ALTERNATIVES TO TRADITIONAL HOTSPOTS
STAYCATION PRIVATE HIRE
As summer tans fade and the reality of the winter commute strikes, Brits turn their attention to the promise of new adventures in the new year: from crowd-free paradise islands to glamping in the Balkans – with some stunning options closer to home – there’s every reason to make 2018 a great year for travel.
Despite a weakened Pound, global flight search and digital travel deals platform, Cheapflights.co.uk, sees 2018 as the year of the European city break as British travellers head to the Continent now, amidst uncertainty over possible future travel restrictions post-Brexit. Data suggests Amsterdam, Rome, Lisbon and Paris are all strong contenders for the European city break crown in 2018.
“Travellers are leaning towards city destinations where the wider choice of airlines and routes, plus greater choice of accommodation and activities, helps them feel they’re getting a better bang for their buck,” says a Cheapflights.co.uk spokesperson.
Cheapflights.co.uk also anticipates searches for non-European destinations like Thailand, Mexico and Tunisia to increase in the next few months as sun seeking Brits look for value in their winter breaks.
Dmitrijus Konovalovas, founder of travel itinerary inspiration site IQPlanner said: “Some of our city break favourites are crowded, even in the so-called off-season, and we’re finding more of our travel bloggers and local experts are choosing to highlight alternatives to the usual suspects. Bilbao and Zurich are emerging as hot tips for 2018, whilst Marseille and Honfleur are worth a look, far from the madding crowds of Paris. Maltese capital Valetta, European Capital of Culture 2018, is offering a packed calendar of events to add to its existing charm.
He added: “Given recent events in the Caribbean, we believe there’ll be an upswing in socially responsible tourism in 2018, aimed at supporting these beloved destinations that depend upon tourism. Now is the time to find a well-priced Caribbean holiday and support the region as it recovers.”
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the first new deluxe property to be built in a generation on the famous Grand Anse beach in Grenada, the independently-owned Silversands Grenada opens in March 2018. Set to boat the longest pool in the Caribbean, at 100-metres, the oceanfront resort will comprise of 39 open plan suites, three one-bedroom suites and a 192 square-metre penthouse suite. The property promises a beach club, spa, and a Thai restaurant inspired by Grenada’s spice heritage. Grand Anse is a two-mile sweep of white sand, ideal for sea swimming and sunset views.
In 2018, Grenada hosts the fifth annual Grenada Chocolate Fest (11-19 May) offering visits to cocoa farms to harvest the crop and the opportunity to taste test the island’s four cocoa producers.
Sharon Bernstein, Grenada Tourism Authority Director UK & Ireland, said: “Silversands on Grand Anse is the first new-build luxury property of this size in 25 years and ensures UK visitors enjoy an even greater selection of independently-owned properties.”
Outdoor accommodation specialist Pitchup.com is predicting a surge in interest for Slovenia in 2018 as travellers seek an alternative to the usual European hotspots. Commenting on what Slovenia has to offer, Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, said: “Slovenia is like Europe all rolled into one compact holiday destination. Travellers here find ski resorts in winter, beaches for summer and spectacular lakes and mountains to explore year-round. Whether you want to indulge in the latest trend for paddle boarding on Lake Bled, explore the caves of Postojna, indulge in a thermal spa or sample world class cuisine in the capital Ljubljana, Slovenia has it all.”
He added: “Slovenia has great outdoor accommodation choices. With the most sites of any Eastern European destination and some really spectacular places to stay, such as Herbal Glamping Resort, a luxury safari style resort in the mountains near Ljubno ob Savinji, Slovenia is a crowd-free alternative to Croatia. Slovenia offers a certain sense of newness, whereby visitors can show off their holiday exploits to those back at home.”
Pitchup.com’s top three places to stay in Slovenia are:
Glamping Olimia Adria Village: This beautiful site is located in the spa resort of Podčetrtek close to attractions including a waterpark and thermal baths. Accommodation here is in luxury safari tents, each with its own private bathroom, TV, air conditioning and coffee machine. The cost of a stay even includes a breakfast basket, delivered daily to the tent. Communal facilities on-site include indoor and outdoor pools, fitness centre, tennis courts and kids club and play area. Safari tents cost from £167 per night.
Eko Resort Pod Veliko Planino: At just 30 minutes from Ljubljana, this eco resort is ideal for those on a weekend break to Europe. There is plenty to see and do on-site including cycling, hiking, visit the zoo or enjoy a day at the ‘beach’ or relax with a massage. Accommodation is in traditional wooden cabins which sleep up to five across two floors. Each cabin has a kitchen, living and dining area, plus en-suite bathroom. Guests will need to bring their own cooking equipment, but can help themselves to a range of seasonal organic vegetables from in the resort’s own kitchen garden. A one night stay costs from £167.
Herbal Glamping Resort: Set in the mountains near Ljubno ob Savinji is this very pretty luxury glamping retreat. With a private sauna, breakfast included and a massage room and fishing all on-site, guests will never want to leave. Each luxury tent can sleep six people and are based around a natural outdoor pool. Tents come with their own private outdoor sauna, scented herbal pillows to aid a peaceful night’s sleep and fluffy bathrobes. Visitors can relax around the communal firepit at night or dine in the on-site restaurant. Tents cost from £260 per night.
Closer to home, for special occasions and celebrations, private hire locations such as Huntsham Court in Devon and Borthwick Castle near Edinburgh, offer sumptuous surroundings for families and friends to gather together without the expense of international flights.
Chris Badham, co-owner of Huntsham Court, the 35-bedroom Victorian manor house near Tiverton, said: “We see increasing demand for flexibility in exclusive hire, so we continue to offer the opportunity to hire the entire house and garden, but we’re expanding the options to cater for smaller groups and highlighting our wide range of experience partners. As the house hire can be self-catering, we don’t tie our guests to specific food and drinks suppliers, so they can ensure they spend their money where it counts – on their unique experience, rather than exorbitant corkage charges. We believe the challenged pound will favour the staycation luxury market as Brits who might previously have taken their ‘friends and family’ events abroad will now look at venues closer to home.”
Robert Birch, owner of Borthwick Castle, Scotland’s finest keep, said: “The true value of an exclusive hire comes when compared to a hotel stay for an extended family of groups of friends attending an event such as the Edinburgh Festival. What sounds extravagant actually provides great value for money: calculate a per person per night price for 12 hotel rooms in the city centre and it’s clear to see the value of hiring a castle. For 2018 we’re already taking reservations from guests who’d usually take a French château or extended villa in the Caribbean as they prefer to invest in their accommodation and activities.”
Judy Menier, Owner of SJ Villas, a collection of exquisite private holiday homes worldwide, has noticed some interesting trends at the top end of the luxury market. “It would seem that Portugal is back in fashion, with its stunning villas and world class spas and resorts proving a big draw for our discerning clientele. Menorca is also on the up as we continue to receive a flurry of enquiries for 2018. We have also expanded our portfolio in Umbria, Italy in response to demand, whilst Trancoso, Brazil appears to be ‘the place to be seen’ this New Year’s Eve.”