Mark Warner Holidays marked a ‘new future’ in its business this week as it showed its new Rhodes resort to press and travel agents.
The independent company, which has been operating for 38 years, has moved further towards a five-star concept with its new Levante Beach Club Resort, based in the bay of Afandou, Rhodes. The new style could see some of its other seven properties either be renovated or closed down to meet with its new standards.
Speaking to Travel Daily at the resort earlier this week, David Hopkins, managing director at Mark Warner said: “For a long time we have been delivering the Mark Warner staples (watersports, childcare, waterfront) in a five-star way but in the last decade expectation has changed, grown and evolved across the industry. People expect a basic level of standards and we have to meet those expectations; I believe it is where the future of the travel business is. It is clear that new product and a prime destination is the future and there’s no debate about that for the industry. Slightly tired resorts are not the future; we need new, updated product”.
Hopkins hit out at ‘opportunist’ accommodation providers and tour operators that have moved into markets to provide poor quality hotels and cheap holidays. Already the cruise industry has seen changes over price points and offering, with Hopkins keen to see low-quality accommodation disappear as soon as possible.
“There is no future in poor accommodation for cheap holidays, so the sooner these operators go than the better. I feel ruthless about this as we spend hours working on what we deliver,” he said. “Some profiteers come in just because there is an opportunity but travel is more than that; it’s about caring and a good holiday. I’d like to see an honest playing field under some restrictions and like to see companies more upfront”.
Opening in Greece
Mark Warners’ third opening in Greece has come as the country prepares to vote later this month and there is uncertainty over its euro exit. Hopkins hinted at possible expansion in Greece and Cyrpus following the company’s successful relationship with Levante Beach’s owners AquaSol, but criticised national media for the negativity around Greece. “News media are very one-eyed on coverage but the reality is we don’t know the answer yet. If Greece is to prosper, everyone needs to concentrate on doing good business now and it doesn’t stall,” he explained.
Bookings at the tour operator for Greece are up 25% on last year, with Levante Beach already nearly full up to mid-July. However, there is work still to go, with official data released by association SETE saying overall tourism arrivals into Greece are 5% behind 2011’s figures. Thessaloniki, Corfu and Crete have the highest airport arrival figures. Expenditure has remained flat at just under EUR105m.
Amongst the uncertainty, Hopkins remained confident on the market and reinforced how ATOL bonding is crucial in helping customers during any difficulty.
Travel agent initiatives
Meanwhile, the tour operator is working to improve its work with travel agents, with head of marketing Tim Locke heading up the operation. He revealed Mark Warner is rolling out a new incentive scheme that will see agents earn a stay at one of its resort, but targets will vary depending on the turnover of the agency. Currently Aspen Travel and Travel Club Elite are trialling the scheme, which will be rolled out across all agents. “There was a gap between what our competitors were doing and ourselves, so we looked into it and decided to launch a variable incentive scheme that will help incremental growth in the business bit by bit,” he explained. Agency visits and fam trips will also form part of its agent initiatives.
Locke said agency sales had previously been ‘lost’ in a business restructure but wants agents to be confident selling the product and eventually boost sales through travel agents. Despite being quiet amongst the trade it has online training and a new website, as well as creating marketing collateral to help agents.