InFocus: Riviera Travel

Riviera Travel’s solo proposition has proved so popular that the company is adding new tours – both short- and long-haul – to its portfolio, writes Sam Ballard

With a touring programme that includes everything from river cruises in Europe to rail journeys through India, Riviera Travel has found a proposition that clearly resonates within its market. The company specialises in holidays that do not break the bank but, crucially, don’t compromise on quality. 

It’s a model that has attracted its admirers. Most recently that was in the form of Silverfleet Capital, the private equity firm, which acquired a majority stake in Riviera Travel late last December for an undisclosed sum rumoured to be in the region of £250 million. 

It was little surprise therefore when the company announced its first dedicated solo programme, which launched in September 2016. Like much that Riviera Travel has done, the model has proved so successful that it has now doubled the size of its programme for the recently launched 2019 season. 

“It’s all about adding subtle nuances that will make a solo traveller feel more comfortable,” explains Will Sarson, head of specialist products at Riviera Travel. “When we first launched our solo programme we took many of our existing tours and tweaked them slightly for people travelling alone. It’s the same model we use today.”

Those tweaks include things like hosting complimentary welcome drinks to allow for a meet and greet on the first night, while excursions will feature more group activities. Examples include making paella together over a giant pan in Valencia. 

View of the beautiful village of Ragusa

“Solo travellers are far more sociable than couples who will often want to have time on their own,” Sarson adds. “I speak to a lot of customers after they’ve finished their tour to find out what they enjoyed. While they’re more nervous when they begin their holiday they are more prepared to get involved in group activities.”

For 2019 Riviera Travel has added new tours to short-haul destinations such as Sicily, which includes a tour of Ragusa, one of three towns with the same name. 

“The original was completely destroyed in the 17th century,” Sarson explains. “They built a second one but the locals preferred the original. And then a third popped up later. It’s a little off the usual tourist route, which is why our guests will love it.”

The tour is capped off with a visit to a vineyard on the slopes of Etna – offering breathtaking views of Sicily, as well as a dinner that includes a wine-pairing from the surrounding vines. 

When it comes to long haul, Sarson is particularly excited about the company being able to offer dedicated solo departures on Nile cruises for the first time in its history. 

“Our guests will be sailing with a group of like-minded solo travellers through the world’s most renowned archaeological site,” he says. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

Other river cruise destinations with dedicated solo departures include the Danube, Rhone and Douro.

“We launched in January for 2018 and the two sailings in November sold out almost immediately. It’s shoulder season – with departures in April and late October when the weather is still pleasant and there are fewer crowds.”

As with all of Riviera Travel’s solo programmes, it is built on each place on every departure being filled with solo passengers, rather than a percentage taking up the lower-category accommodation. When it comes to valuable capacity on much sought-after rivers such as the Douro, it’s a bold step. It’s also clearly getting through to their growing customer base. 

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