Kuoni targets families with new Neilson tie-up

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Kuoni is targeting the family market through a new partnership with Neilson Holidays as part of a drive to work with more companies.

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Mark Duguid, vice-president of commercial and product, said the announcement comes as the operator seeks to create customers for life, not just special occasions.

He added that the deal would mean Neilson’s full range of 14 Greek and Turkish beach club holidays will be sold in Kuoni shops and via its personal travel experts.

“Our core market has traditionally been couples, and a large share of our business is honeymooners who are looking for something really special,” Duguid said.

“The challenge we have is that we lose some of those customers when they have children and move into the family market, so we wanted to find a travel partner with great quality resort hotels geared to the family market which matches our profile.

“As our retail business grows there is a clear opportunity to work with carefully selected like-minded brands that complement and expands our own in-house product range.”

Neilson specialises in the family market with activity-based trips to keep children occupied. Holidays on offer include the Vounaki Beachclub in Paleros, Greece, which opens in May 2015 and offers windsurfing, mountain biking and children’s clubs.

Duguid said: “The clubs are all high quality and have a great reputation. The focus is more on activities and quality of tuition and less about room furnishings.”

Richard Bowden Doyle, chief executive of Neilson, said: “Neilson’s beach club holidays are all about having a go at whatever it is that takes your fancy, from stand-up paddle boarding and waterskiing to tennis and mountain biking.

“I know our ‘relax as hard as you like’ ethos will appeal to Kuoni customers.”

Neilson is one of several operators Kuoni has signed recent commercial deals with. Ski Independence trips are now on sale while Kuoni’s Stay and Cruise brand has seen it work with a number of cruise lines including Celebrity, Cunard and Azamara.

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On Our Radar: Salzburg’s Sound of Music celebrations

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As the classic Salzburg-set musical reaches 50, this spectacular part of Austria is gearing up an influx of UK visitors.

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It’s been 50 years since The Sound of Music first came out in cinemas, kick-starting a global obsession with the stunning Salzburg scenery. Little Gretl and Marta von Trapp are no longer cherub-faced children learning their do-re-mis, and Liesl is 16 going on 66.

Yet year after year tourists still flock to the Austrian city to find out if the hills really are alive with the sound of music. “It is a beautiful story of a family brought together through music and love. The hurdles they have to overcome still resonates with audiences today,” explained Gerhard Leskovar, head of marketing for the Salzburgerland region of Austria.

“We find that many visitors come to Salzburg from all over the world to discover more about the land behind the musical and to relive the von Trapp’s extraordinary story.”

Between January and October 2014, 140,000 Brits visited Salzburg, and Leskovar anticipates “a marked increase” in 2015 to celebrate the anniversary.

Salzburg’s tourism industry has done a fantastic job of keeping the five-time Oscar-winning film’s memory alive. Visitors “can climb ev’ry” mountain on a range of tours – these include daily bike tours between May and September, walking tours with singing guides and coach tours around the film locations. Puppet shows and dinner shows are also on offer. Visitors can watch the musical itself at Salzburg State Theatre, with English language performances available on selected dates.

A special gala event will be held on October 17 at the Felsenreitschule, with the Mozarteum Orchestra performing songs from the musical and special guest appearances.

Clients who want to find out the true story behind the musical should visit the Appearance, Reality and the Third Reich exhibition at the von Trapp’s family home, Villa Trapp. The exhibition dispels the myths of the Hollywood version of events and explains why Captain von Trapp resisted joining the Nazis.

Fans can mark the anniversary afloat with Titan’s special anniversary package. Guests on the Enchanting Danube river cruise will be treated to performances from Elisabeth von Trapp, the real-life granddaughter of Maria and Baron von Trapp, on selected departures from May until September. Edwina Coppock, agency sales manager at Titan, told me the anniversary has led to “even greater demand for summer bookings”.

Meanwhile Sarah Black, marketing executive for Osprey Holidays, says she hopes that the anniversary will help draw attention to Salzburg’s other tourist attractions, such as Mozart’s birthplace and the Salzburg Festival of music and drama (July 18-August 30). “It should increase the overall awareness of what the city has to offer as a great short-haul destination for years to come,” she said.

Sherpa turns to agents with new-look website

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Sherpa Expeditions has unveiled a redesigned website to make it easier for travel agents to book holidays online.

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Agents will be able to access the European activity holiday specialist’s entire product range of more than 100 trips – which are mostly self-guided – across the UK and Europe through the website.

It will have a user-friendly holiday search to help navigation, which agents can use to find trips based on a number of basic criteria including departure dates, trip duration and price. All information about each trip will be listed on a single page.

Meanwhile, a new inspiration and advice page will contain trip and accommodation ideas, explaining how itineraries are graded and offering practical advice on how to prepare for a holiday.

Holidays can be matched to people’s levels of fitness, making it easier for agents not familiar with walking holidays to offer their clients the appropriate trip.

Tali Emdin, Sherpa Expeditions manager, said: “Traditionally our core customer base has been dealing with Sherpa Expeditions directly. However, we have noticed that interest from travel agents has remained strong over the years.

“We had a very old website – the whole look needed to be upgraded and modernised to make it easier for agents to use.”

Prices lead in at £280pp for the four-day Yorskhire Dales mini-break and includes three nights’ B&B accommodation, notes and a route map.

Virgin Hotels’ first property opens in Chicago

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Virgin Hotels has opened its first property, Virgin Hotels Chicago.

Virgin Hotels

The 26-storey art deco building is located in Chicago’s Loop district and offers 250 guest rooms, including 40 one-bedroom suites and two penthouse suites.

It offers free Wi-Fi and charges no fees for early check-in, late check-out, room service delivery or business centre transactions.

Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said: “It’s been a long-held dream to start beautiful, comfortable, fun hotels for guests and give them what they want and need while being gentle on their wallets.”

Raul Leal, chief executive of Virgin Hotels, said: “It’s an exciting time for our team as we get to unveil our new approach to room design, service, and entertainment within the hotel industry.”

Virgin Hotels plans to open a second hotel in Nashville in summer 2016 and a third property in New York in 2017. Two additional locations will be announced by the end of 2016. The brand aims to have 20 locations by 2025.

Bristol airport tops global punctuality table

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Bristol airport is the most punctual in the world, according to league tables published today.

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It received an on-time performance rating of 94.4% from global aviation intelligence provider, OAG.

The results were based on 43.5 million flight records from 4,000 airports worldwide across 2014. Punctuality was based on the proportion of flights arriving and departing within 15 minutes of the scheduled time.

Robert Sinclair, Bristol airport’s chief executive, said: “This achievement is a joint effort and is testament to the collaborative approach taken by airlines, ground handlers and our own team.

“It demonstrates the advantages offered by regional airports such as Bristol, where airlines operate in uncongested airspace with greater flexibility and resilience in the event of any disruption.”

London Luton was rated the next most punctual UK airport, coming 10th in the small airport category.

KLM launches Amsterdam Belfast route

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KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has launched a new route from Amsterdam to Belfast City airport as part of its expansion plans.

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The airport is the only one in the UK and Ireland to be featured in the list of new airports.

The daily return service from Amsterdam Schiphol airport will begin in May 2015 and is now on sale.

Belfast City airport’s commercial and marketing director, Katy Best, said: “KLM’s connectivity to many source markets will be particularly appealing to Northern Ireland for both business opportunities and tourism development.”

KLM is the second big European airline to announce operations from Belfast City Airport in the past few months.

In November, Vueling announced that it is to commence a twice-weekly service from Belfast to Barcelona in May 2015.