Posted by: The Prince of Whales | February 23, 2010

Sir Richard Branson, Sir Freddie Laker, Sir Cliff Hards?

Readers and visitors to The Prince alike will certainly be familiar with Richard Branson. The more mature amongst us will no doubt remember Freddie Laker and his Sky Train. Both of these men have been pioneers in their field, opening up foreign travel to a wider market by breaking conventions and lowering prices.

A few weeks ago The Prince was blessed by a visit from another travel pioneer. In the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s Cliff Hards ran a travel company out of Solihull that offered cheap ski holidays to the Austrian Alps. Hards Ski Plan offered one week half board in Austria for just £79 and the main resort at the centre of the programme was Mayrhofen. Thousands of folks had their introduction to ski-ing thanks to one of Cliff’s holidays.  The only trade-off to get the price down so low was coach travel and although guests often moaned on arriving in Mayrhofen late at night, waking up to the sun and the snow was usually enough to put a big smile on their faces.

Mayrhofen - Destination for Many Ski Plan Guests

Sitting here in the back office of the pub and it’s snowing again, yet Moseley could not hope to emulate the winter sparkle of Mayrhofen. It’s such a beautiful place.

Once the Ski Plan side of the business was up and running, Cliff, his wife Helena and the rest of their team turned to the summer. No bonus marks for the name of their Lakes and Mountains coach holidays (Summer Plan), but again this was fantastically successful, taking hundreds of people every week to the Alps for just £79.

Diane and me were particularly pleased to welcome Cliff and his family to The Prince as we both used to work for him, so it was a very pleasant surprise almost 30 years later to cook Sunday Lunch for them.

So in my book, Cliff Hards does deserve a knighthood as he introduced not only affordable holidays to the Alps, but me to my future wife! Thank you Cliff!



  1. Cliff Hards was operating well into the 90s, and I recall receiving a catalogue for a tour over the New Millennium in 2000. (didn’t go, but did two trips with New Millennium to Poland)
    It is extraordinary how the firm has vanished from memory. A book about it all would be fascinating, including travellers’ tales.
    Great fun, great value. Thanks too, CLiff
    ( I never knew about the Planet on Sunday adventure until today) We live coincidentally now a stones throw from a family I first met on a NM Zakopane venture in 1996!

    • Dear Felix,
      Thank you for the feedback. There’s no doubt Cliff Hards was a great innovator so I am pleased you remembered his contribution to your own travels abroad.

      Regards Keith

  2. […] Sir Richard Branson, Sir Freddie Laker, Sir Cliff Hards? February 2010 2 comments 3 […]

  3. I was pleased to hear news of Clifford Hards. I remember him very well from a time when I worked in Sauze D’Oulx and he used to arrange holidays there. He deserved greater recognition for the contribution he made to tourism. If anyone is in touch with him now, please remember me to him.

  4. As his son I can vouch for his innovations in travel, making available affordable holidays to many thousands. He is now retired, spending half the year in the Tirol with his wife. For your information, New Millennium Holidays successfully pioneered package holidays to Poland before the opening up of Eastern Europe. It ceased trading a few years ago.

    • Dear George, Thanks for the feedback on the piece I wrote about your father. He is a great bloke and Diane and me both enjoyed working for him in Mayrhofen. In fact, if it hadn’t been for your Dad, we would never have met! We were pleased to welcome your family into the Prince on a couple of occasions last winter. Please pass on our best regards. I know Diane will be delighted to learn you responded to the blog. Regards Keith Marsden

  5. I went on a New Millenium holdiay to Zakopane in 1994 with a friend as part of a walking holiday in the High Tatras. The coach seemed to take forever but it had a bar stocked with stubbies so at least we were kept entertained!!

    Zakopane was beautiful and the Hugh Tatras amazing. Our hotel was laughable, it’d been thrown up by cowboys and we managed to break nearly everything in our room during our time there – even the toilet skidded across the bathroom floor!! Still, the country of Poland was lovely, the pizza restaurant in town fantastic for unhealthy, hangover breakfasts, the bars ful of cheap delicious Polish lager and the half ounce of blow we smuggled across Northern Europe made it even better. Ah, to be young again!

  6. Our first holiday to Austria was with Summer Plan in about 1965 . We travelled with them many times after that and were always amazed at the value for money and the wonderful atmosphere on the coaches and, later, the planes. Cliff helped carry our bags and arranged a special meal for our silver anniversary at a hotel where he didn’t even have guests !
    Wonderful guy, happy memories.
    Jean and Royston Dawber, Cheshire.

  7. My wife and I went on our honeymoon wit the this company in the summer of 1984. We had a fantastic time which we would not have otherwise afforded.The flight from Lydd to France was particularly fun. The coach driver in the UK drove like a bat out of hell,in the early hours just after daybreak when the roads were empty. Bloody brilliant.. Arrived in Mayrhofen at about 2am completely shattered. But when we woke up the next morning to see the fantastic view from our room, it was priceless. Thank you Cliff.

  8. I also worked for Hards for a very short time as a rep in Mayrhofen (1982 I think) but ended up with a local coach company (Christophorus Reisen) and then doing airport runs for a couple who worked for Blue Sky Holidays at the time. They were called Keith and Diane – could it possibly be you??? I am writing my memoirs (sounds grander than it is!) and googled Hards to check my facts. I came across this blog and just had to find out if you were the people I met all those years ago. Before working for Hards, I had many happy ski holidays courtesy of Ski Plan, so I have much to thank them for.

  9. Hi Marilyn, We are those people, my email is
    did you have shoulder length blonde hair? Who was working at the same time?

  10. Went to Mayrhofen with them in 1983 and 1984, both times in March. It was £50 each, I just couldn’t work out how it was so cheap!

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