Greece and Cyprus don't shut up shop in winter. Isobel Finbow looks at some of the best ways to sell the region
Batten down the hatches – the British winter is on its way. But while we’re preparing for months of grey skies and frozen toes on this side of the Channel, things aren’t nearly as dismal in Greece and Cyprus.
With temperatures that stay in the early 20s well into October and recover to a healthy glow around March, the region is perfect for off-season travel. And it’s not just the thermometer reading that’s so agreeable; prices drop, the hordes go home and local culture comes into its own, making it an appealing destination for older clients, bargain-hunters and couples seeking seclusion.
The burgeoning demand is being met by airlines, as British Airways has extended the season for its Paphos service to November 29, and although Olympic Holidays’ charter programme doesn’t kick in until May, in April and for most of October, the operator makes use of easyJet and other scheduled carriers to the Greek islands.
The blistering heat subsides from September until May, which means autumn and spring are great times for your sporty clients to visit, and according to tour operator Islands of Greece, enquiries for cycling and fitness-focused breaks have increased.
The rugged coast of Crete has some of the best walks in Greece. Inntravel offers a long season there from April 20 to July 16 and September 1 to October 22 – excluding the end of July and August due to the heat – with a self-guided walking tour package that passes through cultural and natural hotspots from £945 excluding flights.
If your customers really want to push themselves physically, suggest the Cyprus International 4-Day Challenge. Between November 21-24 this year, athletes from around the world will take part in the event that includes mountain, trail and cross-country running, over a distance slightly longer than a marathon. The event sets off from Coral Beach Hotel & Resort, Paphos. Olympic Holidays offers seven nights there from £450, including flights on November 20.
It’s not just budding Olympians who will appreciate the milder climes. Older clients will find the conditions tolerable, but much warmer than home.
Cyplon has noted that in the winter months they tend to have many repeat, long-stay, older clients, who leave the UK to avoid the winter chill and high fuel bills. As a result, the operator brochures long-stay offers for senior citizens.
Recommend older clients take advantage of the resorts with bars, beaches, shops and restaurants all within walking distance, such as Annabelle in Paphos, Cyprus.
The elegant hotel has shaded gardens and access to the new Almyra Spa. Classic Collection offers seven nights’ B&B for £1,237 this October, including flights from Gatwick.
DEALS AND STEALS
With so many holidaymakers prioritising value for money without wanting to compromise on luxury, Greece and Cyprus outside peak season are great ways to satisfy those who want the best of both.
Local gift shops often have end of season sales, so it’s a great time to grab a bargain, while tours and attractions can be discounted too.
While shoulder season prices for all-inclusive packages can be competitive, a self-catering deal is particularly cost-effective. Islands of Greece offers seven nights in a self-catering studio in Kefalonia for £469 including flights, on selected low season dates.
Higher-end hotels also reduce their rates, so it’s a good time for clients who normally opt for mid-range properties to upgrade for a taste of luxury.
Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides says: “Lower shoulder season prices are encouraging people to upgrade to a higher level of hotel.
“For a minimal increase, it’s possible to book a five-star rather than a four-star hotel.”
Olympic Holidays offers seven nights at the five-star Almyra Hotel (pictured) in Paphos, Cyprus, departing November 18 for £394 including flights. The same package in July 2014 costs from £1,086.
A SENSE OF PLACE
The teeming beaches and tourist-infested bars of high season in Greece and Cyprus mask a rich local culture, which can finally breathe once the majority of holidaymakers have gone home.
Sunvil’s Greece programme director Dudley der Parthog agrees: “During the shoulder and off-peak seasons, our best-sellers are quiet and authentically Greek destinations such as the south Peloponnese and Pelion on the mainland, and the islands of Samos and Ithaca.”
Many hotels offer their own cultural dining experiences, such as the Blue Palace Resort & Spa, Crete. Deeply embedded in its Cretan culture, the hotel serves traditional Greek cuisine using products from local farmers, and Cretan cutlery. Sovereign has a seven-night stay from £991, including flights from Gatwick departing October 18.
Carnival weekend in March is a particularly good time to get stuck into local culture in Cypriot town Limassol, with its street parades and fancy dress parties. Cyplon has a seven-night stay at Le Méridien Limassol Spa & Resort for £1,075 including flights during the carnival period. With the Penguin Village kids’ club to keep the little ones busy, the holiday will keep the entire family entertained.
The thronging crowds that fill Athens’ famous landmarks are far more manageable in the off-season, meaning visitors can enjoy more relaxed sightseeing trips.
Attraction World offers year-round excursions in the capital, including a half-day Athens city tour, with highlights such as the Acropolis and the home of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, Panathinaiko Stadium. Prices start from £64 for adults and £41 for children aged four to 12.
Other day trips include visiting the archaeological site Delphi and the Temple of Apollo, famed for its ancient oracle, and the historic city of Corinth, where St Paul lived and preached, followed by wine-tasting at a vineyard in Nemea. The former costs from £95 for adults and £62 for children, with the latter at £72 and £47.
PEACE AND QUIET
For those who get shivers down their spine at the very thought of rampaging children, Greece and Cyprus outside the school holidays also have some secluded pockets to escape to.
Couples on a romantic getaway are certain to fall in love all over again on the quintessential Greek island of Santorini, with its whitewashed buildings, winding streets, blue-domed churches and secret balconies overlooking an unbelievably clear ocean.
Try the Iliovasilema Suites with Islands of Greece. Seven nights start from £789 including flights, on selected low season dates.
For guaranteed privacy and relaxation, suggest adult-only hotels such as the Ayii Anargyri Spa Resort, Cyprus, where children under 14 are not permitted. Hidden away in a secluded lush valley, the former monastery boasts health-giving waters, a luxury spa and its own vineyard. Classic Collection offers seven nights in October for £859, including flights.
But alone time does not have to mean hiding in a spa, as the off-peak season means that watersports and activities will not be overrun with little ones, leaving them free for big kids to enjoy.
Lizzie Edwards, head of agency sales at Mark Warner, says: “Our holidays appeal to couples as well as families – especially out of season. Those who are really into activities such as sailing, windsurfing and tennis get the benefit that everything is quieter without families out of season, so they can get really stuck in.”
A week at the five-star Levante Beach Resort in Rhodes starts from £1,025, departing October 26 and includes British Airways flights and free watersports and tennis.
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