With major tour operators now plugging package holidays to Paris, whatever happened to just booking a flight and following your nose?
OK. I hold my hand up straight away. For years now, and especially during the tumultuous uncertainties of the pandemic, I have been banging the same drum. Book a package. Book a package. Book a package. But I have to confess that, every time I say it, something inside me dies.
Obviously, as I regularly point out, there are excellent reasons to turn to a tour operator to organise your holiday. It gives you first-class financial protection and, if anything serious goes wrong, the company has a duty of care to help sort it out for you. It also takes on all the responsibilities of booking all your arrangements. What’s more, a really good operator may be able to enhance a trip by offering insightful advice.
So really, I guess I ought to welcome a new initiative by Tui to massively expand the number of city break packages it offers. This week the market-leading operator confirmed that, over the last 18 months, it has increased its city break portfolio from 121 hotels in just five cities to 3,400 hotels in 48. And it plans to add another 12 destinations by the end of this year.
The expansion fills an important gap in the package holiday market. City breaks have become so straightforward to organise independently over recent years that some operators gave up offering them altogether and others, like Tui, cut back. Now Tui clearly feels demand is rising again, and it’s in a position to respond. “We can provide a simple ‘one-stop shop’ to help customers seamlessly book flexible packages,” it says about its offer of flights, hotels, tours and experiences, and the option to book transfers either by private car or using public transport.
So, yes – especially in the wake of the pandemic and in the shadow of a recession – it is hard to knock what is on offer here: the chance to organise even a simple city break under the protective wings of a tour operator.
Why then do I die inside? Because surely a big part about travel is also about freedom, about discovery and most of all independence. Sure, it is supremely relaxing to be transported seamlessly from home to hotel – and, sometimes, when we are busy or stressed, it’s a good option. But you never learn as much if someone does something for you. You don’t get the same sense of achievement, nor the same insights.
This is an excerpt from an article by Nick Trend published earlier by The Telegraph.