Ocean Holidays Wins Inaugural Travel for All Award at the Travel Weekly Annual Globe Awards

We were delighted to win the inaugural Travel for All Award at the Travel Weekly Globe Awards last night at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

The award recognises and honours a travel company which has excelled in ensuring its product is truly inclusive and accessible. The judges selected us following rigorous testing of both our website and our dedicated accessibility hub, as well as conducting mystery calls to assess the knowledge and service of our sales team and their dedicated Accessibility Champions.

Our Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Harry Hastings, was on hand to pick up the award last night and said, “It feels fantastic to be recognised in this way and I’m so proud of the team. We’ve worked hard to embed a culture, and this is proof that the hard work is worth it. What makes it even sweeter is the fact it was our 20th-anniversary last year, which saw us undergo a brand refresh. Of course, good sales during peaks are a priority right now but equally to take a step back and be recognized for the work we are doing in striving to make holidays accessible for all helps put into context the importance of making really great holidays available to everyone.”

Our dedicated accessibility programme was launched in November 2022 and reported £8 million in sales in its first year. Spearheaded by Director of Product and Commercial Anna-Maria Janssen, the programme takes a holistic approach and considers both visible and hidden disabilities.

Janssen said of the award win, “I couldn’t be prouder of this award, and this is a testament to the hard work of the entire company in our mission to redefine all-inclusive and make holidays accessible for all. We pride ourselves on our service and we have spent a huge amount of time training our accessibility champions within the business, streamlining our processes and systems, ensuring we are able to provide the holiday of a lifetime for everyone. We are thrilled with the success of the programme so far and will continue to evolve and develop this.”

For more information about our accessible holidays, visit https://www.ocean-florida.co.uk/accessible-holidays/ to speak with an accessibility-trained agent or to make an enquiry today.

Love at first flight – get perfectly paired for a world first, all-inclusive first date to Florida

  • Ocean Florida is looking to send two singles on a once-in-a-lifetime first date where they get to test theme parks and beaches 
  • The chosen pair will be sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Florida, worth over £25,000 
  • The nine-day long trip has an extensive itinerary full of action-packed activities 

What if you could catch flights AND feelings? 

Ocean Florida and partners are putting two people to the ultimate test by offering a nine-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Florida…the catch? It will be their FIRST DATE! 

If chosen, YOU could be staying in a luxury villa, rating roller coasters, strolling down golden beaches and soaking up the scenic views from above in a romantic hot air balloon ride – all with your blind date while in the Sunshine State of Florida.  

The pair chosen to embark on this unique experience, worth over £25,000, will be selected by industry expert and globally accredited international matchmaker, Michelle Begy, the Managing Director and Founder of Ignite Dating, who will assess all submissions and pair the most compatible matches. 

So, if you’re a thrill-seeker hoping to find true love, what better way to put your relationship to the test than jetting off over Valentine’s week in 2024 for the experience of a lifetime? 

“Count me in! How do I apply?” 

  • First, you’ll need to fill out a simple first-stage application form on the Ocean Florida website here 
  • Entrants must be UK residents aged 25-60, hold a full UK driving licence, and of course – be single! (full t&c’s here
  • Entrants must be available to take the trip between the 12th – 21st of February 2024 
  • Ocean Florida is looking for two people who aren’t afraid to get stuck into adrenaline-packed activities, documenting their journey with a Go-Pro provided for the trip 

The selected couple will be notified on the 17th of January 2024 

“What can I expect from the trip?” 

The lucky couple will travel in style with Virgin Atlantic, leaving from London Heathrow Airport and heading straight to Orlando, where you’ll spend eight nights in luxury villas and hotels, with your own private rooms and ensuites. 

Trial all that the Sunshine State has to offer with this multi-centre trip across Orlando, Central Florida and Anna Maria Island. Whether that be testing your nerves high up on roller coasters or getting up close (but not too close) with Florida’s famous alligators while zooming down a zip wire at Gatorland USA

We’ll let you test your fear factor and discover your adrenaline junkie side at heights of 35 feet and speeds of 68 miles per hour on the Serengeti Flyer at Busch Gardens. You’ll also be encouraged to take it slow while admiring the scenic views of the Florida skyline during a serene hot air balloon ride with Central Florida. 

Test the water whilst jet skiing or taking a dolphin spotting cruise around Anna Maria Island and enjoy toes in the sand dining whilst watching one of the most romantic sunsets on the Gulf Coast. The fun doesn’t stop there, you’ll also receive a pair of basketball tickets, where you will be seated front-row at Jernigan’s to watch Orlando Magic play on Valentine’s night.   

