Andy Freeth, CEO of Classic Collection Holidays, talks to Jennie Carr about the company’s past, present and future.
Q. Please give me a brief history of the company.
A. It began in 1988 offering short haul luxury holidays, predominately to the Canaries and mainland Spain It became well established and won lots of awards. Then about 10 years ago Classic Collection launched holidays to Turkey, the Middle East and Egypt, adding Greece in 2011 and Croatia in 2012. In 2018 founder and travel entrepreneur, Nick Munday, sold the company to On the Beach plc.
2020 brought a new worldwide holiday provision and brochure, with nine new long-haul destinations. Today Classic Collection Holidays is a luxury tour operator, offering personalised flexibility with individual touches and exceptional service, travelling to 37 destinations (13 short-haul, 24 long-haul) from 23 airports. Guests decide on their holiday duration and where they want to go: there are no pre-created packages so you make all the decisions about your holiday. Experiences at your destination can be added before you go, ensuring special moments whilst you’re away.
Q. What is the future for the company and what does your previous experience bring to this?
A. Originally, I cut my travel teeth working overseas, in Spain and the Greek islands, with the winters spent in ski resorts. More recently, I’ve had senior experience in long-haul luxury travel and Classic Collection are looking to take a share of this market. Long-haul represented 22% of our business in 2022, and it’s already increasing in 2023. The intention is to add this to our very successful, important short-haul business. In order to grow we need to find new customers and develop our product range, so offering more destinations is a natural progression.
However, we will not add locations just for the sake of it: hotels and resorts need to be 5* premium luxury with great service, looking after our guests as we expect. We are rolling out new destinations slowly and carefully. The rising stars at the moment are Kenya, Tanzania and Sri Lanka. New for 2023 are Oman, Botswana and Namibia, all ideal for luxury holidays for over 50s.
Going further forward, future developments will be based on what our customers (both travel agents and direct bookers) are demanding, which changes all the time, from private jets to wellness holidays. Guests are also asking what they can do when they get to their destination, they want to embrace the local culture and experience the destination so private tours around local vineyards, fantastic guided walks in, say, Ibiza or Morocco and twin-centre holidays, perhaps with car hire for exploring.
Q. And the five-year vision?
A. All the above, of course, and vitally, to look after and demonstrate our care for our colleagues, keeping and enhancing the company’s culture. For example, during the peak booking period in January and February, we have a masseuse into the offices one day a week to give neck and shoulder massages. Happy staff means happy customers.
And as we grow, we’ll increase the use of technology for mundane tasks, so we can spend time talking and listening to customers, understanding their needs. It’s easy to get tied up in technology however, we don’t want to move away from real, personal contact with our customers. We also want to provide rich and detailed information on our website, which is another way technology can support our growth.
Q. What are customers looking for at the moment?
A. After two years of restraint, people want to do something different, they want to travel further and in style, with more luxury. Mature travellers are keen to tick off their wish list dreams, as well as taking multi-generational family groups on luxury holidays. They’re keen to spend time together and this may also mean visiting family overseas. Although customers of all ages are saying ‘I should just do it’, they are excited about travelling again and are willing to go that bit further, in both distance and financially, to realise their dreams.
There’s also an increase in requests for smaller, boutique properties of character, slightly off the beaten track. People are looking for that something special, a little bit different, particularly for couples’ holidays.
Q. What’s unique about Classic Collection Holidays?
A. It’s the fact that we offer personalised luxury holidays, handpicked for the individual, providing the destination, room type and duration you want, ensuring you travel with the airline of your choice at a time that suits you. Personal touches can include transfer arrangements, picking from a pillow menu, choosing your room and toiletries scent, room temperature, when you want room service and the private experiences you’d like to take.
Q. What about green and sustainable matters?
A. We are certified by Travelife, which independently verifies companies against comprehensive and robust GSTC-recognised standards. Our office recycles and reuses wherever possible: our brochures are fully recyclable, using paper from sustainably managed forests and we’ve extended their shelf life from one to two years. They are also all available online too.
Speak to a Silver Travel Advisor to get further information, a quote or to book a Classic Collection Holiday. Call 0800 412 5678.