A strong start for the Italian coast but watch out for changing scenarios

The Italian coast has started off well for tour operators and the good news is that it’s accompanied by strong advanced booking.  This is confirmed by the Nicolaus Group regarding summer sales, which are distributed across the entire product range.  “We’re interested to see if, after this advanced period, we’ll experience a situation that is more or less similar to last year.  At the moment, it’s difficult to make predictions,” say Paola Coccarelli, chief product officer, and Isabella Candelori, commercial director of the Nicolaus Group. 

In any case, the managers are talking about excellent advanced booking since October, “with our Crazy Days promotion achieving a 50% increase over 2023.  The response to the early booking campaign has been excellent as well.”

Veratour is also experiencing a significant flow of bookings, “well in advance,” confirms Commercial Director, Massimo Broccoli. “The current average lead time is about 140 days, thanks also to our advanced booking policy, which is extremely popular amongst customers and travel agents.” The tour operator, Le Isole d’Italia, makes a distinction based on the type of clientele, with group bookings tending “to be made further in advance compared to individual clientele.” Compared to last year, tour operators are seeing “an earlier booking trend.”  For Ota Viaggi, booking levels for the season “are already very satisfying; in some accommodation facilities for some weeks, we are sold out, and even the shoulder season months are attracting quite a few requests,” says Commercial Director, Massimo Diana.  “This year, we are hoping to sell rooms up until the first ten days of October.”

For Veratour, Italy as a destination “has started very strong and we are recording a 32% growth over the same booking period as last year,” confirms Broccoli.  For the operator, all destinations are performing with “excellent growth.”  Although we are still at the beginning of the booking flow, when asked to identify a specific destination, the manager mentions “Calabria, but also Sicily and Sardinia are experiencing significant growth trends.”

As yet, the Nicolaus Group hasn’t recorded a particular preferred destination but “Italy is selling very well.” Le Isole d’Italia reports a positive trend and notes that “various requests are starting to come in, not only for the most popular month of August but also for June and July.”  Amongst the regions, Sicily is highly requested.

 

Higher pricing but attempts are being made to stabilise 

Ota Viaggi’s expectations for the current year, “are positive, and the trends are encouraging,” comments Diana, “but we will have to be careful to avoid the sudden changes in scenarios that we witnessed last year on the demand side, which is why we have already prepared plans. And we will lock in prices, because we are absolutely convinced that we should never go below the threshold set during the advanced booking campaign, and that the attempts at price dumping by various players in the supply chain only harm the sector,” says the manager.

There’s no point fooling ourselves that an Italian coastal vacation won’t see price increases.  According to the operators, price increases will occur.  “Prices will definitely increase.  The biggest increases are always seen on flights. For the summer months, we have already noticed high costs especially for Sicily and Sardinia,” states Le Isole d’Italia.

“We are seeing price increases daily,” say Coccarelli and Candelori.  “As a company, we have tried to stabilise price increases, absorbing a part of them.”

In Veratour’s case, price increases occurred already in 2023, “due to increases we had to sustain from our suppliers,” explains Broccoli.  The manager is reassuring about 2024, which “compared to 2023, is recording ordinary increases, thanks to a pricing policy that is very careful about the spending capacity of our customers.”

 

The competition

Speaking of pricing, how is Italy positioned this summer in the Mediterranean context?  Will it be a favourite? Who will be the main competitors?  Massimo Diana issues a warning. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Italy can benefit from the crisis in the Middle East; it’s a myth,” he says.

According to Broccoli, “Italy could be favoured by a slowdown in North African destinations if the situation in the Middle East does not return to normal, more than from competition in the Mediterranean.”

The Nicolaus Group has no doubts that Italy will be “one of the most popular destinations” this summer as well and thinks that “Tunisia could represent an alternative for its excellent value for money.”

Le Isole d’Italia also believes our country is a favourite amongst chosen destinations, “especially its art cities, but we are seeing a lot of interest in small villages and lesser-known places.”  According to the tour operator, the main competitors are “Spain, Albania, Croatia and Greece.”

 

The portfolio

Looking at their portfolios, in Veratour’s case there will be no new openings in Italy in 2024.  However, the tour operator is always on the lookout for opportunities “that may arise, in the regions that have always been part of our programming, namely Sardinia, Sicily, Calabria and Puglia,” says Broccoli.

Nicolaus Group’s summer move is Valtur Baia del Gusmay Beach Resort in Peschici, on the Gargano.  After finalising a multi-year agreement, Valtur announces its entry into the programming of the Apulian accommodation facilities with 182 rooms.  An interesting choice considering that this is Valtur’s second direct management after the Valtur Cervinia Cristallo Ski Resort.

Ota Viaggi’s coastal Italy (Mare Italia) catalogue presents a richer offering, with a range of 95 facilities (compared to 74 in 2023), and with a further ten to be added shortly that are currently in the contractualisation phase, including some high-level products.  Sardinia and Sicily are the highlights, but the offer is growing for all of southern Italy, particularly Puglia, Calabria and Basilicata.

Alessandra Tesan e Stefania Vicini

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