By Nikos Krinis
Greek journalists that specialize in tourism and travel were recently given a taste of the product offered in Greece by TUI Group, Europe’s largest tour operator, during a familiarization trip to the island of Kos.
The fam trip, which took place September 25-26, was TUI’s first designed exclusively for Greek journalists to introduce them to the concepts of its hotel brands and the activities that surround its tourism product. These activities also include initiatives that highlight the uniqueness of the Greek destinations in its portfolio, which among others include Kos, Rhodes, Crete, Corfu and Kyllini. The fam trip was led by Evangelos Georgiou, TUI’s head of media relations and Theodoros Arsenikos, the group’s destination services manager for the Dodecanese, central and northern Greece.
“We think it is important that the Greek tourism journalists know exactly what TUI does on the destinations where its business product is set up and how many different aspects of activities exist on these destinations,” Georgiou said, underlining the importance of the excursions the company organizes for its clients. “Excursions are an important part of the travel experience and an important part of the TUI program… The most important fact is that our customers do not stay in the hotels all day but also go out and can either explore the destination they are on or go to a neighboring island,” he added.
TUI Collection: Exclusive excursions for visitors
During the fam trip, the Greek journalists experienced a one-day excursion to Nissyros, part of the TUI Collection product, which is a set of exclusive excursions that have been developed by TUI and tailored to give customers a true taste of the destination.
Each excursion in the Collection must be exclusive to TUI and meet specific criteria for sustainability, showing that it is bringing benefit to local people and minimizing its impact on the environment. The TUI Collection excursions, designed exclusively for adults, for children and for families, are planned out according to strict criteria and aimed to promote the destinations, local suppliers and boost the local economy.
“For these excursions to be included into the collection package, they have to meet some specifications. One specification is the contribution to the local economy or to sustainable development. We aim to work with local Greek suppliers that are based on the destinations we have our hotels and this way boost the local economy,” Theodoros Arsenikos, the group’s destination services manager, said.
On Nissyros, the Greek journalists visited the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani and walked through the island’s capital Mandraki. A visit to the “Stephanos” crater of the Nissyros volcano was also included in the excursion.
The journalists were accompanied by an experienced, licensed local tour guide that spoke in detail about the history, tradition and particular features of Nissyros.
TUI Excursions have innovative “touches”
Among the special features of TUI’s excursions is the modernity it has added in each excursion’s guided tours. The company has integrated the use of “Whispers”, wireless radios and headsets designed for guided tour groups, in all its excursions. “Whisper” is a radio system (one transmitter and multiple receivers) specifically created to sort out the needs of communication between tour guides and groups of visitors. Aimed to provide the best experience to visitors, the “Whisper” allows group members to hear regardless of ambient noise or group size, while guides no longer have to shout to be heard. The technology allows guests to wander away from the group and take in surroundings while listening and allows tour guides to talk in a regular tone while walking with the group. The “Whisper” has proven very popular in TUI’s excursions and has received only positive feedback from the company’s customers and local tour guides.
Another innovative addition to TUI’s excursions is also the provision of tablets to guests while in specific sites such as in the Asklepieion on Kos. Thanks to an installed app and just by holding one of the tablets in a desired direction, each group member can visualize the site, reconstructed in 3D (and 360º) with the ancient colors, statues and objects.
“These innovations offer customers a unique experience while attending a tour… While listening to the tour guide through the “whisper”, a customer can be in another area of the site, away from the group, and with the special tablet, observe the representation of the site just as it was in antiquity,” Arsenikos said.
TUI’s destination services manager also revealed that the group has launched a new, pilot, concept of excursions named TUI Originals. Currently running on Kos and in a Spanish destination, the excursions of TUI Originals will highlight the unique features of destinations. In the case of Kos, the TUI Originals excursion is a day-trip on a wooden boat to a beach on the nearby Giali islet. “The customer has the time to swim on a secluded beach, taste local appetizers on the boat and then visit a second beach where lunch will be served and they can enjoy unique moments in areas that do not attract mass excursions of tourists,” Arsenikos explained. The excursion is for adults only and launched as a pilot version in August. TUI is in the process of perfecting it this year in order to make it available to customers from the beginning of the next season.
TUI holiday reps
TUI’s holiday representatives (reps) play a main part in the holiday experience of the company’s guests, according to Arsenikos. Acting as the public face of TUI, the reps are responsible for looking after the company’s groups of clients and providing them with quality customer service throughout the duration of their stay. Aiming to deliver an outstanding guest experience, TUI has stationed reps in all its hotels and provided them with iPads. The reps duties vary and include meeting guests at the airport, guiding excursions, escorting coach transfers, handling client issues (such as complaints) and responding to clients’ queries. TUI has 150 reps on Kos, 200 on Rhodes and a total of 1,000 throughout Greece.
TUI’s brands on Kos
During the fam trip, the Greek journalists toured five of TUI’s concept hotels on Kos — TUI Family Life, TUI Magic Life, Robinson, TUI Sensimar and SuneoClub — and were presented with high standards of hospitality and service. TUI’s hotel brands all give a special emphasis on sports, customer entertainment and environment and recycling. All of TUI’s hotels use and promote the local products of Kos.
