Senior contributor and analyst
The schools are back and thoughts now turn to Christmas and winter breaks. For some, this means only one thing – winter sports – while others just want to shop, with Christmas markets being the big draw.
The latter type of break is a growth area, as are Lapland adventures, which have mushroomed in recent years. Whatever your client’s preferences, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are some ideas.
Christmas sees some cities unfairly overlooked as short breaks reap the attention seasonal markets bring. The likes of Cologne and Vienna have long had the Christmas lantern shone on them, but others are just as enticing and provide better value for money.
“One of our favorites is Riga, a less commercial, more traditional and more intimate option for those wanting to explore a city where the very first Christmas trees were decorated,” says Phillipa Butcher, Newmarket Holidays product manager. “Then there’s the Italian Dolomites, very traditional and the Italian Christmas capital; plus Edinburgh for those wanting an option closer to home.”
Her advice is to establish if clients are interested in larger markets offering lots for tourists or the less well-known traditional options, as these can be an opportunity to explore a new city or an old favorite at a different time of year.
book it: Newmarket Holidays offers three nights with breakfast in Riga from £396pp, with flights from five UK airports. The price includes a city tour and services of a tour manager. newmarketholidays.co.uk
Enontekiö is the true Lapland, advises Transun
A WHITE CHRISTMAS
Lapland’s popularity in the UK has increased, with more direct flights to the wildernesses of Finland and Sweden. Some destinations like Finland’s Levi double as ski resorts and year-round party towns, while others provide a more remote experience that really conjures the Santa magic.
A tip for agents is to ascertain exactly what Lapland packages include. All should provide thermal clothing and boots, but extras like husky sleigh rides can really push prices up, so warn parents to manage children’s expectations. Day trips are the most cost-effective offering, but some might not relish the very early start and late return.
Transun offers packages to the remote Enontekio airport close to the Norwegian border, some including taster sleigh rides and a private meeting with Santa. “We call it the true Lapland, you’re literally in the middle of nowhere,” says Dino Toouli, Transun’s head of trade relations.
book it: Transun offers a three-night Northern Lights package from £799pp based in Karesuando, a remote village straddling Swedish and Finnish Lapland. The price includes flights, full board, thermal suits and boots, a snowmobile safari, husky safari, forest trek and reindeer camp visit. transun.co.uk
Cervinia delivers a great atmosphere on New Year’s Eve, highlights Inghams
BIG NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY
The first proper post-pandemic ski season sees a more cautious approach to celebrations. Ischgl, for example, the center of a Covid outbreak at the start of the pandemic and traditionally a home of the party crowd on the slopes, said it was “unlikely” to host a large event, but would be looking to put on a firework display.
Kitzbuhel is also famous for its fireworks, while new year in Verbier will be the same as pre-Covid, with a DJ in the main square and parties in clubs and bars, some with ticketed entrance.
Italy’s Cervinia combines affordability with a lively atmosphere, particularly around the festive season. “Cervinia is a great pick for New Year’s Eve with its winter markets, fireworks and a ski school torch-lit descent, plus there’s all the usual apres-ski, parties and live music,” says Ingham’s product manager Tristan Osborne.
Cervinia also offers great skiing to intermediates and above via an area lift pass that takes you onto the slopes of the Matterhorn to Swiss resorts including Zermatt.
book it: Inghams has seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the Hotel Punta Maquignaz, Cervinia, from £1,858pp, based on flights from Gatwick on 26 December. inghams.co.uk
Kranjska Gora combines traditional resort charm with quality, affordable slope-side hotels
Many beginners to skiing or snowboarding opt for an expensive Alpine resort with slopes and facilities they will never use.
If your clients are a younger group, apres ski is probably just as important as being on the slopes and duty-free Andorra is a traditional beginners’ favourite, while Italy’s Sauze d’Oulx is also good value with lively nightlife. Romania and Bulgaria offer more limited skiing and apres-ski but are perfect for beginners on a budget.
All these are common recommendations, but agents wanting a more imaginative suggestion should consider Slovenia’s Kranjska Gora, which combines traditional resort charm with quality, affordable slope-side hotels.
“It’s one of the most scenic resorts in Europe, it’s absolutely beautiful,” says Balkan Holidays marketing manager Chris Rand. “Local prices are cheaper than the Alps, the nursery slopes are good and it’s not a resort where the instructors expect you to know how to ski.”
book it: Balkan Holidays offers seven nights in Kranjska Gora departing 8 January 2023 from Gatwick. The price for two adults and two children aged 2-12 is £1,806, based on half-board at the four-star Ramada Hotel & Suites. A five-day lift pass, equipment and tuition package is £380pp for adults and £275pp for children. balkanholidays.co.uk
FEBRUARY HALF-TERM SKIING
February half-term is peak time for skiing and is usually the domain of families. Prices can be eyewatering but there will always be a hardcore able to pay them.
France is popular with families able to drive there and buy accommodation separately. Estelle Giraudeau, Club Med managing director, UK and Northern Europe, says: “When it comes to traveling with a young family, the French Alps proves to be one of the most popular destinations, with countless world-class resorts within short transfers from four key airports. The French Alps also benefit from having one of the shortest travel times from the UK by car.”
She names La Rosiere as a “fantastic” resort for beginners, with plenty of gentle slopes for children and first timers and retaining its alpine charm. “For adults, the resort is also part of the Espace San Bernardo ski area, so there is plenty for all abilities,” she says.
Giraudeau adds the south facing slopes of Alpe d’Huez, with a plethora of blue and green runs back into the resort, are another firm family favourite.
book it: Club Med has seven nights’ all-inclusive at Alpe d’Huez for two adults and two children from £12,650, including flights from London, based on departure on a 12 February departure. Packages include all meals, an open bar, ski passes and lessons (from age four). clubmed.co.uk