Agents interested in learning more about Italy joined key suppliers, representatives from the Italian Tourist Board and ABTOI (the Association of British Tour Organisers to Italy) at our latest Destination Dialogue. Representatives of Travel Uni were also on hand to remind agents about its Ciao Italia training programme (www.ciaoitaliatraining.com). The event was hosted by Selling Short Breaks & Holidays as part of its We're Backing Agents campaign.
ITALY IN CONTEXT
Every year 2.7 million visitors head to Italy from the UK. The UK is Italy’s fourth most important market and operators are optimistic about the destination’s prospects for 2011. ABTOI has 65 members and in recent times has made a strategic decision to become more active within the trade.
- Italy is not the easiest country to sell because it offers such diversity and clients can get confused and put off by the choice
- Brits used to sandy beaches in the Med need to be carefully sold to ensure they know the kind of coastline they will find.
- Client perceptions are often that the destination is expensive.
- There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ client for Italy so you have to work a bit harder to spot them. As a general rule they are a bit older, value culture, good food and great scenery.
- People who want to go to Italy, know they want to go there. It is a hard destination to switch sell people into
- Because of the diversity, clients tend to turn to knowledgeable experts for help – if agents don’t feel equipped to answer their queries, many specialist operators are standing by to help.
- Travellers to Italy tend to spend more than the average traveller which makes them a lucrative client to have.
- Many travellers to Italy repeat book, the diversity of the destination means they have plenty of reasons to go back.
- Gastronomy - the slow food movement was pioneered in Italy and speciality tours or cookery lessons are also top notch and good value.
- Sell with the seasons - city breaks are great in spring and autumn but for those looking for a bargain, city hotels are cheapest in summer. Coastal towns and the islands are favourite in summer and the Dolomites appeal in winter for ski. The Italian lakes are popular through spring, summer and autumn.
- Italy offers some great wedding venues but be sure to book through a specialist as the paperwork can be tricky.
- Italy is a great place to shop – perfect for shopaholics, wherever they go.
Alitalia offers 12 flights a day from London City Airport and Heathrow flying to Rome and Milan with a wide range of onward connections available across Italy.
British Airways, Easyjet and Ryan Air are among others flying to the mainland and to Sardinia. A BA charter now offers premium economy cabin to Sardinia.
Rail transport from the UK to Italy can be done in around eight and a half hours if a client starts with a very early Eurostar connection to Paris and then onward to Italy. International Rail represents Trenitalia, the Italian rail network which offers high speed connections across large areas of Italy. Rail travel is inexpensive.
Italy has huge potential, masses of diverse options and plenty to keep visitors coming back for more. It really does have something for every type of client, the challenge is to wise up to what's on offer so you can provide clear direction those interest in Italy but not yet confident enough to book.
Travel Uni www.ciaoitaliatraining.co.uk
Classic Collection: www.classic-collection.co.uk Italy is the operator’s fastest growing destination
InnTravel: www.slowholidays.co.uk Specialises in soft adventrues and slow, discovery tours to Italy including walking and cycling
Interhome: www.interhome.co.uk One of the largest self-catering company’s in Europe with 3800 properties in Italy from historic castles to luxury villas for two to 28 night stays
International Rail: www.internationalrail.com
Kirker: www.kirkerholidays.com Italy is the operator’s top seller and Venice is their most popular destination. They offer everything from pensions to palazzos and can arrange weddings and honeymoons and special occasion packages.
Sardinian Places: www.sardinianplaces.co.uk Very keen to work with the trade, this company has increased its bookings through agents from five to 20 percent in the past five years. Offers villa holidays on the island coupled with 25 flights a week to the island from eight UK airports
“British people are often intimidated by Italy from a price point of view. The perception is the reverse of the reality. Beyond the very high season, Italy is very good value.”
Gary Boyer, Head of product development, Classic Collection Holidays
ITALY - FAST FACTS
Location: Italy is located in southern Europe, and is a long peninsula extending into the central Med. It comprises 20 diverse regions and boasts the longest seaside coast in Europe. Its islands, include popular holiday destinations such as Sardina, Sicily, Capri and Ischia.
Average length of stay: Short breaks are key but week long beach, ski and lakeside holidays are also important.
Top destinations: City breaks to Rome, Venice and Florence are the top sellers, along with skiing in The Dolomites during the winter season. Most mainland coastal towns tend to have rugged shores rather than sandy beaches but are popular for the scenic splendor and relaxed vibe. Off shore, Sardinia has great white sand beaches; and Sicily and the Anolian Islands also have strong appeal. Inland the lakes area is popular.
The food: Italian gastronomy is a big selling point – everyone loves pasta and pizza but gourmands will also find plenty to impress.
When to go: Italy is a year-round destination with different types of holidays dominating at different times of year.
Flying times: Around two and a half hours
Average Costs: Italy is in the Eurozone and has a reputation for being expensive. It can be pricey in peak season but also offers many good value options.