2 people at the Bellapais Monastery Village in North Cyprus on Bed & Breakfast basis. Congratulations also to Simone of Jules Boutin Travel who won a big bottle of Pimms and some Turkish Delight to enjoy with it, courtesy of Mosaic Holidays.
So the fog has lifted for now, and along comes the next excuse for poor holiday sales, namely the hot weather. It seems that May was not only the coldest for many years, but last week-end also prodced outstanding sales for ice-cream, BBQ's and sausages. Unfortunately, while good news for some, this has also led to fewer late holiday sales for the May half term break and price cutting has been rife. It is hard enough to make money in tour operating, but when high season is slow too, it looks like being a very difficult year. Of course, we will soon blame the soccer world cup and Wimbledon. However, these are compelling reasons to stay at home. Mind you, there are more to going away - the prices in the UK are way too high, poor value and even Centre Parcs is very expensive for families. Add that to the poor quality and choice of hotels in Britain's seaside resorts, dubious weather (in the UK a Four Seasons usually means one day's climate) and never-ending roadworks, and abroad really does sound appealing.
The dust has finally settled, at least the dangerous dust, and the planes are flying high. Many people still remain stranded, but normality is expected soon. So what has the travel industry learnt? I suspect that what was already known by experienced industry campaigners has simply been proven. Whilst the volcanic ash was unprecedented, it could always have been something else such as a heatwave melting runways or alike. The principle remains that it will be for courts to decide upon whom the responsibility of paying the bills and compensation ultimately lies. To my mind, this really is nobody's fault and people have to take care of themselves. Unexpected happenings do occur and why should tour operators be left to foot the bill? Why airlines for that matter? What has transpired is that I am not aware of any bed banks covering chrges for clients abroad, though am happy to be advised and proven wrong if that is the case. So, those who have not booked packages have potentially been left with little or no recourse, and perhaps little assistance abroad. I have heard of many being helped beyond the call of duty. Mosaic Holidays http://www.mosaicholidays.co.uk/ were working round the clock and others were too, I'm sure. I suspect the eventual winners will be the advisors and legal teams who would have been inundated with calls for advice.
Now the complaint letters begin to roll in as people have recovered from their ordeals and look to pin the blame on someone else in order to make a buck. I hope that companies stick to their guns and act in a manner they deem to be fair and just.
Flew to ITB on Wednesday morning, following a very late night on Tuesday preparing for the next few days ahead. Flew with Easyjet and all ran smoothly until security at Luton Airport. There must have been some 200 people ahead of me in the queue, and it was to the airport's credit that the waiting time was only 25 minutes. The flight was pleasant though I was stuck in the middle of the row of 3 seats - not my preferred position. I had Mr Moscow on my right hand side, and Mrs Sleepthroughtheflight on my left. Once at Berlin Schonefeld Airport, I managed to share a taxi to the Conference Centre with Victoire of Design Hotels at a cost of some €45. I took a train journey involving only one change of train some 3 days later when returning to the airport for just €2.80 and it was a very pleasant allowing me to see many parts of Berlin not viewable by taxi.
Spent a busy 3 days having meetings hoping to make some progress and meeting new prospective clinets. Also saw Rafi and Yaron of longwood holidays, as well as a host of other people I've not seen for a long time, including Theo Demetriou - a devoted Arsenal supporter.
Wow ITB really is as big as they say. Stayed in the Park Inn in Alexanderplatz and was pleasantly surprised with Berlin city itself. Freezing but very impressive.
I understand there are holidays available to North Cyprus for this Easter's school holidays - it is a lovely family-friendly holiday destination with unspoilt authenticity and quality hotels - the weather should be great too. I believe they are very reasonably priced too, £600 for a week at a 5* hotel, including flights from Gatwick and Heathrow and Manchester. Check it out at: www.mosaicholidays.co.uk or call on 020 8574 4000.