Emily Ashwell checks out Red Sea hotels for different price points
The Red Sea holds many different attractions for holidaymakers. Some are drawn by the diving, some by the year round sun and others by the chance to combine beach-time with a trip to see the icons of Ancient Egypt. But for all, the great value for money on offer is a key motivator too.
The majority of Red Sea resorts are in Egypt. Those strung along the east coast of the mainland include Hurghada, which is the busiest town and the airport hub, but there are also the purpose built resorts of El Gouna, which is built around islands, lagoons and canals, and Soma Bay, which has a bent towards luxury hotels, and Marsa Alam, which is rapidly growing, with its own airport and a reputation for excellent diving.
East of the mainland, the Sinai Peninsula is home to the most famous resort of all, Sharm El Sheikh, on its southern tip. Nearby alternatives include the more traditionally Egyptian Dahab, renowned for windsurfing, and Taba Heights, another purpose built resort conveniently located for trips to the sights of the Sinai and Jordan.
The abolition of APD from May 1 for children under 12 gives a financial boost to families booking holidays to the Red Sea. Both Thomas Cook and Classic Collection say they see consumer confidence returning after the country’s political instability.All prices quoted here are per person, on a twin-share basis, for a week’s travel in May or June, including flights and transfers.
Save: Check the spec
When it comes to bagging a bargain in the Red Sea, at the three-star end of the market, there is plenty of choice – provided clients know exactly what they are and aren’t getting for their money.
If hotels aren’t on the beach or within walking distance, check they offer a free shuttle service. All-inclusive packages will be limited, won’t offer branded drinks and the resort spec is likely to be less contemporary.
Clients wanting more beach bang for their buck should look at The Grand Hotel, Hurghada. For a hotel with a beach it’s a steal at £362 with breakfast through Red Sea Holidays; however, this busy hotel is a bit dated. It’s 15 minutes from the centre of Hurghada but there is a free shuttlebus.
Cosmos recommends the beachfront Mercure Hurghada, which receives good feedback for service and, though 10 minutes from downtown, has plenty to offer on site, from dining options and after-dinner entertainment to activities. Packages start from £419.
For divers seeking convenience and value, Red Sea Holidays recommends the Ghazala Beach Hotel, in Sharm El Sheikh. Close to the restaurants and shops of Naama Bay, this property has a Padi centre as well as a choice of five on-site restaurants. Stays start from £358 with breakfast.
Also in Sharm, the Xperience Kiroseiz Premier is a great sell to families on a budget – it has an Airtours Lollo & Bernie kids’ club, a mini waterpark and themed family rooms. It’s also located close to Naama Bay and the new Hollywood entertainment complex – beaches are reached by shuttlebus. Airtours offers an all-inclusive stay from £469.
The Governor Amwaj Sharm Resort has direct access to the beach at Nabq Bay and, although it has 465 rooms, the size of the resort – with a huge free-form pool at the centre – means that it does not overwhelm guests. There are plenty of activities, and kids have a separate pool, club, menu and babysitting. Olympic Holidays has a special offer in June of £449 per person, all-inclusive.
Spend: Look large
The distinction between the value and mid-range hotels can get a little blurred when it comes to the Red Sea. Generally, hotel standards are good, but if you’re upselling, Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides suggests there are two main considerations: beachfront or not; and a hotel’s size, with larger properties more likely to offer more choice of rooms, dining options and facilities.
“Older couples who want a quiet week of sun and personal service are often happy at budget level, since they may not want to use – or pay for – the facilities and activities laid on at the larger hotels,” he says.
“But while some clients may initially shy away from a property with 400-plus rooms, agents should highlight the increased choice, particularly of restaurants, if they’re all-inclusive,” he said.
Fun-seeking families will love the action-packed waterpark at the 600-room Sunwing Waterworld Makadi, Hurghada. It includes more than 500 metres of slides, a FlowRider surf simulator and a children’s water fortress.
There’s a private beach, modern rooms and plenty of activities and restaurants to choose from, and all-inclusive prices with Red Sea Holidays start from £588.Best for families, according to Sharm Direct, is the 520 room Sultan Gardens, where the operator offers an all-inclusive stay from £699. On its own beach and with four pools, there’s a dive centre and watersports; courts for tennis, basketball, football and volleyball; mini-golf; a kids’ club and playground; and 15 bar and restaurant choices. All rooms have a balcony or terrace, and family rooms are available.
For adults, Thomas Cook recommends the 445-room Sentido Palm Royale in Soma Bay, as it offers exclusive spa and sports inclusions for Cook guests including an introduction to sailing and thai-yoga massage. They’ll find Soma Bay more relaxed, without the noisy bars of Hurghada. Prices start from £615.
If that sounds too low-key, book the 554-room Movenpick Resort & Spa, El Gouna. Adults can kick-back at the Angsana spa or hire a bike and cycle to the shops and restaurants at the car free marina. Meanwhile there are plenty of pools and watersports for those who want to be more active within the confines of the hotel, and with some coral gardens in sheltered waters, El Gouna suits learner divers. Kuoni offers five nights from £576.
It’s the combination of facilities and great value that makes the 317-room Hilton Sharks Bay Resort a good bet in this category, according to Hayes & Jarvis. The deluxe rooms located in the new north section of the hotel benefit from a vast pool, and there’s a handy in-resort shuttle service so guests can make the most of the facilities, which include golf, fitness, seven pools and five restaurants. It’s also within walking distance of Sharm’s Soho Square, which has many more dining and entertainment possibilities. Hayes & Jarvis sells it for £649, all-inclusive, including a 35% early-booking discount.
Splurge: Brand recognition
The Red Sea has a salubrious roll-call of luxury names – Oberoi, Four Seasons and Kempinski, to name but a few. Many five-star hotels can be found in the mid-price range, achieving the high rating due to their huge variety of facilities and great service rather than any particular claim to bona fide luxury. When it comes to the very top end, clients will be after something a little more exclusive, with the attention to detail they’d expect for their money.
The adult-only Baron Palms Resort at Sharm El Sheikh offers a great entry price into the luxury market at £929 all-inclusive with Cyplon Holidays. This serene boutique hotel has simple Moorish-inspired architecture within huge grounds and its own private beach on the Ras Nasrani Bay. It also has a Padi centre.
Oberoi is a brand synonymous with luxury and the The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh, doesn’t disappoint. The all-suite resort near Hurghada is set in 48 acres, with some suites having their own pool. It has a Padi centre and spa. Mosaic Holidays sells seven nights from £979.
The Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay impresses all round, but for clients seeking that extra exclusivity book the Laguna Club rooms and suites – they come with a separate lounge where guests can enjoy breathtaking bay views. Classic Collection offers it on a bed-and-breakfast basis from £1,546.
For attention to detail and service – your clients will be hand spritzed with water and their sunglasses cleaned by pool staff – consider the Four Seasons Resort in Sharm El Sheikh. Nestled on a lush hillside, it’s everything you would expect from the brand with a few extras: guests can charter private yachts and it has its own jetty and house reef. Carrier is offering a week’s bed and breakfast for £5,070 for a family of four sharing a deluxe room, with children’s programme included.
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