Central's New Directions
PHOTO: Central Holidays CEO Gianni Miradoli. (Courtesy of Central Holidays)
The venerable tour operator Central Holidays is introducing new tour brands and tour programs, including its very successful high-end Journeys by Central Holidays brand. And it is coming out with a new Latin America tour line under its STI by Central Holidays brand. Vacation Agent recently talked with CEO Gianni Miradoli.
How is business for Central Holidays this year?
It is good, although this year has been a mixed signal from market. Europe seems to be a little bit soft this year, maybe because of the economical situation or terrorism, but the big rise in the price of airfare has not helped Europe to explode as we had expected.
What are you seeing in the other destinations Central Holidays serves?
This year we see some destinations that are picking up, like Cuba for example, where our programs are doing very well. On top of that, we are receiving so many requests for Cuba that we decided to extend offers to Cuba with more specific topics to attract the attention of various audiences, for example Jewish Heritage in Cuba, which is a big thing, as well as the Christian heritage.
We are looking to utilize other means of travel to Cuba, such as the cruises around the island. So I think Cuba will be a big boost to our product for next year and hopefully for the rest of this year.
What other destination developments are you looking at?
Regarding the future we are certainly looking to Malta because it is a natural extension to Sicily, which is one of our best programs to Italy. I was in Malta myself and was really surprised by the beauty and the possibility that this little island is offering. So we certainly decided to move forward to the destination.
In the 2016 brochure, we will be featuring Malta as a new destination. There is a fast boat from a port south of Syracuse in Sicily called Pozzallo, and in one hour and 20 minutes you are in Malta. It’s a very beautiful boat. It’s a natural extension from Sicily to Malta. So you see two different types of islands that are very beautiful with two different backgrounds. Malta is a more English-type of environment, and very beautiful.
We are now launching Latin America under the STI by Central Holidays umbrella. We will move full force into Latin America in the next year.
Can you tell us more about the STI brand?
STI stands for Sakkara Travel International. For Central Holidays Travel Group, it’s a different brand in the marketplace that covers a different destination or a different type of product. That was the brand in the U.S. when the Sakkara Group purchased Central Holidays [in 2012]. So we incorporated the STI brand into our family of brands.
STI by Central Holidays is offering everything in the world other than Europe, including the Middle East, Dubai, Egypt and Latin America. Europe will remain exclusively under the name Central Holidays as a brand.
STI will be marketed as STI by Central Holidays. And then we have the brands Journeys by Central Holidays, Outdoor Journeys by Central Holidays and Enchanting River Cruises. Those are the brands that are more for the specific type of product rather than the destination.
Our  brochure will be out in the next two or three months. In our Latin American program, for instance, we are featuring about 14 countries. We believe this also will be a great plus for the entire group as a destination for next year.
Another brand we soft-launched last year is Journeys by Central Holidays, for high-end programs. It’s booming, really booming, and we were happily surprised about the success of the brand. We are getting so many requests. And the clients coming back are highly appreciative of the service. We believe that Journeys by Central Holidays will be another big name on the marketplace for the high-end type of program.
We are little by little expanding it to other destinations. We started just with Italy, but now we are moving to France and to Spain. We are very happy to say that Journeys by Central Holidays is a winning brand. We believe we can be the complement to the brands that are in the marketplace for this niche market. We believe that we’ll be a real competitor. So we are happy to say that Journeys is giving us what we expected.
Outdoor Journeys is the brand that will cover soft adventure activities — bicycling, trekking, skiing, etc. We are really expanding the biking and skiing, offering different kinds of programs to people who like soft adventure. We had the brand in house already — it’s close to 40 years in the market.
We are trying to offer different types of ski activities in the winter. We want to get out from the normal program of seven days’ hotel accommodations and a ski pass.
We want to offer different activities, such as promenade on ski with ski boots, downhill off the beaten path, heli-skiing and ski safaris — meaning traveling 1,000 miles in seven days while going up and down on the slopes instead of doing the same slope each day. Ski safaris are a totally different type of approach to ski programs.
For the rest, we are maintaining the same line of product we’ve had up until now, all of Europe, including Croatia, which is picking up quite well. It’s a destination that is building back and is coming back to how it was before the war. And we believe that it will be a very good destination in the future.
We will have some new cooking class experiences in France coming out in the next brochure. And, of course, we maintain the large variety of programs that we’ve always had.
For more information, call 866-521-4181 and visit www.centralholidays.com.
More by David Cogswell
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A version of this article appears in print in the June 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.
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