Big Interview: Getting the measure of the short break market

Big Interview: Getting the measure of the short break market

After just two months at the short-break specialist, Atkins tells Juliet Dennis why packaging up flights with accommodation was a ‘no-brainer’.

It’s official, UK short breaks are sexy. That’s the message from Superbreak sales director Jane Atkins, who started in the role in January and has already overseen the launch of the operator’s first flight-inclusive short-break packages in the UK and to Europe.

Atkins, whose background includes four years at The Co-operative Travel group and 10 years at MyTravel, said adding flights to Superbreak’s already extensive range of both UK and European accommodation was a “no-brainer”.

And the expansion doesn’t stop there. Flights with scheduled carriers will be added later this year – currently only no-frills airlines are offered – while transfers from airports to hotels have just been introduced.

Different types of accommodation in the UK could be on the radar, said Atkins, while car hire is also being considered.

Similarly, contractors are being sought as the operator looks to expand its worldwide product range. Superbreak already offers hotels in cities such as New York.

It is too early to say, according to Atkins, whether Superbreak will seek to exploit synergies to extend its product as a result of its takeover by India-based travel group Cox & Kings last year.

“It’s way too early to say if these will be realised,” she said.

By the same token, selling short breaks in other international markets is “not on the horizon” currently. But Atkins added: “I would never say never; clearly, there is a huge inbound market that buy short breaks.”

Short-break strategy

The overall strategy – and already the company’s internal mantra – is to create a complete one-stop-shop for short breaks, classed as five nights or fewer.

Although Atkins anticipates sales of overseas packages to become a bigger share of the business, Superbreak’s UK breaks business is always likely to enjoy the largest proportion of sales. “The market for UK short breaks is biggerthan overseas breaks, worth £8 billion compared with about £3 billion.”

Atkins believes the UK is a “sexy” product for agents to sell, but said its appeal may get obscured during agents’ busy working days.

Atkins also disputes the argument UK breaks are expensive. “I don’t think short breaks in the UK are a luxury item. They can’t be, otherwise we would not have an £8 billion market,” she said.

“Everyone has an aspiration to go on a short break. We’re looking to be more creative and innovative and add value to the retailers’ relationship on the back of our brand. Our product might be relatively low value, but it’s not discounted and short breaks are habitual,” said Atkins. “Short breaks are a great excuse to maintain a relationship with a customer.”

Atkins quotes Mintel’s 2011 Holiday Review in which 23% of those questioned said short breaks were an expenditure priority, compared with just 14% in 2005.

“The challenge for us is to give agents something they can’t get anywhere else,” she added.

This means continually updating the portfolio. Trips to the Warner Brothers studios near Watford where the Harry Potter films were made is one of the latest additions.

Boost for Britain

With the London 2012 Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, Atkins is confident the UK will get a significant boost.

Although a bounce in bookings is expected post-Olympics, with many holidaymakers avoiding the capital during the Games, there is still hotel availability during the events. And Atkins says that, contrary to perceptions, prices are “not ridiculous”, adding: “They are more expensive than two years ago, but not ridiculous. They are still good value, given that it’s an international event.”

Similarly, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations are creating a feelgood factor and packages are already selling well.

Superbreak will be one of many operators featured on Visit England’s new £4 million TV campaign to boost UK breaks this year. Atkins supports the campaign, even if she regrets the “negative connotations” of its slogan: “There’s so much happening in Britain in 2012, why on earth would you want to go abroad?”.

“It’s the year to raise awareness of what is on offer in the UK,” said Atkins.


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