By Charlotte Flach
With beach holidays topping the wish list of many in 2022, Europe’s easily accessible and family-friendly coastal spots are in demand
The beach is back
As the waves roar and throw themselves against the ancient boulders, I balance precariously on a rock that juts out above the roiling surf. The seaspray flecks my face as I gaze out at a dark sky, which mirrors the fine grains of ebony sand of the surrounding stretch of volcanic beach.
As I look out, I feel like I am completely alone in this sublime landscape, subject to the elements which churn ominously around me. I’m standing on a deserted beach, on the remote northern reaches of Lanzarote. There isn’t another soul around and the scene in front of me is a far cry from most beaches I’ve visited before. Granted this might not be everyone’s idea of an amazing beach experience, but I find it totally thrilling.
Clients might prefer to switch moody beachscapes for sun-soaked sands and calm shallows for deep sea diving, but the good news is that agents can cater to just about any request when it comes to a beach break in Europe.
For many clients, “sun, sea and sand” will be the criteria for this year and Europe delivers this in abundance. Malta is a sure sell for year-round sunshine, Greece offers island-hopping appeal for variety, Croatia has glassy-clear waters and the Spanish isles remain a familiar favourite for Brits.
Unlike further-flung destinations such as the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean, short-haul flights make sandy beaches more accessible, especially for family or multi-generational trips.
There’s an influx of grandparents booking breaks with their children and grandchildren, mostly to the Mediterranean for summer 2022, according to ABTA’s latest travel trends report.
Research from Accor Hotels suggests that fly-and-flop holidays are in high demand with beach holidays topping the wish list for 2022. The survey found that 31% of respondents are planning sun and sand getaways for this year and over half (51%) of those surveyed said they intend to keep their travels within Europe.
“Europe is always a great spot for a beach holiday because it’s easily accessible, particularly for families. For example, Malta has year-round sunshine, and can be reached by plane in just over three hours,” says Natalie Swinburne, Trade Marketing Manager, UK & Ireland for Visit Malta.
“Customers are booking holidays in their numbers, with both the Balearics and the Canaries performing very well,” adds Alan Cross, Head of Trade Sales at Jet2holidays.
“Short flight times and the wide variety of accommodation on offer to suit families, couples or groups means they are among the top-selling beach resorts in Europe.”
With stretches of pristine sandy coastline, whitewashed seaside towns and harbourside tavernas, Greece and its neighbouring islands tick all the boxes for a beach holiday in Europe.
Aside from pent-up demand following numerous lockdowns and restrictions, travellers are opting for high-end breaks, meaning there is good commission to be made and great upselling opportunities.
“We’re finding that the big four- and five-star properties are selling really well at the moment, and it’s the family rooms that are disappearing fast,” says Michael Vinales, MD at Olympic Holidays. “With the easing of testing and restrictions, people know demand is high and are confident to book ahead of time and they’re also upgrading.”
Whilst Santorini and Mykonos have become known for attracting luxury lovers, there’s plenty of opportunity to escape the tourist traps.
“Smaller, lesser-known islands like Symi and Halki have some of the clearest waters around with superb small and deserted beaches. Shipwreck Beach on Zante is always popular and the Greek island of Alonissos sits in a marine park – a great add on to a beach break,” adds Vinales.
Sell it: Olympic Holidays is offering a nine-night island hopping holiday from £1,155pp based on two people travelling. Includes B&B accommodation, return flights to London-Gatwick airport, baggage and all connecting transfers. Departs May 8, 2022.
The Canaries and the Balearic islands continue to be firm favourites while Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria in the Canaries cater well to families with a wide selection of accommodation options on a variety of board basis. These rugged volcanic isles are known for their black- and white-sand beaches, with rock pools and hidden coves perfect for young explorers. Gran Canaria even has an 18-hole beachfront golf course, Maspalomas, which is surrounded by the dunes nature reserve.
Many clients are seeking more tranquil settings across the Balearic Islands. “It’s clear that customers are looking to get away from it all as we are also seeing strong growth in typically quieter resorts such as Cala Llonga, Cala Gracio and Cala Millor in Ibiza, despite it being known as a party island,” says Jet2holidays’ Cross.
Package holidays are also currently doing well, he adds. “Customers are really looking to indulge themselves this year. As such, there has been a rise in sales for all-inclusive package holidays to Majorca.
“Agents should recommend one of over 40 new properties we have introduced across the Balearics for summer 2022, including a range of adult-only resorts and properties that are part of our Luxe Collection and VIBE by Jet2holidays portfolio.”
Sell it: Jet2holidays is offering seven nights half board, staying at the four-star Dreams Calvia Resort, departing from Manchester on May 13, 2022. Priced from £689pp, the deal includes a 22kg baggage allowance and return transfers. jet2holidays.com
There are beaches on the banks of many of mainland Croatia’s cities. Although most are pebble, for sandy shores agents can recommend Paradise Beach on the island of Rab, Bačvice Beach in Split, Saharun Beach on Dugi Otok, Lumbarda on Korčula, and Kukljica on the island of Ugljan.
Clients will find a secluded stretch at Cape Kamenjak, in the south of Istria. It has many hidden coves and islets with sandy and stone beaches, while Lubenice Beach is situated in a hidden cove and surrounded by the steep cliffs of the island of Cres.
For exceptional levels of privacy, Stiniva Cove on the island of Vis is by far the most famous secluded Croatian beach. “It is very difficult to reach by land, but sailors often come here to enjoy the silence and the calm sea,” says Darija Reić, Director at the Croatian National Tourist Office.
Clients should visit the ‘European Great Wall of China’ in Ston, one of the longest defensive walls in the world, and sample local delicacies including oysters and mussels from Malostonski bay, and wines from Dingač and Postup.
Sell it: TruTravels offers an eight-day island-hopping ‘Croatia Sailing Adventure’ priced from £766.50pp, starting and ending in Split.
Malta, Gozo and Comino offer island-hopping opportunities and a holiday that combines beach lounging with other activities. “More people are looking to enjoy their hobbies on holiday, and they can have the best of both worlds when it comes to exploring the destination and also relaxing,” says Visit Malta’s Swinburne.
With shipwrecks and clear waters, Malta is one of Europe’s best spots for diving. It’s also home to the Blue Lagoon on Comino, with its azure waters. Tell clients to visit in the early morning to beat the crowds.
Along with diving and history, the island is known for its food. Visitors can test out the new Beefbar at The Phoenicia hotel, or visit Michelin-starred Bahia at The Corinthia Palace hotel, when it opens in April.
Top tip: Recommend a visit to Gozo, and watch the world go by in Victoria Square. Intrepid Travel has introduced a Highlights of Malta and Gozo tour, from £976pp.