Australian tour operator Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours this week introduced a new sister-brand under the McLachlan Tours umbrella, a European holiday coach touring business called McLachlan European Holidays that offers tours ranging from four days to 2.5 weeks.
The new division builds on an existing partnership between McLachlan Tours and the UK-based, award-winning Leger Holidays, which also works extensively in the niche battlefield touring segment.
“After discussing our mutual battlefield programs we realised it was only a small part of Leger’s business. They have a huge amount of product across Europe, operating it with their own fleet of coaches,” McLachlan European Holidays’ General Manager of Touring, Matt Masson told LATTE this week.
Leger Holidays’ program comprises more than 200 itineraries through 25 countries, offering trips that either start in the UK or from gateway cities on the continent. This new arrangement will see McLachlan Tours promote around one-quarter of Leger’s best itineraries in a re-skinned brochure for the Australian market under the McLachlan European Holidays (MEH) brand. The venture provides opportunities for MEH to offer their existing battlefield client database who have travelled to the Western Front with something new.
Leger Holidays offers three varying levels of coach product and pricing, ranging from the lead-in 50-seat Executive Class, to the mid-tier 40-seat Silver Service and the upmarket 30-seat Luxuria. It’s the latter luxury product Masson is particularly excited about.
“When we saw their Luxuria coaches we realised that they were onto something different. They invested in redesign of the chassis of the vehicles to make coach travel a lot more comfortable.”
“With three different price points, we felt that given the quality of the coach and the tour inclusions it would be very attractive to Australian travellers. We believe there is a gap in the market,” Masson said.
He admits, “it’s not luxury touring; with accommodation based on mid-range 3- to 4-star hotels, there are limited inclusions and dining is half-board. But the transportation in Luxuria is next level.”
Masson likens seating on Luxuria to Business class on an aircraft. Fundamentally, the vehicle is the size of a 50-seat coach, but has a capacity of around half that number. The seats recline, have adjustable headrests, come with seat-back entertainment systems equipped with music and movies and there’s USB ports throughout. The cabin is configured with three seats in each row (in a 2×1 layout), with some seats able to be rotated so passengers can have a face-to-face conversation.
A small cafe/bar on board the coach means passengers can have drinks delivered to their seat, such as tea and coffee or beer and wine (all at cost).
Most itineraries in McLachlan European Holidays’ range fall into the Silver Service coach category, with Luxuria and Executive Class operating limited departures on set tours. On average, passengers will travel in the coach for 5–6 hours everyday, which makes the Luxuria product more appealing.
“Some coaches are exclusive to some itineraries; for example the Single Traveller is mainly Silver Service in Italy, one of Leger’s most popular destinations. They have all three levels for most of their departures. One week you might have the Executive Coach, the next week you’ll have Silver Service and the following week you have Luxuria.”
“Passengers can commence a tour in the UK or Europe. A lot of people are actually flying into the UK to visit family, relatives or friends and then going on to Europe afterwards, so if they want to, they can then start their itinerary there and finish in Europe or vice versa.”
Masson told LATTE that MEH was evaluating how the company might be able to offer back-to-back battlefield tours with McLachlan European Holidays in 2019. “It is on the drawing board,” he confirmed.
“Australian-centric” itineraries are also earmarked for the program going forward.
A new program has also just been launched by Leger Holidays in the UK called Luxuria Signature, which pairs the comfort of the plush coach with quality 4-star accommodation, such as a German castle. Masson said Leger was also looking to add new more boutique accommodation options, which will be well suited to the Aussie traveller.
To kick-start sales, McLachlan European Holidays has launched with two incentives, giving agents have a chance at winning Santa’s weight in sparkling wine (to the value of $1,000), while the top seller between now and 30 November, 2018 has the chance to win two places on the Magical Markets of the Rhine Valley tour. For full details, click here.