Albatravel Group is hoping to work with UK travel agents for the first time in 2009 to drive its groups business.

The Italian specialist, which offers hotels, tours and all ground arrangements, has taken on Gerry Smith as groups sales manager to push sales through the UK trade. The company, which has eight offices in Italy, two in Switzerland and Spain and one in France, already works with other European countries but has yet to gain significant sales from the UK.

Smith was confident the groups market would remain resilient despite the current downturn. He said: “With most ad hoc group passengers not bothered too much by the financial troubles, it struck us that UK agents, marketing to local clubs with interesting and well-priced tours to Italy, could create for themselves a very profitable alternative to the usual flights, cruises, hotel-onlys and packages.”

To boost sales, the company is offering agents a credit facility, a free bottle of wine per room for the first night at the hotel with a welcome card from the travel agency, and flexible themed tours across Italy such as garden, wine appreciation, art and religious tours for parties of ten or more.