Classical fans build vacations around music

Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:25pm EST
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By Hazel Davis

LONDON (Billboard) - Dedicated rock fans have long made vacations out of following their favorite bands on the road. Now European classical fans are booking entire holidays around their chosen genre.

Travel industry executives say that growing numbers of classical fans are exchanging beaches for Berlioz and Bizet, with classical music festival organizers and venues benefiting from increased bookings.

John Whibley, who organizes classical music tours through his U.K.-based John Whibley "Holidays With Music" agency, says such trips are becoming increasingly popular among members of his target demographic -- "comfortably off" tourists over the age of 50.

"People like spending time with those who share a common interest," Whibley says. "Friendships are made on holiday, and clients return to see their friends."

In the last 10 years, more than half of Whibley's 1,200-strong client base has taken more than one tour with his firm, with 140 people booking seven or more trips, he says. Whibley runs about 25 high-end tours per year to classical music festivals or events. They range from 775 pounds ($1,130) for a four-night trip to the United Kingdom's Buxton Festival (including four operas, meals and sightseeing) to 1,875 pounds ($2,737) for a six-night trip to the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt, Germany, which includes four-star hotel accommodations and nightly concerts by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.


Concert venues welcome the guaranteed ticket sales that such tours bring.

"We work together with more than 300 travel agencies and have a very close marketing relationship with (tourist organization) Berlin Tourismus Marketing," says Berlin State Opera head of marketing Sabine Turner. "A third of our audience comes from outside of the city, and this is seeing an upward trend."   Continued...