Special Report: Aito members hail benefits of Portugal trip

Juliet Dennis reports from the Algarve as the association hosts 30 members on annual trip

Aito, The Specialist Travel Association, has hailed the success of its third “famference” for creating “real connections” between agents and operators and providing an authentic experience of the Algarve.

As a result, the organisation said it was already considering destinations for next year.

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Aito Agents chair Gemma Antrobus said members enjoyed quality networking time they would not have on a normal fam trip because of the even split of about 30 suppliers and agents.

“On fam trips, you are with one operator and other agents – this is different,” she said, adding: “Agents and operators are building real connections and having genuine, authentic experiences.”

Martyn Sumners, Aito’s executive director, agreed: “We talk about Aito as a family. It’s about getting people far closer together: enhancing existing relationships or building new friendships that mean you can pick up the phone to call at any point.”

As with previous trips to Malta and Tenerife, the event aimed to highlight lesser-known areas and activities in the Algarve, which is known for its beaches and golf courses.

Members visited Faro, Monchique, the Vicentine Coast Natural Park, Sagres and Olhão, with activities including cookery classes, bike rides, walks, a spa visit, dinner at a vineyard and a boat trip to the island of Culatra. Accommodation was at the Monchique Resort & Spa and Real Marina Hotel & Spa, Olhão.

Sumners said: “This is about seeing the destination through different eyes. The Algarve is not just a family beach resort with lots of golfers; it’s got so much else to offer.”

He added: “We’ll do this again next year. We were surprised by the level of demand; people are already asking where we will go in 2025.”

Only one representative from each operator can attend the event and it includes suppliers that do not sell the destination.

The trip took place as Aito gets ready for its first mid-year networking event, a follow-up to its January domestic conference. The Midseason Marketplace is on June 27 in Reading and involves ‘speed dating’ for 20 operators and 20 agents and a workshop on the power of selling.

What did you learn from the trip?

“I would recommend this destination for active holidays, which I would not have done before. It has shown me a different side of the Algarve and opened it up to new clients.”
Jacquie Cole, homeworker, Bakewell Travel

“This trip has shown there is more to the Algarve than beaches, golf and big hotels. There are parts of the region to explore that are relatively untouched.”
Simon Oram, director, The Travel Shop

“This is the highlight of my year. You are travelling with friends, it’s like one big family trip. I’ve sold holidays off the back of these trips. The networking is a massive bonus.”
Niall Douglas, managing director, Full Circle Travel

“I’d never been to the Algarve before and this has given me an insight into the true destination. You can hike in the mountains, cycle along the coast and go to nature parks.”
Billy Douglas, sales consultant, Spear Travels

“I wouldn’t have thought to send clients to this area of the Algarve. I’ve got clients who like cycling and might like a beach holiday followed by a stay in the mountains.”
Claire Bell, senior sales consultant, Journeys à la Carte

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