Italy specialists Sardatur Holidays is enjoying the good life, with expansion on the cards. Andrew Doherty learns about the luxury operator’s new experiences and trade focus
With more than 30 years of experience selling bespoke breaks to Sardinia and other Italian locations, Sardatur Holidays has earned a small yet loyal legion of travel agent partners in the UK.
From Sardinia and Tuscany to the Amalfi Coast and Italian Lakes, the operator offers a selection of Italy breaks, staying at a range of four- and five-star hotels and resorts, with a focus on health, wellbeing and outdoor pursuits.
Now the Richmond-based company is looking to expand, offering a bolstered portfolio of renovated properties and new experiences for 2019 and beyond.
“The British market has been very important for us and this year we really want to grow,” says managing director Gianni Bonuglia.
“The Brits love Italy, the food and the wine, but also the fact that it’s not as crowded as other Mediterranean destinations.”
While Sardatur currently sends about 8,000 Brits a year to Italy, 70% of bookings are direct, a statistic the operator wants to change.
“Our best bookings are made by travel agents,” says Bonuglia. “This is why we want to form stronger ties with the trade. We offer great commission and never discount. We want agents to know we’re definitely open for business.”
Exciting developments in the Sardatur camp include the company’s amalgamation with Italian corporate tourism group Uvet.
“With its influence and wealth, we look forward to expanding and doing things a lot more efficiently,” says Bonuglia. “Rather than just offering hotel breaks, we are going to add a section to our website where agents can sell more complicated tours and experiences.”
For example, one new tour from the operator is inspired by the Medici Netflix series, which follows the exploits of the Renaissance-era dynasty. Footsteps of the Medici sees clients visit Unesco heritage-listed palaces, villas and gardens in Tuscany and Rome, with stays in two of Italy’s best luxury hotels – The Artimino Estate and Fonteverde Tuscan Resort & Spa – both of which were originally built for the Medici family.
Another tour offers the chance to experience the Palio di Siena horse race, which falls on 2 July this year. The package comprises a stay at nearby five-star Castel Monastero Resort, Avis car hire and access to a luxury apartment overlooking Piazza del Campo, with cocktails and refreshments served during the race.
“From arranging opera evenings to Lake Garda excursions, we are branching out to offer experiences that can’t simply be clicked and booked online,” explains Bonuglia. “We have more than 20 different tour ideas in the pipeline and will provide a substantial number of multi-centre packages that travel agents can put together.”
While Sardatur’s clients range from couples to mature travellers, it’s family holidays that are proving most popular for the operator.
The recently renovated Sardinia-based Forte Village Resort, one of the operator’s best sellers, offers eight hotels set on a mile-and-a-half stretch of beach. With more than 45 different accommodation options, 12 swimming pools and an extensive sports programme run by ex- professionals including footballers, boxers, tennis players and ex-England rugby star Martin Johnson, there should be plenty to keep children entertained, says George Kyriacou, the hotel’s regional manager.
Kids’ zones include the Children Wonderland play area, which includes a life-sized Barbie dollhouse, a theatre and an arts and crafts area; Leisureland – offering a go-kart track, bowling alley, disco and a waterpark with slides; and a five-lane Olympic-size swimming pool.
“There are no rules for kids here – we love families,” says Kyriacou. “However, we can’t forget the adults either. As part of the €50 million renovations, we’ve closed off a section of our spa, enabling clients to hire it out for the day.
“Plus this summer we will be inviting more than 20 celebrity chefs, all with Michelin stars, to cook for our guests.”
Book it: The Special Sardatur Palio di Siena package is priced from £2,300pp with three nights at the five-star Castel Monastero, flights and selected dinners included, departing 1-4 July and 15-18 August 2019.
What are your thoughts on Sardaturs new developments? How will you be selling them? Email email@example.com or leave a comment below.