With falling house prices, job cuts and bank failures dominating the news headlines, it is difficult to feel positive about what 2009 holds for the travel industry.
However, with a hint of caution in their predictions, accommodation specialists are relatively confident the villa market will be able to ride out the financial storm.
“We’re down compared to last year,” said Hoseasons Villas managing director Jane Sheppard, “but we’re still booking in line with 2007 when we had a good year with a strong lates market, so a reasonable number of late bookings this year would make us happy.”
Meon Villas marketing executive Luis Florez echoed Sheppard’s comments. “We are seeing a trend in customers leaving it later to book peak season,” he said. “Conversely, we have seen a lot of demand for Christmas 2009.”
An Interhome spokeswoman said the company had also seen a trend towards late bookings as well as a drop-off in demand for the traditional two-week holiday with customers opting for short breaks of four and five nights or longer durations of nine or 10 days.
Hoseasons’ Sheppard agreed, adding that while her company’s clients were looking for more flexibility, they were not looking to trade down on quality.
Cosmos Villas with Pools head Mike Tyerman pointed out that despite the weak pound, the eurozone still represented better value than staying in the UK, with eating out in restaurants in Spain and France cheaper than the UK. “People also tailor their budgets, opting to eat in their villas rather than dining out every night,” he said.
Cosmos Villas with Pools and Hoseasons Villas have both introduced Turkey for the first time and both operators said take-up had been good so far. Hoseasons Villas has seen summer demand for Lanzarote soar, with bookings 15% up.
Ibiza and the Costa Blanca are also doing well for the operator. Cyprus is 5% up on last year and Gozo is 14% ahead on the same period in 2008. Sheppard said Italy was having a bad year so far.
Florez said Corfu and Cyprus were proving popular with Meon Villas’ clients, while France is 11% up on last year for Vintage Travel, with sales for Provence 20% up on 2008.
To keep bookings coming in, operators have planned a range of incentives. Here are just some of the deals and new product on offer for this summer.
Interhome has rolled out a range of special offers for 2009. As well as free night offers on selected villas during spring and autumn, the specialist is planning a last-minute sale throughout the year, where a selection of villas will be available at 33% below their normal price.
Agents will also get 10% commission on all bookings.
The operator has a range of properties available including luxury villas with pools in Croatia, a 17th century Carmelite building in Granada and budget properties on the Cote d’Azur in France.
Interhome has added seven farmhouses and three holiday villages on the island of Gozo and 50 properties with pools in Majorca.
Simply Travel has added Cyprus, with five new villas with pools.
The operator has also expanded its 2009 programme to feature new properties in Corsica, Madeira, Sicily, Turkey and Crete. Savings of £75 per person are available on bookings for Greece.
Prices start at £535 per person, based on six guests sharing the three-bedroom Villa Eftychia in Latchi on a self-catering basis, including flights and car hire, departing May 1-13.
Inghams Villas has introduced Portugal with a number of properties in the coastal region around Lisbon, the vineyards of the Tagus valley and the Algarve.
The operator has also added a number of smaller three-star properties to appeal to the more budget-conscious client.
The specialist has also built on its villa offering in Tuscany, France and Croatia with prices leading in at £260 per apartment in Lovan, Kvarner, in Croatia for seven nights.
Turkey is making its debut in Hoseasons Villas’ 2009 programme with apartments on the beach in Altinkum and Didim.
Prices start at £24 per night in April for two adults and two children sharing an apartment.
The accommodation specialist has also divided its properties into three categories: villas for two, family friendly and ‘get up and go’ – a selection of properties with a range of activities on site or close by.
Accommodation specialist Mallorca Farmhouses has responded to demand from clients for added extras this year.
Marketing director Solveig Thomas said clients want that little bit more for their money this year and have requested new facilities such as gated pools, broadband connections, daily maid service and PlayStation 2s.
New farmhouses have also been added for 2009 including the Hortets de S’Horta, which is being promoted as a honeymoon property.
The operator is also offering discounts of up to 40% on properties booked four weeks prior to departure. Customers who pay their balance at the time of booking will also receive a 5% discount on the accommodation price.
Travel agents who achieve their individual sales targets will receive 15% commission.
Holiday Options has added to its Croatia offering, introducing more properties on the Istrian Riviera after encouraging sales for summer 2008.
The operator has more than 40 properties with pools in the Istria, Makarska and Dubrovnik areas and on the islands of Brac and Hvar.
Sales and marketing director Rupert Duggins said many families were looking to Croatia for this summer to keep costs down and escape the euro effect.
Holiday Options is also offering a range of villas in the Porto Vecchio region of Corsica.
Wimco Villas is featuring discounts, extra nights and free extras such as car hire for this summer.
For example, clients booking the seven-bedroom Villa Solara in Tuscany before March 31 will receive a 20% discount.
Prices for seven nights at the villa, including daily maid service, start at £5,486, representing a saving of £1,371.
Wimco Villas is also rolling out an incentive plan that can earn agents year-end bonuses and gift vouchers.
Greek Islands Club
Greek Islands Club has introduced six properties to its Exclusive Villas Escapes 2009 brochure.
The properties are on the islands of Paxos, Lefkas, Kefalonia, Skiathos, Ithaca and Corfu. Prices lead in at £549 per person for seven nights at the House of
Hermes in Paxos, including flights and transfers.
Luxury villa specialist Coastline has added two new properties in Corsica to its Villa Collection 2009.
The operator now features 23 villas, 12 of which are in Corsica, with the rest scattered across the islands of Majorca and Ibiza.
The three-bedroom Dona Lisa in Preccogio and the four-bedroom Supranu in San Ciprianu have been introduced with prices leading in at £695 per person for seven nights in the Supranu villa.
Flights, car hire, maid service, daily change of linen, bath and beach towels, daily delivery of bread, croissants and newspapers and a 24-hour concierge are included in the price.
Quality Villas has strengthened its France programme with the introduction of four new properties in Biarritz. Prices lead in at £1,450 for seven nights’ accommodation-only in May in the Le Grand Saule farmhouse, situated between Biarritz and Pau.
Commercial manager Dan Thompson said: “Biarritz is an up-and-coming area and a nice alternative to the Cote d’Azure and St Tropez, which can get crowded
in the summer.”
Quality Villas has also added to its Italy programme, bringing in Lake Como, Sicily and the island of Elba. The operator now features three properties in Lake Como, 13 in Sicily and four in Elba.
Prices lead in at £2,500 for seven nights’ accommodation-only in the Villa Montecristo in May.
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