And this isn’t all – the full itinerary has an array of other activities to occupy your trip and keep you busy! 

At the end of each day, wind down and get to know each other better over romantic dinners in a selection of amazing restaurants that Florida has to offer. Plus, all of your food and travel allowance is fully covered, so the only thing either of you will have to worry about is turning up! 

Explaining why activity-focused dates are so effective when looking for love, matchmaker and founder of Ignite Dating, Michelle Begy, states: “Everyone dreads awkward silences on a date, so it can help to have activities planned where you can really get to know somebody better. Sharing an experience gives you plenty to talk about and can help you relax because you are both doing something you enjoy.  

It can feel a lot more natural to break the ice with a shared activity rather than meeting solely face-to-face across the dinner table, politely trying to keep the conversation flowing. People tend to be themselves when they are in the moment, truly enjoying what they are doing, which can really help in getting to know somebody better and eliminate the nerves that can strike when you are dating.”  

One year on: Accessible holiday offering huge success for Ocean Florida

Romford-based holiday provider, Ocean Florida, celebrates one year of its accessible travel initiative, with 1,000 bespoke bookings driving £8m in sales. 

With data showing one in five are living with a disability in the UK¹, the villa holiday expert launched its accessible travel initiative in November 2022. One year on, it helped tailor 1,000 dream holidays to the sunshine state, generating over £8 million of sales for the Florida Specialist. 

As part of the launch, the holiday provider, which is part of the Ocean Holidays Group, ran a survey to reveal over half (51%) of respondents with a disability associate going on holiday with stress, while 36% associate travel with frustration.² 

To help reduce stress for disabled travellers, customers who book directly with the Orlando and Florida experts, as well as travel agents who use the service, now have access to uniquely-trained specialists, who work directly with the customer to tailor their trip to their individual needs.  

Considering hearing and visual impairments, as well as disabilities impacting mobility and cognitive function, customers can secure accommodation, travel and attraction itineraries best suited to them. For example, those with mobility needs can expect accommodation with widened doorways, hoist-entry pools and walk-in showers, as well as wheelchair accessible beaches, airline assistance and local transfers. Alternatively, there are options for autism-certified hotels and parks with low sensory areas with specially trained staff available for those with cognitive needs.  

Customer feedback conducted throughout the first year of the initiative however, shows booking the trip is only half the potential stress. To help tackle that challenge, customers can now expect to be assigned a dedicated accessibility coordinator, who will reach out 4-6 weeks prior to travel, to ensure a smooth journey. 

To celebrate one year of the initiative, Ocean Florida has partnered with Visit Florida and influencers Hannah and Becky Cheetham, who run Cheethams with dreams on Instagram, to further highlight the sunshine state as an accessible holiday destination.  

Hannah, who has cerebral palsy, her sister Becky, and their mum and dad will all embark on their own dream holiday this November, including access to the Kennedy Space Centre, Universal as well as heading to St. Pete Clearwater on Florida’s Gulf coast, for some family beach time.  

Not only do all customers have access to agents with unique accessibility training, the holiday provider has also invested in its website to provide a content hub of information, designed to help customers streamline their personal travel experience. 

Lindsey Brumby, Accessibility Co-ordinator at Ocean Florida comments: “As someone with a disability myself, I’m personally really proud of this initiative. Not only does it help all customers have the holiday of their dreams, it also puts the customer in complete control. This is particularly important because everyone’s experience with disability is different and unique to them, and everyone should be able to build a holiday specifically designed to them and their needs.” 

Director of Product and Commercial at Ocean Florida, Anna-Maria Janssen adds: “We’re so proud of this initiative here at Ocean Florida, and are thrilled to say we’ve helped over 3,500 people with unique requirements to book their dream holiday in the first year. We truly believe everyone deserves to travel comfortably and without stress, no matter what. 

“It’s crucial for travel agents and holiday providers to not be fearful of accessible bookings, which is why we invested in training our accessibility champions, to ensure they have the skills necessary to give all customers the best experience possible. We’re thrilled with the success of this program so far, and will continue to learn and develop the initiative as we help more and more customers book their dream Florida holiday.” 

For more information on accessible holidays, visit: https://www.ocean-florida.co.uk/accessible-holidays/, or to speak with an accessibility trained agent, make an enquiry today. 

