By Jeannine Williamson – August 2019 – 6 minute read
The Mediterranean is an enduring British favourite but there’s nothing tired or old about its current offering, which has diversified to include city breaks, beach holidays and touring escapes.
Home from home in Malta
Although Malta has been independent for more than 50 years, the British influence is part of its enduring appeal. I feel as if I’m at home as I stroll through the charming cobbled streets of Valletta in the afternoon sunshine. Around me are familiar red postboxes, well-known high street shops and cars driving on the left.
After browsing through a market selling inexpensive hand-made lace, knitwear and honey, I head to Upper Barrakka Gardens, the highest point in the Maltese capital, with panoramic views across Grand Harbour. Right on 16.00 local history society members dressed in British artillery uniforms fire a gun salute. It’s a stirring sight and a throwback to the days when cannons protected the island against attacks and signalled the time of day.
Next morning I take a 25-minute ferry ride to small, neighbouring Gozo, where life ticks by at a leisurely pace. Sea salt has been produced here for centuries and the salt pans glisten in the sun at Marsalforn. Afterwards I enjoy an al fresco lunch at Ta’Mena Estate in the countryside. Overlooking an orange grove, I tuck into platters of local cheese, salads bursting with flavour and oven-fresh rosemary-scented bread with wine from the estate. It provides a real taste of these beautiful islands, less than three hours from London.
In 2018 the number of UK tourists visiting Malta reached 640,570, up 14.2% from 2017. This strong performance is likely to continue, with Air Malta offering an increased 16 flights a week from London Heathrow, as well as from Manchester, Birmingham, Southend and Bristol.
Peter Vella, Director UK & Ireland, Malta Tourism Authority, said: “Last year was a busy year as Valletta was the European Capital of Culture and the island hosted the first European TropOut [gay traveller] Festival as well as the annual calendar of festivals and events. Boasting 300 days of sun a year, the archipelago has a wealth of history, culture and stunning landscapes, which makes Malta appealing.”
Elsewhere, Exsus Travel reports that Turkey is back on the radar with a rise in bookings. “As a result, we have revamped our Turkey product,” said Neil Sutton, Senior Account Manager for Europe. “We recommend the Six Senses Kaplankaya and Amanruya on the Bodrum Peninsula for their location and impressive facilities. And in Spain, the new Menorca Experimental, a pretty finca set in pine forests with private villas with pools, opens this summer. These villas are perfect for a weekend break or couple’s holiday.”
Classic Collection has seen an increase in two- or multi-centre holidays, elegant rail journeys and rail and ferry transfers between resorts. Gary Boyer, Head of Purchasing, added: “The Mediterranean is ideal for combining a cultural stay in a city with a few relaxing days in the sun by the sea or in the countryside. Agents can enjoy the extra commission from these higher-value bookings and demonstrate the value they bring to the holiday booking process.”
The weekend break
From cultural city breaks to a few days on the beach, and the majority of flight times less than three hours, the Mediterranean is perfect for weekend breaks.
Malaga’s landmark Gran Hotel Miramar (granhotelmiramarmalaga.com) has launched new two-day Indulge + Detox packages combining relaxation, pampering and healthy menus. Treatments include a Dead Sea salt scrub, seaweed wrap and choice of massages.
Staying in Spain, NH Hotel Group recently opened a 47-room property in Valencia. The NH Collection Valencia Colon (nh-hotels.com) is a short stroll away from the coffee houses, bars and restaurants of Gran Via and within walking distance of attractions including the Marques de Don Aguas Palace and market. The hotel has a direct Metro link to the airport, providing short and easy transfers on a weekend break.
Majorca’s capital, Palma, is 15 minutes from the airport and also good for short breaks. The new boutique property Palacio Can Marques (palaciocanmarques.com) has 13 designer suites with Murano lighting. Built in 1760, it was previously a grand private home and retains many original features.
Sell it: Kirker Holidays (kirkerholidays.com) offers a three-night weekend break in Malaga at the Grand Hotel Miramar from £783.
The relaxing couples holiday
Sales opportunities abound with a raft of new openings. In Cyprus adult-only Amavi Hotel, offering couples side-by-side massages, cocktails by the pool and romantic meals, is the first member of Made For Two Hotels, a brand launched by Kanika Hotels & Resorts.
Pierre & Vacances has opened the self-catering P&V Premium Residence Menorca Binibeca. Some of the 149 rooms have private rooftops and there is a free spa area. In Corfu, MarBella Hotels has unveiled the MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas property featuring 70 suites and villas. And on the north-east coast of Sardinia the new Gabbiano Azzurro Suites is being offered by Just Sardinia.
Simpson Travel has introduced Katouna Suites, a stylish, adult-only retreat on Lefkada with accommodation cut into the hillside.
Sell it: Travel2 offers seven nights in Paphos at the Amavi Hotel from £1,089.
The fun family holiday
Mark Warner has opened the Paleros Beach Resort on the Greek mainland. A multi-million pound refurbishment of an existing property brings 130 contemporary doubles, suites and family rooms set in beachside gardens to an unspoilt stretch of coastline.
New activities for youngsters include exciting robotics workshops with 3D printing at MarBella Corfu. And at Crete’s Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel there are children’s yoga classes and Greek dancing lessons. At the Kempinski Hotel Bahia they can take Andalusian cookery classes.
Just Sardinia has introduced S’Incantu Resort on the south-east coast, offering studio, one- and two-bedroom self-catering apartments with a pool, snack bar and mini club; while Simpson Travel has a new nanny service in Corfu.
Portugal’s Algarve won the award for Europe’s Leading Beach Destination at the 2019 World Travel Awards for a record-breaking sixth time. Its calmer beaches are perfect for small children, whilst older kids can enjoy watersports.
Sell it: Just Sardina offers seven nights near Villasimius at the S’Incantu Resort from £898 for up to four sharing.
The touring adventure
Matera in Basilicata is European Capital of Culture 2019 and Red Savannah has a new self-drive tour through this little-known southern Italian region. Taking in neighbouring Puglia, the week-long itinerary includes B&B hotel accommodation, car hire, entrance fees to attractions and a cookery class.
As Italy celebrates a year of ‘Slow Tourism’ in 2019, Planetrail offers the new week-long Flavours of Tuscany itinerary combining rail travel to the Tuscan coast with a self-drive tour including wine and cheese tastings. Its other Mediterranean tours include a 10-night rail-and fly-holiday visiting Madrid, Malaga and Gibraltar.
G Adventures has a new 10-day crewed voyage from Venice to Zadar inspired by an ancient trading route, on a yacht sleeping up to eight. Unforgettable Croatia, which recently launched a new eco-friendly initiative with the Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation, offers seven-night sailings and 10-night cruise-and-stay packages in the Adriatic.
Sell it: Inntravel offers a six-night self-guided walking tour on Andros, Greece, from £635pp.