North Africa: Love is in the air

North Africa: Love is in the air

Ramp up the romance with a couples-only break to Egypt or Morocco

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All you need is love, if John Lennon is to be believed, but that doesn’t always ring true once the little niggles of busy day-to-day life get in the way.

Escaping for some quality time, however, can reignite that little spark of romance that had the happy couple falling for each other in the first place. So maybe it should have been ‘all you need is a holiday’ instead.

The exotic cities and laid-back beaches of North Africa provide great building blocks for a romantic break, with enough sightseeing to keep couples occupied but not so much that they end up hurtling from one place to another with no time to stop and breathe it all in.

Not only that, but Morocco and Egypt are also close enough and well-connected enough even for a short break – perfect for a special occasion – and they need not break the bank so even cash-strapped couples will have enough left over to splash out on a few romantic extras in-resort.

If your clients are stuck in a romantic rut, offer some inspiration to rekindle their passions with a few of these ideas.

Try...Touring for two

At face value, a touring holiday doesn’t sound like the most romantic escape: if clients are constantly on the move, lumped in with a big group, or feel like they’re seeing more of the sights than each other, it won’t tick the box for quality couple time.

Book the right tour, however, and those concerns are easily overcome. Many escorted-tour operators now offer private as well as group options, so couples can tailor the itinerary to their interests and preferred pace.

Great Rail Journeys has branched out into such tours with its GRJ Independent range, which includes rail travel or a private driver plus local guides, so visitors get the best of a guided tour without the group feel.

Itineraries are tailor-made, but GRJ Independent suggests a sample route around Morocco, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, could start with Marrakech, strolling through the tranquil Menara Gardens and romantic Saadian Pavilion, once used by the sultans for romantic trysts, followed by a fast-paced introduction to Moroccan-style bartering in the souks.

Next, drive through the Atlas Mountains, stopping for lunch amid orange and grapefruit groves, to the imperial city of Fes and medieval architecture dating back as far as the 9th century with the Karaouine Mosque and University, before carrying on to the grand monuments of Meknes and simple Andalusian architecture of Chefchaouen.

Move on to capital Rabat to see the unfinished Hassan Tower and mosque or the kasbah of the Udayas, overlooking the mouth of the river, then finish in Casablanca to recreate the romance of the classic film.

With flights, six nights’ accommodation in riads, guide, driver and sightseeing, it comes in at £2,195 per person.

The lack of a large group means clients can be flexible with timings and stay longer in areas that interest them, but without the stress of sorting out their own itinerary or finding their way between distant cities.

If they’d prefer to see their sights from the comfort of a cruise ship, a leisurely sailing down the Nile might be a better fit: there are myriad options, but the most interesting pair time on the river with stays in Cairo or Aswan.

Movenpick Hotel Cairo Pyramids

Mövenpick has properties in both, offering breathtaking vistas from Mövenpick Hotel Cairo Pyramids which, as the name suggests, looks directly over these feats of ancient engineering, and the Mövenpick Resort Aswan, which boasts no less spectacular a view across the wide reaches of the Nile.

On the river, the hotel brand also operates several five-star cruise ships, from 66-cabin Sun Ray which comes complete with sundeck and swimming pool, to the boutique Feddya, which has just four butler-serviced suites and is as close as it gets to having your own yacht. Prices for the latter start at £1,300 a night.

Try...Champagne at sunset

How many times have you trotted out the sales pitch for a honeymoon package that included a basket of fruit and a bottle of sparkling wine?

It might sound somewhat clichéd, but when your clients are standing on their private balcony with a glass of bubbly and a great view to behold, they’d have to have hearts of stone not to feel the romance of the moment.

The luxurious six-star Beachcomber Hotel Royal Palm Marrakech has seen a jump in the number of couples choosing the city as a honeymoon destination – a great option for mini-mooners who want a short-haul break before their honeymoon proper – and with fruit and champagne, complimentary gifts, 30% off the suite rate and couples’ spa treatments, it’s easy to see why.

There are even discounts for couples who come back to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

But why just leave it to the honeymooners?

Mövenpick Hotels has a number of packages which add a sense of occasion no matter what clients are celebrating. Its Casablanca property can lay on chocolate truffles, rose petals across the bed, a half hour massage, and champagne toast at sunset on the hotel’s stunning rooftop terrace (from £169 a night).

The Tangier hotel has a similar VIP welcome with fruit and bubbly, plus dinner for two in a traditional Caidal tent (from £125), while Egyptian equivalent Mövenpick Resort El Quseir combines a candlelit dinner on the beach, half-hour massage, introductory dive on the house reef, and an in-room breakfast on its romance-themed package (from £485 for three nights’ half-board).

Try...Total seclusion

While some couples want all the bells and whistles of a romantic package, others prefer to hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their door the moment they check in, and won’t remove it until they’re ready to go. If that sounds like your clients, opt for a secluded resort with a sense of privacy.

