In discussing Ormina Tours' luxury European small group itineraries for 2014, managing director Ross Ioppolo dubs his company and its tours "Australia's best kept travel secret." This is because while the brand was established in 1997, it has happily flown under agent's radar by selling its tours direct to the public … that is, until now. "We made a strategic decision to commence selling our product through travel agents. The rationale for this is we plan future growth in departures to offer guests greater flexibility to join our tours on dates that match their travel plans. The reaction from agents to our product has been overwhelming and brochures are now in over 120 travel agents across Australia."
The 2014 program features 8 unique itineraries across Italy, Croatia, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and the UK. Ormina Tours' point of difference is it remains a bespoke operator with handcrafted tours limiting guest numbers to 20, focusing on 2 and 3 night stays and centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels. "Undeniably, our biggest point of difference and comparative advantage is value. Our tours are fully inclusive, with transfers, deluxe coaches, first class trains, local guides, entrance fees, porterage, city taxes, special experiences and a tour director. We operate with minimal overhead, so guests that travel with us see and experience more of their dollar on tour."
One of the key principles of Ormina's business is the quality hotels they select. "Our preferred hotels are quality properties. 65% of nights are in 5 star hotels and when we talk 4 star, we mean 4 star superior. There is a huge range in the quality of 4 star hotels in countries like Italy and our guests are discerning and appreciate the difference. Also our hotels are centrally located, so guests are immersed in places they are visiting. We do not accommodate guests outside expensive cities and transfer them in for sightseeing. This short-changes them on their leisure time. Offering quality lodgings at our price point is part of that value equation."
Each of the tours are unique in their own way, but the 21 day fully escorted Highlights of Italy tour is Ormina’s longest running and most popular. "Highlights of Italy has been designed to deliver the perfect blend of Italy's finest mainland attractions featuring the vibrancy of its iconic cities, the tranquility of the lake district, the beauty of the Riviera and the splendour of Tuscany's winding roads, hilltop towns and vineyards. We visit 11 UNESCO World Heritage listed sites as well as other attractions that include Doge’s Palace, Accademia Gallery, St Peter's Basilica, Colosseum and Sistine Chapel. It is the most comprehensive mainland Italy small group tour on the market."
Another popular itinerary is Ormina Tours' 15 day Adriatic Beauty that starts in Venice and winds its way through Croatia's Istrian Peninsular to Rovinj, Pula, Opatija and Kastav. The journey continues to the stunning Plitvice Lakes and National Park, before heading south along the coast to Zadar, Sibenik and Split. From Split, the tour visits Croatia's beautiful island of Hvar before arriving in the beautiful fortified Dubrovnik. The journey also includes a day excursion to Montenegro. "This is the agent's favourite because of the comprehensive itinerary that combines the north and south of Croatia, from land and sea. Also including excursions like a private chartered boat from Hvar to the exclusive Pakleni Island is something unique to the market."
Other tours include the 10-day London, Paris and Champagne tour that features vibrant iconic London with romantic and fashionable Paris, finished with tastings in the beautiful Champagne province; and the 11-day Berlin to Budapest tour that weaves a path through Central Europe's most vibrant and eclectic cities to deliver an exciting blend of culture, history, nightlife and romance.
As Ross concludes, "Its really satisfying to know that agents reaction to our product confirms what we believe, and that is our product satisfies a niche in the market … and that's a travel secret we don't mind sharing."