Bales makes European debut to counter threat from rivals

Bales makes European debut to counter threat from rivals

LONG-haul specialist Bales has expanded into Europe and is targeting the older market in its latest 2000 Worldwide brochure.

The operator is featuring escorted tours in Greece, Cyprus and Iceland after deputy managing director Mandy Nickerson admitted it was losing business to rivals.

"Customers travel long-haul with us but then have to switch to another company if they want a European holiday," she said. "We could not let that continue. It is not a massive programme but at least it's a start."

Three cultural tours are featured - the eight-day Classical Greece; Aphrodite's Isle in southern Cyprus, which is also eight days; and the 13-day wilderness tour in Iceland.

Prices have risen by 5%-10% and lead in at £998 per person for the Cyprus tour. Tailor-made options are also available.

In a separate move, the Dorking-based company is planning to slow the pace of some its tours to attract older customers.

Although it targets the over 60s under its Golden Age Journey banner Nickerson admitted some product was unsuitable.

"We have introduced itineraries which are more leisurely. Our research showed that people get frustrated if the tour is too demanding," she said.

Golden Age Journeys have now been extended to five of the top-selling tours - Images of Thailand, Images of India and Nepal, Jordan and the Holy Land, Peru and the Andes and the Best of Nepal.

Bales has also expanded its upmarket Connoisseur programme to India, Nepal and the Galapagos Islands.

Nickerson said she was targeting growth of 34% for 2000 as the company looks to double its profitability within three years.

n Bales has reported a drop in sales through multiples as retailers push their in-house long-haul specialists.

Nickerson said the operator now relies more heavily on independents and has joined the Truly Independent Professional Travel Organisation to push sales through the trade.

But she added that customer booking requirements will also play an important role in future distribution.

"Distribution has affected us all and the issue will not go away," said Nickerson. "We need to be more consumer-led than agent-reliant. I will continue to support agents who support me but we may need to look at other distribution means."


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