Es Saadi Gardens & Resort is in Marrakech’s upscale Hivernage area, where the twisting souks and tucked-away riads of the Medina give way to wide, tree-lined avenues and a host of high-end hotels.

Set in 20-acre gardens with a view of the Atlas Mountains, Es Saadi is a good compromise between escaping the crowds and still having access to the city centre, a 10-minute taxi ride away.

Opt for a relaxed stay in one of 150 rooms or 84 suites, with a Romance Package that comprises a two-night stay, candlelit dinner, hammam, 45-minute scrub and half-hour couples’ massage (from £339 for two). Alternatively, take that sense of seclusion to the next level in one of 10 private villas, each with its own pool and butler.

If couples still yearn for more space, suggest retreating to the deserts and mountains beyond the city bounds.

They will fly in and out of Marrakech so city sightseeing isn’t off the agenda altogether, but journeying through the High Atlas Mountains and spending a night under the stars in a desert camp – Anatolian Sky Holidays can tailor-make such a trip – provides a peaceful counterpoint.

Try...A his 'n' hers break

It’s the age-old dilemma: she wants to relax on the beach but he wants to explore, or she fancies a resort packed with bars and restaurants but he wants to avoid the crowds. You can’t always please them both, but some resorts make it easier to keep everybody happy with activities to suit all-comers.

The sheer variety at Soma Bay puts it firmly in this category, combining the year-round sunshine, sandy beaches and superb diving for which Egypt is best known, with a Gary Player-designed golf course, thalasso spa and watersports that vary from kite-surfing to sailing.

Its five luxury hotels – including the rebranded Westin Soma Bay Golf Resort & Spa, formerly La Residence des Cascades – can cater to couples, but it’s the Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay which excels with a pre-designed package that includes roses, private limo transfers from Hurghada, a candlelit dinner and two-hour spa journey with a glass of wine and a massage, facial and body scrub.

Snorkelling in Soma Bay

The Six Senses spa at Marsa Alam property The Palace Port Ghalib is no less impressive, weaving Egyptian elements – the hammam includes a scrub with Red Sea salts, there’s a Cleopatra signature facial, and an Isis ‘glow’ treatment – with all the accoutrements of a modern spa; plus activities aplenty with on-site watersports, windsurfing, canoeing, diving and horse riding.

Morocco’s beach towns can’t boast the same scale of development, but Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort, 50 miles down the coast from Casablanca, comes close.

Couples can hit the 18-hole links course (another Gary Player creation) or 19-room spa together – both have enough sea views to keep non-golfers or reluctant spa-goers engaged – then finish with a sunset horse ride along the beach or chill-out night in a private cabana at Ibiza-style beach club Chiringuito, complete with cocktails, tapas, sushi and a live DJ.

Try...A heritage hotel

Nothing adds character to a holiday like an atmospheric boutique or a historic property with stories to tell, and those heritage hotels abound in Marrakech.

Simply Luxury by Travel 2 features several riads, including La Sultana Marrakech, where beautiful antiques and intricate artworks are as abundant as the sweeping city views from its roof terrace or traditional cookery classes.

Also featured by the operator, the Riads Lotus comprises four riads, each with an individual style themed around a historical figure.

Riads aren’t confined to Marrakech, so guests who like this style of accommodation can extend their stay outside the city.

Anatolian Sky Holidays features the Riad Mimouna in Essaouira, which started life as a windmill in the 1890s, and has a seafront location. It’s bigger than some with 33 rooms, but its Berber-style decor and terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean boast bags of character.

Sample Product

Anatolian Sky Holidays offers an eight-day trip combining Marrakech, a desert camp and the High Atlas Mountains, from £695 including flights, transfers, B&B accommodation and excursions.

Cyplon offers a week at Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay from £699 for flights from Gatwick or £730 from Manchester, based on half-board accommodation in a lagoon view room with 20kg baggage, departing December 11.

Red Sea Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B at The Palace Port Ghalib from £389, based on December 9 flights from Gatwick to Marsa Alam, with transfers and luggage.

The Palace, Port Ghalib Resort, Marsa-Alam

3 Hotel Openings

Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech, opened last month in a 20-hectare estate southeast of the city centre, with 54 private villas and nine suites, plus a spa, two hammams and two signature restaurants.

W Hotels has unveiled plans for its first property in Egypt. The W Sharm El Sheikh is set to open in Nabq Bay in 2020, featuring 350 rooms and suites, and 50 branded residences.

Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca opened its doors this month, with 186 rooms set on the Atlantic coast. A resort-style pool with private cabanas and poolside restaurant Latitude 33 will open next year.

How to sell

Special occasions are a good excuse for clients to book an extra break on top of their main holiday, so be sure to ask about big birthdays, wedding anniversaries or other occasions which could give you the opportunity to up-sell.

Not only will it earn you extra commission, but it also encourages customer loyalty.


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