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02/10/2015 | Bowls
Published in Bowls International, May 2008
SUN, SAND, SEA AND ......BOWLS!
How to get the best out of your overseas bowls tour
In a special interview with Jonathan Plumridge, of bowls travel specialist Personal Touch Holidays, we attempt to provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about overseas bowls tours
Why tour overseas?
It’s great fun. There’s never been such a wide choice of overseas bowls destinations available before and more flights from regional airports mean that it’s increasingly easy for people from all parts of the country to travel.
Provided everything has been well organised, an overseas tour can provide both highly enjoyable out-of-season outdoor bowling and an unforgettable holiday experience, the adventure of travelling abroad somehow bringing people closer together .
Another great reason to tour overseas is the value for money. Economies of scale and local economic conditions enable very good quality hotels, in Mediterranean resorts in particular, to offer wonderful low season deals. This, allied to the moderate cost of flying these days, means that the daily cost of an overseas bowls tour is now not hugely different from that of a UK tour, especially if one opts to stay longer than a week.
Where should we consider touring?
The answer to this question will depend on a wide variety of factors: which airport you are looking to travel from, how many people are thinking of travelling with you, what time of year you’d like to travel, whether you’d prefer a bowls holiday event based at a single green or a bowls tour visiting a variety of clubs, whether you’d prefer to bowl on grass or artificial surfaces, and how much you’re happy to pay for your trip.
Wishing to travel from a particular regional airport can limit one’s choice a little (flights may be less available or completely unavailable at a reasonable cost), though this situation is getting appreciably better each year.
If only a small supplement is levied for a flight from a regional airport it normally represents extremely good value for the convenience it buys and may in reality lead to savings if it means car parking charges and overnight hotels can be avoided.
How many people are thinking of travelling is also an important consideration. If individuals or small groups are looking for options, we at Personal Touch Holidays take great care to ensure that the bowls holiday we deliver them is every bit as enjoyable as those that we organise for larger groups. This involves matching them up with other individuals or small clusters of bowlers to form a composite tour party of a reasonable and economic size.
We also encourage individuals and small groups to consider the option of joining one of our single green ‘Friendly Fiesta’ events, which are highly sociable events designed specifically with them in mind. Larger groups can either travel on the itineraries we publish in our brochure or formulate their own private itineraries with the support of our office staff.
Regarding single or multi green holidays, knowing that by and large people prefer their tours to visit a selection of clubs, wherever this is possible we make such an arrangement. However, within the Mediterranean area there are only four regions that offer such a selection of clubs: the Algarve, the Costa del Sol, the Costa de Almeria and the Costa Blanca. In other destinations therefore we tend to structure multi-team events around a single green (Mallorca and Tenerife for example), but only do so if we feel that the destination itself offers a rich and varied holiday experience.
For bowlers to whom it is important to bowl on grass, the Algarve, which has four such greens, or the Costa de Almeria, which has three, would be the logical choices, as the greens in all the other Mediterranean bowls destinations are carpeted.
Which brings us finally to the relative costs of the Mediterranean’s various bowls destinations.
By and large, depending on where one flies from and assuming that hotels of a similar standard are utilised, also that the content of the packages being compared is more or less the same, and that the travel dates are similar, the resorts on the eastern coast of Spain (the Costa Blanca and the Costa de Almeria) will prove the cheapest to travel to. The southern coast of Spain generally speaking will be the next cheapest area, followed by the Algarve, Tenerife and Cyprus.
When should we go?
The most sought after travel dates amongst bowlers generally are those which immediately follow the end of the domestic outdoor season (late September/early October) or immediately precede the commencement of the next outdoor season (early to late March). Generally speaking, because of general demand levels and the relatively high cost of flights, September and October dates will prove significantly more expensive than March dates, but do obviously usually imply warmer and dryer weather conditions.
Unusually, the Costa de Almeria (main resort Mojacar) remains fairly cheap during this period, whilst particularly cheap in March are the Costa de Almeria once again, Mallorca and the Costa Blanca (Benidorm, Calpe & Torrevieja). Also worth mentioning is the fact that early March normally offers good value and fine weather for travel to Cyprus, a destination that is significantly more expensive in late March, September and October.
Another very good value time to travel to Cyprus however is during the second half of November, when hotel rates are low and the island generally enjoys a sunny dry period known as St. Peter’s Summer.
Mid winter sun seekers should also take note of the fact that although it is generally one of the most expensive European destinations for bowls, Tenerife offers by far the best guarantee of deep winter warmth and sunshine, and is therefore a very good choice for November, December, January and February.
Those looking for knock-down prices in Spain and Portugal during periods which might reasonably be expected to generate fairish weather conditions should consider travelling during the last week of February (immediately after the February school half term break) and the first week of November.
How should we plan and organise our trip?
For peace of mind, reassuring backup, local knowledge and expertise, and for a solid legal and insurance footing, I would generally suggest planning your trip through an established licensed and insured bowls specialist.
