APT UK & Europe MD Paul Melinis

APT UK & Europe MD Paul Melinis: ‘Travel is a necessity, not a luxury’

APT UK & Europe managing director Paul Melinis explains why travel is now a necessity, not a luxury, and highlights how the operator is preparing for a busy 2022.

The yo-yo is a classic toy, a simple yet effective item that has been around for generations. It just so happens the action of it returning to its point of origin – and thus the term yo-yo – is an apt description of current times in the cruise business.

It’s during a conversation with APT UK & Europe managing director Paul Melinis that is crops up, on the topic of how he and the wider APT team would describe recent experiences. “Instead of labelling it a roller coaster, we now call it the APT yo-yo,” he explains.

“It started promisingly, then confidence got dented, then we’ve had a boost. I think we’ve got used to it, though. We’ve learned a lot about how we run the business – we’ve had the time to do so.

“This year we’ve had minutes, we’ve had hours, we’ve had days and weeks. It has given me an opportunity to really take a helicopter view, if you like, and see how we can improve things, how we can be good partner for everybody, and how we can make sure that we’re providing the best experiences for our guests.”

APT yacht cruising
Yacht cruising is a new addition to the APT portfolio

2022 in the spotlight

On the topic of the guest experience, APT is prepping for a very busy 12 months next year, with new ships in the pipeline, yacht cruising in Croatia, and a continued laser focus on Asia – where it has built an enviable reputation for its itineraries and excursions.

“We’ve put our focus on selling our new ships in Europe with it being closer to home and guests feeling safe that they don’t have to fly for hours. We also have our new ships to launch that we can’t forget,” Melinis explains.

“One of our newest product offerings is Croatian small yacht cruising, which has been fantastic and seems to be really resonating with past guests and many new to APT.

“We realised that people wanted to do more in Croatia, so have a fantastic pre and post private touring programme to accompany the offering – this is currently being taken by 30 per cent of people that have purchased Croatia.

“Then we have the Douro and Russia for 2022, and that is before we mention Asia. This is an area that is still under a watchful eye, but we are the number one cruise company in volume to Asia from the UK and we want to continue that, as we launch a new APT luxury ship in 2022 called the Mekong Serenity.”

RV Apsara APT Yravelmarvel brand
RV Apsara is part of the Travelmarvel brand

APT: We are no longer a secret

There is undoubtedly plenty for travel agents to get their teeth into, and by extension lots of developments to share with prospective APT guests. As for trade support, Melinis says: “I want to thank every travel agent for supporting the industry and our brand through this challenging time.

“We have nearly come through the other side, and we look forward to that day when we will be travelling on new river cruise ships, new yachts and fulfilling our travel dreams.”

Upon joining the business in 2018, Melinis put his cards on the table by proclaiming that a key aim was to improve trade relationships. So, three years on, what’s the verdict?

“I know I am biased, but I think we have certainly achieved that and more. I said in 2018 that we were the trade’s best river cruise secret and needed to be less modest and share our successes with everyone. We have done just that,” he says.

“Nobody in the trade really knew that we carried the most river guests to Asia from the UK or that we had another brand called Travelmarvel under our APT umbrella. However, over the years we have started changing that. In total, 75 per cent of our business comes from the trade.”

For the brand moving forward, it’s “more of the same”, Melinis explains. “We have new product, new destinations and travel styles. We also have a new trade portal and the opportunity for agents to visit our ships.

“Travel is a necessity – it’s not a luxury anymore. Gone are the days when people would debate if they could afford a holiday. Now it’s, ‘if I can afford a new car this year, then I’ll buy one, but if I can’t, then so be it, I’m going on holiday’. We are a necessity now.”

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