AFTER the success of Euro 2012, Poland is reaping the benefits of massive exposure and predicting a bumper year for tourism, particularly from the UK.
It also seems to be reaping the benefit of not being in the eurozone, with its zloty currency representing great value. And in a third benefit, the country is certain to see an increase in featured coverage in the consumer press following its hosting of almost 80 members of the British Guild of Travel Writers in February, when it held its annual general meeting at the Belvedere Hotel and Spa in Zakopane, preceded and followed by tours that took in several highlights of the southern Malopolska province, including the medieval city of Krakow.
As a result of this increased exposure travel agents can expect an influx of enquiries from all sectors of the public – singles, couples of all ages, families and small groups looking for one of the huge range of holidays the country can offer. These include city and country breaks, touring packages, beach stays along 500km of Baltic coastline, and active and adventure holidays, as well as those which focus on history, culture and the arts.
The country is also renowned for its place in the health and beauty sector, and features 43 specialist resorts offering the complete range of treatments. A brochure, Poland for Health and Beauty, is available from the Polish National Tourist Office in the UK, which is headed up by Bogdan Becla, who said that there was also an increasing demand in the medical sector, particularly for those seeking affordable plastic surgery and dental treatment, often combined with the relaxation of a holiday. He said: "We are also seeing the emergence of golf and spa combination packages – not everyone realises that Poland has 23 18-hole golf courses, half of which also features a spa. And there are 60 historic palaces throughout the country, 25 of which have a spa.”
From the UK, the country has around 1.2million visitors each year, mostly tourists, but also a substantial amount of VFR traffic and about 10 per cent business travel. It certainly benefits from easy access, with flights from Wizz Air, Ryanair, easyJet, LOT and British Airways, and by road with companies such as Eurolines, as well as rail options. The main city destinations are Krakow, Warsaw, Zakopane, Gdansk and Wroclaw, which is popular with the stag and hen sector.
Bogdan Becla said: ”For those who haven’t yet discovered Poland, I’d suggest agents offer a break to Krakow – it’s a tried and tested destination and a great way of getting a customer booked. It’s also just ten minutes by road from the airport, and the kind of city people return to. There’s generally no problem in bringing people to the major cities, but what I’d like to see – and this is where agents can help – is getting people to visit longer and discover what lies beyond the city they’re visiting.”
This year the tourist office is promoting activity holidays and the spa and health segment, in addition to its cities, mountains, lakes and forests, sports events, culture and heritage. In all, there are 175 UK tour operators which feature Poland, among them British Airways Holidays, Thomson, Thomas Cook, First Choice, Cosmos, Kirker Holidays, Cox & Kings, Cresta, Shearings, Ramblers, Page & Moy, Contiki and Explore Worldwide.
The tourist office is keen to support the retail trade and offers agents online training via www.specialist.poland.travel as well as telephone support on 0300-303 1812. There is also a website at www.poland.travel