European law is quite detailed and specific with regard to the responsibilities under law of people or organisations that assume the responsibility for group travel arrangements, and should any unfortunate occurrence during the preparation or operation of your trip result in financial losses, personal injuries or worse, an independent uninsured, unlicensed and therefore illegal group travel organiser might not be in a suitably strong position to assist you and might equally find themselves answerable at some stage to a court of law for the consequences of their actions, however innocent and well-meaning their intentions may originally have been. Another point worth making is that first time organisers of overseas tours would be well advised to begin finalising their tour arrangements the best part of a year prior to their tour’s departure. Popular dates, particularly late September/early October dates, tend to sell out quickly and even if additional hotel rooms can be arranged, green space in some destinations is strictly limited, as are flights from certain airports. Flight prices can also dramatically increase over time, particularly from regional airports, the flights from which also tend to sell out earlier. Is it complicated to organise an overseas tour? This depends almost entirely on how one goes about it. Potentially, provided one is well enough informed and working with a suitable travel industry partner, it can be as easy, or even less difficult, than organising a tour within the UK. At Personal Touch Holidays we offer as much support as possible to the group organisers and individuals that travel with us. This begins with a detailed full colour brochure that comprehensively outlines the travel options we offer and carefully explains their operation. Should you so wish, one of our senior staff will then gladly discuss from personal experience any of the options that may be of interest to you. Following such a discussion, should you wish to adapt or modify one of our travel options to suit you better we will happily prepare a quotation for you. At this stage, or at any later stage during your decision-making process, we are most happy to travel to your club to offer a presentation on destinations under consideration provided we have a reasonable expectation that your group will number 21 or more participants (unfortunately time will simply not allow us to present to smaller groups, though we are most happy to discuss options exhaustively by phone).
Should an option be decided upon we are most happy to assist with the promotion of that option through the provision of full-colour illustrated flyers for circulation, describing the agreed-upon holiday package in detail. We can also provide attractive A4 prints of hotels, bowling greens, resorts and excursion destinations.
From this point a member of our team specialising in the holiday destination you have chosen will take full responsibility for the administration of your holiday, maintaining regular contact with you until you have successfully returned from your trip. Should you so desire you need not handle any further papers or monies from this point onwards, although we are entirely flexible as to the way we administrate and most happy to accommodate any particular wishes you might have.
Individual travel preferences and bowls preferences are discussed prior to a group’s departure and a few weeks before travel a detailed booklet describing the holiday and resort in detail and dealing with commonly asked questions relating to travel to your specific destination will be mailed out to all your tour’s participants.
It is also worth noting that should your tour generate 21 participants or more (25 participants or more if travelling outside Europe) we offer a free place in a shared twin room for the group organiser.
Who will look after us during our holiday?
This will vary considerably depending on whom you book with. Mass market tour operators generally allocate one or more hotels in their entirety to a single rep who will visit the hotel only at specifically posted times unless the situation you find yourself in is an emergency. Bowls specialists, as far as I’m aware, generally take a more personal approach, allocating your care in resort to bowlers or travel professionals with a specific interest in bowls.
We at Personal Touch regard your care in resort as one of the most important services we offer and allocate a resort manager specifically and uniquely to your group. This resort manager will remain with your group throughout your holiday, checking and double checking all your arrangements, taking care of any particular needs individual group members may have, anticipating and avoiding potential problems and generally relieving you of all the strains that group tour organisation will normally generate, enabling you too to make the most of your holiday.
In addition, our Friendly Fiesta events also feature dedicated and experienced bowls event organisers, that like our resort managers are carefully selected for their organisational skills, pleasant personalities and caring natures.
What happens if something goes wrong?
Once again, this will largely depend upon the tour operator you book with.
If your tour has been arranged by a company that is an ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) or AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators) member their membership will oblige them to respond to any grievances according to a strict code of conduct. Whoever you travel with, it is extremely important that they hold an ATOL license (Air Tour Operators Licence). This is a legal requirement overseen and managed by the Civil Aviation Authority that ensures that should anything disastrous and unforeseen happen to the tour operator you are travelling with your money is fully protected and would be returned to you. Small problems that occur during a holiday are generally easily resolved by travel companies’ local representatives provided that they are easily contactable. Personal Touch resort managers remain with their groups throughout their holidays and so are always on hand to deal with whatever may arise. They have all been adequately trained to deal with all commonly occurring situations and enjoy the 24-hour backup of Personal Touch senior staff. The fact that they are continually checking all the arrangements surrounding the holidays they are responsible for however means that serious operational problems rarely arise.
Why should we consider travelling with Personal Touch Holidays?
We really care. Our directors both began their lives in tourism working ‘on the ground’ abroad with groups of retired British tourists deriving their entire working life satisfaction from the holiday enjoyment of their guests. This continues to be our approach, and as Personal Touch Holidays has grown we have sought to bring on board as many like-minded travel professionals as possible. We are also genuine bowls holiday specialists, having focussed on the development of bowls travel to new destinations for the past 12 years.
30/08/2018 - Jonathan Plumridge of Personal Touch Holidays describes the evolution of bowling in Spain
06/08/2018 - Jonathan Plumridge describes a wonderful new holiday opportunity on a coastline close to Seville
31/05/2018 - I’m delighted to announce that Personal Touch Holidays has been shortlisted for a brand new national travel award, the Classic FM i-Award.
18/09/2017 - Personal Touch Holidays sponsors a new national bowls competition in memory of its founder Sharon Smith.
15/08/2016 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, profiles a wonderful base for overseas bowls holidays .....
08/02/2016 - The story behind our very first Bowls England overseas President's tour, hosted by the 2014 Bowls England President, Adie Lloyd.
08/02/2016 - Jonathan reports back from the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Graham & Sylvia Barrett sequence dance holiday in Paphos
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, profiles a new destination for overseas bowls tours – Menorca.
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, describes a sure-fire formula for bowls holiday success.
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, describes a highly attractive new bowls tour option in the Portuguese Algarve.
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge of Personal Touch Holidays pays tribute to Sharon Smith, his wife and the much-loved founder of Personal Touch Holidays