The Indian Ocean doesn’t have a reputation for value but there are bargains to bag, finds Joanna Booth
Which factors close a sale for you? Quality and service go a long way, but probably not as far as you’d wish. For many a client, price can be the deciding factor.
Like a knowledgeable and thorough travel agent, the Indian Ocean has made a reputation for herself based on quality and service. Those gorgeous high-end hotels with can’t-do-enough-to-please staff – plus her gorgeous looks – mean she’s famous for luxury holidays.
Clients could be forgiven for dismissing her as a destination based on the assumption a break here will be beyond their budget.
But as the song goes, it ain’t necessarily so. You’ll need to be canny – it’s all about choosing the right destination, property, package and time of travel – but get those right and you’ll find a deal keen enough to tempt even the most price-conscious of clients. Unless specified, all packages in this feature are per person for seven nights and include flights and transfers.
Travel in low season
It’s fairly obvious, but avoiding high season can make a big difference to prices, with operators reporting savings from 20% right up to 50%. And with the low season in Mauritius and the Maldives falling over the British summer, it can be an option that holds real appeal for some clients.
The worst they’re likely to experience is sporadic showers and choppier waters, so many will be happy to compromise, though it’s worth bearing in mind that this may not extend to really keen divers.
In Mauritius, if clients are concerned with cooler weather off-season, choose a property on the north or west coasts, which tend to be hotter and sunnier than those on the south or east.
Sri Lanka has a slightly more complicated monsoon pattern, but in the more mainstream resorts of the south and west coast, off season is May and June, and then from September to the end of November.
Visitors will see a mix of sunshine and showers. The destination is more affordable in general, however, so this is a spot for year-round good value.
In the Seychelles, January and February can be rather wet, so exercise caution booking in these months. In March, however, it’s more likely to be sunny with light winds, so pick this month for value.
The right inclusions
All-inclusive has become synonymous with value, and in some destinations this is true.In the Maldives, with its preponderance of one-resort islands, clients can get stung with high yet unavoidable in-resort costs if they’re paying as they go along, so all-inclusive is a safe bet.
A comprehensive programme of included water and land sports has helped to make Lux Maldives a top-selling five-star for If Only, which can send clients in June for £2,639.
More affordable still is the four-star Kuredu Island Resort, which has four restaurants and an adult-only section, and where six nights in June with Thomas Cook starts from £1,459.
Sunset Holidays suggests relative newcomer Atmosphere Kanifushi (pictured above), where it offers a stay in a beach villa for £7,999 for a family of four.
Although there’s plenty to see in Mauritius, clients tend to be quite hotel-based, and so all-inclusive can be the best-value option here too. Three-star Coin De Mire on the north coast ticks boxes for couples, with a week in June from £1,145 with Thomas Cook.
Travel 2 recommends the three-star Silver Beach Hotel as good value year-round, with eight nights in May and June from £999.
However, in Sri Lanka, where local food is delicious and cheap, the opposite is true. Travel 2 recommends Hikkaduwa, a resort that attracts surfers and other budget travellers and thus has reasonably priced eateries and activities. May and June stays with breakfast at hotel Chaaya Tranz with the operator start from £699.
Another option for clients who are travelling in larger groups is to rent a private villa. Specialist operator Sri Lanka Collection, for example, offers 41 Lighthouse Street, which sleeps six in three doubles, right in the heart of Galle Fort, a World Heritage Site.
Tatler has called it ‘Sri Lanka’s sexiest villa’, but in the May-June low season clients can pay just £1,750 for the whole villa for seven nights. The price excludes flights but includes the services of a private chef, who will charge the cost of food bought at the local market back to clients at the end of their stay.
Find family savings
All-inclusive packages may cover their ice-cream costs, but if children mean clients require extra rooms, prices will shoot up. Look for resorts where there’s space for the family to share without being crowded and it should help balance the budget.
Gold Medal recommends Mauritian four-star Tamassa, where a Deluxe Family Room sleeps up to two adults and two kids and starts from £4,476 per family staying all-inclusive in June.
Larger families can be accommodated at three-star all-inclusive Veranda Pointe aux Biches, where family rooms sleep up to two adults and three kids up to 17. Several operators have free night offers at this hotel.
Ocean Deluxe Family Rooms at the Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa sleep four, and include extras from a Kids Discovery Kit and Nintendo Wii console to a welcome fruit basket and cookies and marshmallows delivered daily.
If Only has a half-board offer from £4,449 for a family of four travelling in May and June, with an upgrade to all-inclusive from £1,000. Keep an eye open for free child places too.
Premier Holidays draws attention to the free accommodation for under-11s at the three-star-plus Berjaya Beau Vallon Beach Resort and the four-star DoubleTree By Hilton Allamanda in the Seychelles, and in Mauritius at the three-star-plus Merville Beach where, alongside free kids’ places, airport transfers and watersports, there are free island tours and boat trips.
Cut couples' costs
Mauritius is a weddings hotspot, and many hotels offer free ceremonies. Sunset recommends the four-star Laguna Beach Hotel & Spa, where an all-inclusive stay with a free wedding and an upgrade to a Deluxe room starts at £1,399 from May to September.
It’s also worth considering that if clients wed in the low season, there’ll be fewer other ceremonies, giving them more choice of venues and a general sense that their wedding is special and unique.
Honeymooners can pick up plenty of extras too. Thomas Cook’s lead-in for honeymoon deals in Mauritius is the three-star Tropical Attitude, where a June all-inclusive deal for £949 includes an accommodation discount, sparkling wine and fruit, a special dinner and a couple’s massage.
Premier Holidays has honeymooner deals in Mauritius, Sri Lanka and even the Seychelles, where the DoubleTree by Hilton Allamanda offers an 80% discount for the bride on stays of more than four nights.
Think about transfers
With the Indian Ocean’s multiple islands, transfers can soon push up the price. In the Seychelles, choose resorts on main island Mahé to avoid this.
Hayes & Jarvis recommends four-star Coral Strand, which is on a beautiful beach and near a clutch of restaurants and bars, making B&B stays, which start from £1,299 in June, convenient.
In the Maldives, the further away from Malé the resort is, the more expensive the transfer will be. If clients have their eyes on a resort with a seaplane transfer option, see if they could swap this for a flight to a domestic airport, plus a boat transfer.
Caribtours recommends doing this at Reethi Beach Resort, saving 30% on the transfer cost by replacing a 35-minute seaplane transfer with a 30-minute domestic flight and a 15-minute speedboat transfer. The operator offers B&B packages on this basis in July from £1,235.
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