Coach and rail operators are reaching beyond the mainstream and offering a range of niche breaks suited to travellers with specialised interests and needs.
There’s no need for clients to fly to indulge their pursuits, whether they’re batty about battlefields or have a passion for passion plays.
For more niche ideas, check out this week's themed cruise feature...
In 1632 the Bavarian Alps were gripped by the bubonic plague. The small village of Oberammergau pledged that if its inhabitants were spared, they would re-enact Christ’s final passion every 10 years for all eternity.
This iconic, seven-hour Oberammergau Passion Play, starring members of the village, is so popular with tourists that, despite the fact the next run isn’t until 2010, places are being snapped up like hot cakes – let’s face it, if they miss out it’s a long wait until 2020.
Make sure your clients don’t miss their chance and get them booked into one of the many trips that incorporate a performance at Oberammergau with a tour of the surrounding region.
Great Rail Journeys twins the play with Salzburg, Lake Garda or Bavarian regions to form seven or eight-night breaks.
Leger Holidays’ coach tours incorporate Oberammergau with either Austria or Switzerland for nine days, Lake Garda for 12 or a religious extravaganza of 14 days with Rome and Assisi.
Shearings Holidays offers a range of eight nine to 12-day itineraries covering the Tyrol, Lake Garda or Constance, the Swiss Alps, Bavarian Castles and Venice.
Insight Vacations has plenty of options for those looking for longer holidays covering wider areas of Europe, with 11, 14 and 20-day tours visiting the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Monaco, France and Switzerland. Performances of the play run between May 15 and October 3.
Sample package: Insight Vacations offers an 11-day European Spotlight tour visiting Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France, plus tickets for the Oberammergau passion play, from £2,429 departing July 5. (?01475 741 203, ?insightvacations.com/uk/consultants)
Whether clients would rather watch or play, there are plenty of sporting coach and rail options to tempt them.
Leger offers four-day coach breaks to the Grand Prix races at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and Nürburgring in Germany. The operator will also take your clients to Ladies’ Day at Ascot and to Paris for the Tour de France and the Paris Airshow.
Glenton Holidays offers day trips to the Scottish Open Golf at Loch Lomond and Turnberry, and a four-day break to the Seniors Open at Sunningdale.
Grand UK Holidays offers come dancing and line dancing itineraries for the over-55s.
Skiers can avoid lugging their kit onto an aircraft by either taking the Eurostar and connecting with a European ski train, or taking the Eurostar Direct Ski Train or the Rail Europe Snow Train.
These connect skiers with resorts including Courchevel, Val d’Isere, Les Arcs, Tignes, Meribel, Val Thorens, Megeve, Les Aillons and Combloux. There are overnight and day services, and the Rail Europe Snow Train has a sound-proofed disco carriage for all-night parties where clients can bring their own booze.
Train enthusiasts can combine their passion with a holiday by not only taking high-speed rail links to reach their destinations, but also using local picturesque services when they are there.
Famous Alpine services such as the Glacier Express are widely featured, but there are more niche prospects out there. Great Rail Journeys offers a five-day Vevey and the Chocolate Train itinerary, which suits gourmets and trainspotters alike, and can take guests on the Ofoten Railway, one of the most northerly tracks in the world, featured in their Arctic Circle Express programme.
French Travel Service runs touring programmes using small, local trains to explore the countryside in the south of France, Corsica, and the Alsace and Burgundy wine routes, among others.
Sample package: Treyn offers a five-day Little Trains of the Rhine Valley break from £375 departing May 11, including four-nights’ half-board accommodation, rail travel and transfers, two excursions and the services of a tour guide. (?01904 734 939,??treynholidays.co.uk)
Coach and rail breaks are ideal for single travellers who’d like the security and sociability of a group. Many operators have special tours and departures tailored for solos.
Leger features 11 singles tours across Europe that include welcome drinks and offer all travellers their own room. There are even two itineraries – a Belgium and Cologne trip and a Christmas markets Rhine cruise – for ladies only.
Great Rail Journeys has singles departures on some European tours and short breaks, often including sociable meals and optional excursions on free days, but also allowing space if that’s what customers are after.
Cosmos Tourama offers a ‘Guaranteed Share’ scheme on its coach trips, where customers can avoid single supplements by sharing a room with another traveller of the same gender. Insight Vacations runs a similar scheme.
Over-55s specialist Grand UK Holidays offers four Specially for Singles trips in the UK visiting Blackpool, Sandown, Scarborough and Llandrindod Wells. Glenton Holidays charges no single supplements on UK mainland coach holidays, and Shearings has a search engine on its website that makes it possible to identify tours with single room availability.
Insight and Trafalgar Tours offer a similar room-pairing service. Glenton also offers a range of educational breaks with subjects like digital photography for beginners – trips well suited to singles looking for a focus to their holiday.
Battlefield tours are thick-sliced bread and butter for the coach market, and operators are keen to keep it this way, providing a wide range of trips guided by experts.
Leger has a dedicated website for its battlefield tours, with 18 First World War itineraries, 14 from the Second World War, plus Remembrance Day and Battle of Waterloo packages. Shearings also offers coach tours visiting the sites of both world wars.
Sample package: Leger Holidays offers a five-day Reims and Verdun tour starting from £299. (?0845 408 5787, ?agents.legerbookings.co.uk)
In brief: New coach and rail product
Cosmos Tourama has a number of new rail itineraries, including trips in China and Japan, California, Canada, Austria and Switzerland.
Grand UK Holidays has a range of new launches, including 22 UK coach tours, six weekend breaks and European coach tours in Germany and Tuscany.
Trafalgar Tours has launched its first Worldwide brochure featuring 120 tours across destinations as diverse as Latin America, China, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
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