The best euro exchange rate in years has seen Brits returning to old favourites. Katie McGonagle reports
Another day, another crisis in the eurozone. You’d be forgiven for thinking all this uncertainty would be bad news for agents, but in the city-break sector, there is a silver lining.
Sterling has rocketed to its best exchange rate against the euro for years, with travellers getting 10% more for their money than this time last year, according to the latest Post Office survey.
That means for every £500 they change, they’ll have an extra £47 in their pockets – so with more cash to burn, where should they go?
Whether your clients are pining for Paris or longing for Lisbon, now is the time to return to some of their favourite cities and take advantage of the new found power of the pound. We take a look at what’s new, with tips from operators on how to make the most of a quick break on the Continent.
PEARLS OF PARIS
Classic city breaks don’t get more iconic than the French capital.
Chances are your clients have been before, so sell them alternatives: if they’ve seen the grandeur of Notre Dame and Sacré Cœur, suggest the spectacular stained glass of Sainte-Chappelle; if the Louvre’s Mona Lisa or Musée d’Orsay’s water lilies hold little sway, sample modern art at the Centre Pompidou – its quirky architecture is a treat in itself.
The city is crawling with new luxury hotels too, including a W Hotel, the Royal Monceau Raffles, and properties from Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La.
Cresta has more than 50 sightseeing excursions to book in advance – meaning you pick up the commission – including Moulin Rouge shows, walking tours and wine tasting; current bookings come with a free Magique cruise along the Seine.
Suggest the Paris Pass too, which offers entry to dozens of attractions and the hop-on hop-off bus. Superbreak is featuring flight-inclusive packages, plus new hotels including the four-star Hilton Paris La Défense, Hilton Arc de Triomphe and Trianon Palace Versailles hotel, and the three-star Standard Design Hotel.
Take advantage of Cresta’s free night offers at dozens of Parisian hotels such as the central four-star Chateau Frontenac, or Kirker Holidays’ three nights for two at nearby Victor Hugo Hotel. For arty Montmartre, Jet2holidays.com suggests the 38-room Hotel Jardins de Paris Montmartre.
Sample product: Superbreak offers three nights’ B&B at Trianon Palace Versailles, including flights with Flybe from Manchester in September, from £510. superbreak.com/agents 0871 2214444
There’s more to Barcelona than rambling down Las Ramblas or marvelling at the still-unfinished La Sagrada Familia. Lose yourself in the labyrinthine Gothic Quarter, which twists and turns between open squares, historic churches and civic buildings, or take the cable car to Castell de Montjuïc for superb cityscapes.
Barcelona FC’s Camp Nou stadium tour is increasing in popularity. Cresta is adding four and five-star boutique hotels, while Superbreak is expanding across all budgets, from the two-star Agora Residence to four-star properties such as Novotels and the Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya.
Cresta offers a free guided tour of Parque Güell, home to many of Gaudi’s most famous works, for packages booked by July 31. Attraction World promises to show visitors the hidden side of the city on its new walking tour (from £26), and has also introduced a cycle and tapas tour from £27.
Gail Dunwoodie, Attraction World head of product and marketing, says: “Agents were asking us for tours that did more than just the traditional sights. Many customers have visited these already and are now looking for something a little more quirky.”
Sample product: Jet2holidays offers three nights’ room-only at Hotel AB Viladomat from £189 including flights from Leeds Bradford in October. jet2holidays.com 0800 4085599
LIVING IT UP IN LISBON
Few cities truly offer the best of both worlds, but Lisbon is a rare exception boasting spectacular city sights within reach of a beautiful coastline.
For centrally located hotels, Kirker Holidays picks out the Tivoli Jardim, while Superbreak recommends four-star Hotel Florida. Both are a stone’s throw from the Avenida da Liberdade, home to designer boutiques and cafes.
Make sure your clients visit the varying districts, from the planned-out streets of Baixa, rebuilt after an 18th-century earthquake, to the Moorish-influenced Alfama area, which Sunvil recommends as one of the best places to hear traditional fado music.
Belém district’s rich seafaring past means it boasts some of the city’s most famous monuments, including Belém Tower, Jeronimos Monastery and Ajuda Palace.
Encourage your clients to make time for the glamorous Estoril coast, home of renowned golf courses and a casino, or the fishing village of Paço de Arcos, both just a short journey from the capital.
Sample product: Kirker Holidays has three nights at Tivoli Jardim, with a Lisbon Card and flights, from £537 in July and August. kirkerholidays.com 020 7593 2288
From romantic breaks and religious devotion to awe-inspiring art and architecture, Rome appeals to a large cross-section. Advise your clients not to try to see everything in one go – combine historical highlights with modern-day Rome but leave something for next time.
If they’re really keen to pack a lot in, offer a themed tour focusing on the city’s archaeological discoveries, culinary highlights or artworks.
Louise Williams, Cresta product manager for Italy, says: “For an authentic Roman experience, try visiting the characterful district of Trastevere. It’s popular in the summer for its open-air eateries and spectacular street performances in the main square.”
Accommodation is focused around the modern centre, but Kirker Holidays suggests seeking a hotel in older districts within walking distance of the sights. Kirker’s short breaks include entrance to either the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel or beautiful art collection of the Villa Borghese.
Alternatively, Jet2holidays picks out the quiet Giotto Hotel for views of St Peter’s Cathedral and easy access to the Vatican. Also near the Vatican is the new Gran Melia Rome Villa Agrippina, set in quiet gardens.
Sample product: Cresta offers three nights’ B&B at Mercure Piazza Bologna from £289 with BA flights in September, including a free Rome Open City Tour if booked by July 31. bctagents.co.uk 0844 8007019
The city of bridges is best seen in the shoulder seasons, when crowds and humidity have died down. Visitors can drift down the city’s famous waterways aboard a gondola but there’s plenty more to do.
Sunvil offers a four-hour excursion to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello (from £23), while budding snappers can try Attraction World’s Venice Photography Tour, from £50. Kirker suggests avoiding cafes around St Mark’s Square in favour of a traditional trattoria where you get a full dinner for the price of a coffee in the tourist trap.
Cresta’s Louise Williams adds: “Try staying in the quieter district of Cannareggio, which is slightly off the beaten track and offers the chance to sample some of the more local restaurants and osterias, yet with all of Venice’s main attractions within easy reach on foot or by public transport.”
She singles out the Hotel Ai Mori d’Oriente, which is filled with silks, tapestries and other touches inspired by ancient Moorish traders. Kirker Holidays has free night offers across the city including four-for-three at the five-star San Clemente Palace.
Sample product: Cresta offers three nights’ B&B at the Hotel Ai Mori d’Oriente from £289 including BA flights and a Venetians Islands Tour, for bookings before July 31. bctagents.co.uk 0844 8007019
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