Escape across the border
TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS © VOYAGES ORION
For many in Belgium wanting to go on holiday or a honeymoon, it is far easier to fly from Cologne or Dusseldorf, rather than Brussels. Voyages Orion, based in the German-speaking part of the country, makes a speciality of precisely these options.
When David Bocher established Voyages Orion in 2009, it was a one-man operation. Within a year, he had taken on his first employee, and now the company has three busy offices – in Eupen, St Vith and Calamine – and a total of 16 employees. It is a full-service operation, but Orion’s trump card is using the facilities and economies of scale offered by near-neighbour Germany for the benefit of its Belgian clients.
“Our main office is only 12 kilometres from the German border, and for people in this area and indeed much of Eastern Belgium, the logistics of flying from, say, Cologne or Dusseldorf, make more sense than struggling across to Brussels,” says Bocher. That is far from the only benefit, too. “The German travel market is huge, Europe’s biggest,” he continues, “and consequently ,the prices are more competitive, and the range of options far wider than a relatively small country like Belgium can offer.”
All of David’s staff members are bilingual, to facilitate communications with French, Flemish and German-speaking Belgian clients, but also to smooth their daily dealings with major tour operators and flight providers in Germany, with whom over the last nine years they have built up excellent relationships.
The company has particular strengths in the cruise market, package holidays, and in the very demanding honeymoon sector. “Honeymoons are a major part of our business,” David adds, “with my colleague Caroline Kleutgen who is a real specialist in that part of the business.” Couples approaching Voyages Orion to enquire about wedding travel can fix a face-to-face meeting, or over the telephone if that is simpler for them, where their requirements, budget and preferences will be discussed. After that, the team will research the best-fit options for them, and present the prospective clients with one or several possibilities for them to consider. “Making all those wedding arrangements can be stressful,” says David, “so we work hard to make the couple’s travel options as stress-free and as closely tailored to their needs and budget as it is possible to get.”
Those options are likely to be for places and hotels known personally to people at Voyages Orion: “That’s a major part of what we do, and an enjoyable part,” says David, “building up in-depth knowledge of the resorts and areas we send people to.” Caroline Kleutgen, for instance, as part of her honeymoon brief, has visited the Maldives, Bali, Singapore, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Mauritius, among other places. It is a tough job, but someone has got to do it!
Staff members at Orion keep across trends in the wedding travel market, with, for example, the USA in vogue currently for romantic road trips, and a very notable rise in demand for travel to Oman (a destination whose development has impressed David).
There has been greater interest too, of late, in honeymoons within Europe: Greece especially, with its excellent climate and competitive prices. But just as with weddings themselves, certain classic options never go out of fashion. “The Maldives, Bali and Mauritius are perennial favourites for honeymoon couples,” says David, “with a huge range of options, great facilities, and the ‘x-factor’ of romance about them.”
A win-win situation
Orion has grown every year since it opened for business, in spite of – or perhaps even because of – the rise of the internet. We all know how overwhelming it can be to be faced with the vast amount of information that is easily available via our computer screens, but which is hellishly difficult to sift through and interpret. And anyone planning a wedding has enough complexity to deal with as it is. “We can arrange things rapidly with the client from making no-obligation offers to completing the deal just by exchanging emails,” he says, and it is often a win-win situation, saving time and frequently saving money too. “We have all the best offers to hand, and in fact, in many cases, as well as having the expertise to know about the places themselves, thanks to our links with the major German tour operators, we’re able to offer better prices!”