The stalwarts of British tourism abroad have therefore remained European with good reason; the ‘three c’s’ (climate, cuisine and culture) making certain that generation after generation return.
But some things have changed over the years and the European holidays we take today have been hugely influenced by key events: the establishment of budget airlines in the nineties and the opening of the Channel Tunnel, a movement away from ‘lost’ languages in schools such as Latin to modern languages like Italian and German, as well as the opening up of European borders and the introduction of the Euro currency.
Changes since the seventies have also unlocked a whole ‘new’ Europe to British travellers. It’s now not uncommon to holiday in Croatia or the Czech Republic, Hungary or Iceland, while ‘mid-haul’ destinations just outside the realm of Europe (like Morocco and Egypt) have also seen a surge in tourism.
Spain and her islands has been the top dog for British travellers for the past 40 years. Indeed, Office for National Statistics figures show that back in 1970 Spain was the second most popular destination for UK travellers (only marginally beaten to the top spot by the Irish Republic). While in 2010 she took the crown, with an estimated 10.3 million visitors.
This growth may have been first initiated by the introduction of the package holiday, but Spain has ensured her consistent attraction to Brits by offering diversity and luxury in enticing destinations. Holidays to her shores now include everything from the pioneering treatments of the SHA Wellness Clinic to the manicured golf courses of the Abama in Tenerife.
In fact, Tenerife has long been a favourite for ITC clients and since its opening in 2005 Abama has been our biggest European seller… and it’s not hard to see why. With two Michelin starred restaurants to choose from, an 18-hole golf course, tennis academy and wealth of other amenities in a locale known for its year-round temperate climate, the attraction is obvious.
Marbella is another Spanish destination synonymous with luxury, having been made the ‘place to be’ in 1946, when Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe purchased what is now the flagship hotel Marbella Club. Hollywood stars and royalty soon flocked there, and the region and its surrounding area are still hugely popular today. Finca Cortesin, nestled in a green belt area overlooking the Mediterranean, is the latest in luxury there, having recently been named “Best Non-urban Hotel in Spain” by Condé Nast Traveller.
Following demand from our clients, Inspiring Travel Company ventured into Europe in 2002, and many of the properties and destinations that featured in our inaugural brochure still continue to be popular to this day. But like ITC, they have remained at the top of their game by moving with the times to constantly ensure the discerning traveller gets the most from their time there.
Elounda Gulf Villas in Crete, for example, is a family run ‘all villa’ property that is still a huge favourite with ITC clients. The hotel is now adding to its facilities with a Beach Club which is due to open in April 2014, where you will receive attentive service all day, with a regular shuttle service from the property.
The Santa Marina in Mykonos is another Greek property which has been with ITC since the beginning. In response to the increasing popularity of Mykonos, the hotel has just completed a three year refurbishment including extensive accommodation renovation of the hotel’s 70 rooms and suites. Borgo Egnazia in Italy opened in 2010 and has been a huge success since its addition to the ITC portfolio. A large resort based in an Italian village, it has everything for everyone; kids club, large spa and golf course, as well as introducing tourists to the relatively unknown area of Puglia.
Here are a few of the Italian destinations which have stood the test of time:
In 1893 Pantaleone Caruso opened the Pensione Belvedere in Ravello in one of the wings of the Marquis D’Affl itto’s 11th century palace, and the hotel went on to serve as a favourite haunt of the Bloomsbury Group, including Virginia Woolf. Today the Belmond Hotel Caruso has had something of a makeover, yet still retains its historical charm.
Built by an aristocratic English family in 1830, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea manages to combine the charm of its original elements with all the luxury of a modern hotel. Set on its own private beach and located in Taormina Mare on a bay considered to be one of the most beautiful in all of Italy, Villa Sant’Andrea offers an indulgent slice of sumptuous Sicilian living.
Adjacent to the Greek Theatre, the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo was first built in 1873 and is well known for its Literary Terrace which has long been a preferred meeting spot for illustrious guests; being a favourite destination for stars from Sofia Loren to Audrey Hepburn. Here you’ll discover a luxurious stay with some of the greatest historical and striking vistas in Europe.
The Belmond Hotel Splendido is a hillside retreat situated in a 16th century Benedictine monastery, with beautiful views of the Bay of Portofino. Nearby you’ll be able to explore the Cinque Terre UNESCO World Heritage Site; where among other local delights you can sample the regionally made pesto.
As travel specialists we keep our finger on the pulse of tourism trends, and going forward we believe the next big thing to influence European holidays will be the twin centre escape.
“We believe travellers are looking to make the most of their week-long holiday by taking in different experiences,” says our Product & Marketing Manager for Europe, Zoe Saunders.
“One of the most popular twin centres is Santorini and Mykonos – with a couple of nights in cosmopolitan Mykonos, dancing till dawn and then lounging in one of the funky beach bars; followed by a few days on the romantic Santorini, with its charming little villages and beautiful sunsets over the caldera. With only a 2½ hour boat journey between the islands, it takes very little time out of your holiday.”
Italy is another popular choice for twin centres. Efficient inter-country rail and flight connections give you endless options: Florence and Portofino, Amalfi Coast and Capri, or you could even twin Venice with Croatia thanks to the ferry to Rovinj taking just under four hours.