US government announces vaccine mandate dropped from 11th May

Harry Hastings Co-CEO and Co-Founder, Ocean Florida said “We are thrilled that the vaccine mandate for all UK travellers to the USA is being dropped from 11 May 2023. As the UK’s largest independent operator to Florida, we’ve witnessed 20% of our cancellations since borders opened attributed to members of the travelling party being unvaccinated. The continued vaccination requirement has led to widespread confusion with 10% of our bookings being terminated at the final confirmation stage due to a lack of clarity of the entry restrictions.” He continued “The USA is one of the last countries to drop the vaccination requirement. The lifting of these final restrictions is an extremely welcome move and marks a great day in what has been a turbulent few years for the travel industry.”

Ocean Holidays Group Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Prizes and Rebrand

A year of celebrations planned including giveaways, competitions and fresh new branding

A year of celebrations, giveaways, competitions, trade-facing incentives and a brand refresh are all on the horizon for Ocean Holidays Group, the UK’s fastest growing travel company post-pandemic according to ATOL statistics, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Speaking at an exclusive event at the US Embassy in London to kick off the celebrations, Harry Hastings Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Ocean Holidays said: “For the last 20 years, we have prided ourselves on being a people-first organisation. Without the support of our staff, customers and business partners we wouldn’t be where we are today. This is a great moment to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going – and, of course, take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been a part of the journey.”

The 20th anniversary celebrations will continue into next year, with chances for agents to win places on fam trips, and monthly prizes and incentives, as well as working with local community charity partners.

The rebrand, which primarily involves the Group’s Ocean brands – Ocean Florida, the largest direct-to-consumer Florida specialist in Europe; and Ocean Beds, the largest global provider of Florida holiday homes to the travel trade – is central to the celebratory activity for this milestone year. The Group also includes Winged Boots, a leader in personalised holidays.

At the heart of the brand refresh is Ocean Holidays’ mission ‘to make holidays the best they can be, every step of the way’ highlighting the group’s ethos. As the inaugural winner of Employer of the Year, the rebrand which launched internally earlier this year, introduces three new values to the business – Do the right thing; Strive to be the best; and Make it happen – imprinted through the entire business.

Hastings commented: “Whether you are an employee, partner or customer, your travel experience with us is personal. We understand that holiday purchases, now more so than ever, are a significant purchase, which is why we treat every holiday like it was our own.

“Each of our brands has the technology, ambition and commitment to do the right thing for our people and customers.”

Looking ahead, Hastings confirmed the group is looking to expand its destination portfolio, across the USA, and potentially to other worldwide destinations in time.

Hastings continued “Since we launched our trade programme in July 2020, we have focussed on delivering unrivalled service, value and flexibility to our trade partners and have seen huge growth in sales for Florida and the wider USA.”

Ocean Holidays Group Hails the Trade as They Report Record-Breaking Peak Booking Period

Romford, 02 February 2023: Ocean Holidays has confirmed a record-breaking January with sales up more than 50% compared to 2020, the last peaks experienced prior to the pandemic.

Ocean Holidays group, the long-haul and luxury specialists, also reported that 20% of their January revenue came from trade distribution compared to 10% pre-pandemic. 

Harry Hastings, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO, of Ocean Holidays, said: “It’s incredible after such a turbulent few years to finally see, not only a return to normal, but a bumper peaks. This January has been a jolt of confidence the industry needed after so much uncertainty.” He continued “We are so grateful for the support from our relatively new trade partnerships of which we are so fortunate to be enjoying mutual success together.”

Following feedback from several listening groups with key trade partners, Ocean Holidays has adapted their trade programme to provide agents with best-in-market working practices and incentives to help them increase sales as we enter 2023. New initiatives include a market-leading incentive to earn up to £600 per booking and quick response times to all calls, with the operator reporting over 95% of calls from travel agents were answered in under 30 seconds. 

Hastings said, “As the largest independent specialist to Florida, we pride ourselves on our service levels and we are extremely proud that despite experiencing the largest ever volume of calls in our 20-year history we managed to answer over 95% of calls from travel agents in under 30 seconds.” 

As Ocean Holidays looks to expand its destination portfolio, the operator reported almost half of bookings in the last month included destinations outside of Florida, including the wider USA, as well as growth from Winged Boots to luxury hotspots such as UAE and Indian Ocean. 

This bumper January follows a fantastic start to the year as the operator was recently awarded the prestigious accolade of Employer of the Year at the Travel Weekly Globe Awards. 

On the award, Hastings said, “Our people are at the heart of everything we do and we believe that is reflected in our exceptional service levels we are able to offer both the trade and customers alike.” He continued “As a business, we are constantly listening to our staff so that we can continue to evolve with them and make this a place where all employees can thrive.”