Pleasant Holidays, a name that for many is synonymous with Hawaii vacations, began selling packages to Europe last month, in what the company believes is a strategic move to fill a gap in the West Coast market of FIT travel packages across the pond.
“It was an opportune time,” said Pleasant Holidays President Jack Richards. “Air capacity is going to be increased in 2013. London overbuilt for the Olympics, so there’s excess hotel space in London. It was a confluence of several events.”
Pleasant Holidays entered the Europe market with the launch of packages to London, Rome, Paris, Florence and Venice. Pleasant has always had a stronghold in Hawaii, and it also sells Mexico, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Tahiti, Fiji, the Cook Islands and the U.S.
The move to expand into Europe, a seemingly very different market than the sun-and-sand destinations Pleasant is already in, was very calculated, said Richards.
He noted that there are plenty of large escorted tour operators and river cruise lines currently selling Europe. But, he said, “you’d be hard-pressed to identify a large FIT tour operator to Europe.”
That’s where Pleasant is hoping to step in. The company first had the idea to enter the European market in 2008. But then the recession hit, and it decided to hold off.
But last year the company “did a very large, deep dive into the data and we projected, through the various research we saw, that 2013 could be one of the best years for Europe ever,” Richards said.
He noted that favorable rates in Europe, combined with strong air contracts the company was able to negotiate through its air consolidation business, Air by Pleasant, solidified the decision to enter Europe now, just in time for the peak booking season later this spring.
Pleasant Holidays has created packages targeting the mainstream-to-upscale travel market with hotels that are mostly 3.5 stars and above as well as transportation options such as rail travel between destinations and a variety of land options. Pleasant is also selling Ama Waterways river cruises in Europe.
To get the word out and encourage agents to book the new Europe program, Pleasant Holidays launched with a $300 air credit per booking for new bookings made by Feb. 28 (for travel anytime) and is offering bonus reward points toward the company’s agent reward incentive program, a chance to win a free iPad and other incentives to get agents enthused about selling Europe through Pleasant.
And the tactic appears to be working. According to Richards, Pleasant booked more than $500,000 in sales in the first 10 days following the launch of the Europe product. And the average transaction is running about 40% higher than an average Hawaii booking.
This initial entry is phase one of the plan, according to Richards.
Ultimately, Pleasant is planning on being in at least 20 countries across Europe.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.