Central Holidays Rolls Out Small Group Tours

by David Cogswell
Central Holidays Rolls Out Small Group Tours

The new, more intimate tours are being introduced in the company’s original home destination of Italy. Photo: Shuttetstock

Central Holidays introduced a new series of small group escorted tours that cater to the marketplace trend of travelers wanting more intimate and culturally immersive experiences at the destinations they visit. The first programs of the new series are based in Italy.

The new tours, which carry a maximum of 16 people, were developed in response to requests from customers for increasingly in-depth and personalized tours.

Tewfik Ghattas, a board member of Sakkara Group International, Central Holidays’ parent company, said the tours are “all about experiences that truly take you to live the magic of Italy, like a local, with the added perk of sharing these moments of a lifetime in the intimacy of a small group.”

Advantages of small groups
“Small groups have been the trend for some time,” Maria José Merino, vice president operations at Central Holidays, told Travel Market Report. Our large groups have reduced in numbers. People like to mingle with other travelers and a small group allows them to do that better than being on a bus with 40 or 50 people.”

Small groups also make possible activities that are not possible with large numbers, such as wine tastings and dinners in small local restaurants that are rich in history and culture. Boutique hotels are also more accessible to smaller groups.

“Small group tours provide a better taste of the culture,” said Merino. “You can talk to the barista. It’s a different type of experience, more in depth. Because of the smaller number of people, you have better access to the local people.”

Based in Italy
The new product line is based in Italy, the company’s original home base. The tours will be operated from Central Holidays’ Rome office, which was established more than 40 years ago.

“The product development comes out of our Rome office,” said Merino. “They know the wineries and restaurants, as they have changed over the years. We have tastings run by families and they bring a lot of pride and love to their presentations. It makes a huge difference when you have a balsamic vinegar tasting and a family member walks you through, tells you about the different processes. They do it with such pride, it is heartwarming.”

Central Holidays continues to offer its traditional escorted tours in the destinations it operates in, carrying 30-40 passengers. Established as an Italian operator in 1972, Central Holidays now offers independent travel arrangements and escorted tours in Italy, Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, Latin America and Cuba.

The company was founded by Joe and Fred Berardo, who were American immigrants from Italy. They were successful insurance salesmen for Metropolitan Life, and they discovered that their expertise in helping people plan trips to their mother country was worth more than their ability to sell insurance. The Berardos sold the company in 2012 to Cairo, Egypt-based Sakkara Group International.

Here are the new tours in the small group series: “Magnificent Italy & the Amalfi Coast,” “Splendors of Sicily,” “Italy’s Northern Highlights,” “Italy’s Southern Splendors,” “Italy’s Sunbelt, Rome & the Amalfi Coast,” “Best of Italy,” and “Grand Tour of Italy & Sicily.”

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