- TUI Family Life Blue Lagoon Village
The seaside TUI Family Life Blue Lagoon Village offers spacious rooms designed with families in mind. Set in a secluded bay in Kefalos, southwest of Kos town and overlooking the Aegean Sea, the hotel has four pools, including a huge outdoor pool with a built-in whirlpool bath. TUI Family Life Blue Lagoon Village offers seven eateries to choose from, including a Chinese restaurant, one dealing in barbecues and a Greek tavern. A lengthy list of activities includes beach volleyball, table tennis and a high ropes course. The hotel also offers a Kids’ Club, designed for 3 to 11 year olds, which offers two hours of activities, six days a week.
- Robinson Club Daidalos
Located in Kardamena on Kos, Robinson Club Daidalos is a resort that offers full-board accommodation, offers a huge variety of leisure facilities (gym, spa center, 10 tennis courts) and appeals especially to families.
Also available at Robinson Club Daidalos is a wide range of sports, from various ball sports and sea-front yoga to indoor cycling and water sports. The resort includes an inclined elevator and natural stone steps that lead to a long, sandy beach, where sailing and surfing is available. According to the general manager, Aris Pavlakis, the 307-room resort has a 95 percent occupancy rate and is getting ready for a major renovation worth 4 million euros. Scheduled to take place in 2018, renovation works will include the construction of 12 new suites. TUI also operates another Robinson Club in Kyllini and will open a new Robinson Club on the southern coast of Crete.
In the following two years TUI wants to expand from 24 to 30 Robinson Clubs worldwide.
- TUI Magic Life Marmari Palace by Atlantica
A 24–hour all inclusive resort, the main feature of TUI Magic Life Marmari Palace located in the fishing village of Mastichari, is that it offers its guests a range of activities. The resort has a standout pool scene (six pools, whirlpools and kids’ pools with mini-slides) and beachfront setting and offers guests the pick of three restaurants, six bars and four tennis courts. TUI Magic Life Marmari Palace has an activities program that includes archery, tennis, bike riding, canoes and windsurfing.
According to the resort’s general manager, Andreas Tarnavas, TUI Magic Life Marmari Palace aims to promote Greek hospitality and offers high quality all inclusive services. “However, our customers are not locked in the hotel… We encourage them to go out and visit the island,” he said, underlining that 30 percent of the resort’s customers are repeat visitors. Over the next three years, an investment of 5 million euros will take place at the resort. Works will initially include the renovation of 55 rooms and some communal areas and later extend to other hotel facilities.
- TUI Sensimar Palazzo Del Mare (Blue Lagoon Group)
A luxury five-star hotel with 175 guest rooms, the TUI Sensimar Palazzo Del Mare, located near the village of Marmari, was built in 2009 and has an adults only concept. “The resort is aimed at adults in seek of tranquility, quiet holidays and personalized services,” the resort’s operations manager, Panagiotis Kontaxakis, said, adding that 40 percent of its customers are repeat visitors.
The hotel has a two-story main building, one building with three floors, ten two-story buildings and the area of the Presidential suite and the ten Executive suites, all with private pools. Palazzo Del Mare offers a variety of facilities including three restaurants, four bars, a 4,500 sq meters swimming pool with Jacuzzi and water jets, an indoor pool (120 sq meters), a fully equipped gym and spa center. Also available in the hotel is a mini-market and an internet corner.
- SuneoClub Thalassa by Atlantica
Thalassa by Atlantica is part of TUI’s SuneoClub concept that features a series of modern and friendly three star all inclusive hotels that offer high quality at affordable prices. Located in Lambi, the SuneoClub Thalassa by Atlantica offers its guests an outdoor pool, a kids’ pool and a buffet restaurant. A full activity program is on offer throughout the day and ends with light entertainment from the hotel’s resident team.
TUI Blue concept coming to Greece
According to Georgiou, TUI has plans to expand its portfolio in Greece with its TUI Blue hotel brand, an “unforgettable holiday” concept ideal for couples, families, or single travelers. The TUI Blue concept combines the best of a first-class hotel package experience with the unique aspects of independent travel.
TUI satisfied with 2017 tourism season in Greece
TUI Group is satisfied by the 2017 tourism season in Greece and especially on how tourism developed on Kos, which was up against certain situations that required careful handling.
“It is a pleasure to see that Greece — a key destination in TUI’s program — is doing well,” Georgiou said, adding that Greece is currently the second most popular destination in the company’s worldwide program after Spain and before Turkey.
Georgiou underlined that TUI supports Greek destinations in difficult times as well. “We have showed this in practice, especially on Kos, which last year experienced pressure on bookings due to the refugee flows. However, we managed to reverse the climate and create a big comeback for Kos at the end of the season,” he said.
In regards to the earthquake on Kos this past summer, Georgiou said that unlike other tour operators that announced “stop sales” for Kos, TUI once stood by the destination. “We communicated that there was no problem… We were right there for our customers and we transferred staff from Rhodes and Crete to strengthen our teams on Kos and this security framework that we created helped the situation,” he said, adding that Kos this year marked a double digit increase in arrivals of TUI’s customers.
In regards to the 2018 season, Georgiou commented that bookings are on a positive course for TUI’s destinations.
TUI Group’s Chief Executive Officer Fritz Joussen and the Members of the Group Executive Committee will be in Athens during October 5-6. Joussen’s agenda will include a meeting with Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura. A reception is scheduled to take place to celebrate the longstanding partnership between Greece and TUI.