A dearth of winter-sun capacity could see traditional Mediterranean summer hot spots reinvent themselves as year-round destinations.
Speaking to Travel Weekly at the recent ITT Conference in Tel Aviv, Vertical Group chief executive Peter Healey said hotels in places such as Greece and Cyprus are stretching their seasons.
Vertical works closely with a number of resorts in the eastern Med through its Your Holiday Booking portfolio. It's biggest selling resort, Sani in Halkidiki, now heats all its outdoor pools and has invested in more indoor facilities.
Healey said this was just one example of hotels in the eastern Mediterranean taking advantage of more-affordable technologies to invest in year-round facilities.
“We will start to see destinations that were traditionally closed in the winter develop resources like heated pools that will allow them to open in the winter,” said Healey.
“Places like Cyprus and southern Greece have tremendous winter weather, as good as anything you get in the Canaries. The cost of heating a pool has reduced: you can now use things like geothermal and solar, something you could not have done five or 10 years ago.
“Just extending business by two weeks at the beginning and the end of the season can really make a big difference. It means a lot more people have a lot more work for a lot more of the year.”
Healey praised low-cost airlines for their influence in stretching seasons as they look to deploy aircraft on year-round routes.
But it is not just the budget carriers looking for 12-month routes. Monarch Airlines’ switch from charter to solely scheduled flying last year means it now has a focus on operating year-round destinations.
Ditching charter flights led to it cutting its number of services to Greece from 12 to just three. And when it spotted signs that the market to Turkey was suffering it axed its more seasonal package route to Bodrum.
Gary Anslow, Monarch Group sales director, said: “Being scheduled, one of the key drivers is operating destinations that are year-round. It suits the airline model better.”
As a result Monarch has routes to Tel Aviv, Madrid and Lisbon catering for the sun and beach as well as the city-break, visiting friends and family, and corporate markets.
“The airline is always working to understand its most effective route network,” said Anslow. “We are operating 32 aircraft this summer. Where we put those is always under review.”
The short-haul winter-sun market has been hit in recent years by problems in Egypt and Tunisia. Monarch is on sale for Egypt this winter but, along with other carriers, is awaiting government advice about resuming operations to Sharm el Sheikh.
Another change the industry is seeing is a shift away from traditional hotel contracting to yield managing through technological channel managers, particularly this year in Spain and Portugal, as hotels fill up.
Healey said channel managers, like Dingus in Spain, are becoming more important to deal with to get availability, particularly at the last minute.
“Hotels are moving to channel managers as their primary distribution. If you want best room availability you have to have a relationship with these channel managers,” said Healey.
“Hotels see this route to market as getting them better revenue. It’s not about pricing, it’s about availability. Contractors are going out the window.”
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