Industry tributes have been paid to Magic of Italy founder Phil Sheridan, who has died aged 86, for revolutionising the country as a holiday destination.

He and his wife Kathleen helped open up mainland Italy, Sardinia and Sicily to UK holidaymakers from the early 1970s.

Abta chairman Noel Josephides said: “I think I’ll remember Phil as a solid businessman who created a brand which really changed the popular conception of Italy and revolutionised thee way the country was sold.

“The Magic brochures were bold, colourful and effective.”

Former Magic of Italy resort rep Patricia Grady, now global contracting manager at Collette, said: “With a stunning collection of properties ranging from 3-5 star hotels, self-catering villa options including car hire, charter and scheduled flight and touring options, their Magic of Italy and Magic of Sardinia programmes included locations throughout mainland Italy, Sardinia and Sicily, featuring new destinations for the first time out of the UK.

“Their highly flexible and individualized products were the secret of their success at a time when other operators were attempting to standardise programmes.

“Phil will be remembered as a tenacious, shrewd businessman, who did things on his terms with conviction, Italian style.”

He is survived by his wife Kathleen Sheridan.

The funeral is today with Kathleen requesting donations rather than flowers to the charity that carries out research into vascular disease of which her husband’s surgeon is a patron