This year’s annual GTBF summer seminar, which took place on the afternoon of the Group Travel Awards on 3rd June at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel in London, placed emphasis on the importance and benefits of travel and tourism suppliers considering carefully how they appeal to the groups market, and not just seeing it as a ‘difficult’ area, or as a ‘Cinderella sector’ that must be begrudgingly looked after! The theme was ‘Targeting Groups Now and in the Future – What’s the Secret?’ and this was covered by a range of speakers from the industry.
Simon Warwick who now heads group experience company Groups Direct began by setting out to define what the difference is between groups and individuals, concluding that actually, there is no real difference, but that there is a challenge for specialist suppliers in encouraging individuals to come together as group customers. He delivered a motivating message of being creative with offers – “refresh, reboot but don’t rehash!”
Liz Hill, who runs tour company Rural Concierge in Herefordshire, inspired delegates with her one-woman quest to bring niche, quality group tourist experiences to a lesser-known part of the country with rich tourism opportunities. Her dedication to promoting the area, and her innovative attitude in recognizing that everything has the potential to appeal when well packaged and promoted, was a reminder to be hard-working and, above all, passionate.
Geoff Holt encouraged attendees to “get their hands dirty” when it comes to working with groups, revealing just how much time IOW Tours, for which he is Sales Manager, devote to getting to know their group customers and exactly what they want. He said, “Embrace the market, meet your customers and share their experiences.” Geoff also cited feedback as being particularly important. “Be flexible to ideas and suggestions, and follow up every group experience that your customers have. Review and act on data – under-promise and over-deliver.”
GTO magazine’s Contributing Editor, Val Baynton, gave real insight into the mindset of group organisers – that accessibility, flexibility and attention to detail is vital to all groups, regardless of age. Groups come in all shapes and sizes, and Val discussed the importance of Chinese and German group tourism to Britain as well as UK-based groups, with some helpful hints on how to cater for visitors from overseas and their specialist tastes. She recommended generally that providers encourage GTOs to visit their attraction before organising a visit with their group, providing a chance to work with them to assess what they want and to really help sell group products.
Claire Leroux from Worldwide Attractions, which represent overseas venues in the UK, added her thoughts to the mix, emphasising how important it is to be willing to “become a tour operator” for your business and to set up effective dialogues of communication with buyers. She said that the “market of GTOs is currently too fragmented,” therefore the travel and tourism industry should work together to make the pieces fit.
The seminar was concluded with a panel discussion and the chance for an audience Q&A, covering a range of topics from how to attract younger GTOs (and whether this should be a priority) to how best to utilise technology and social media, and to what extent leaving the EU would affect travel and tourism in the UK.
Ian Thomas, Wales Tour Guide and Coach Tour Manager said,
“It was a good event. Thank you to everyone involved in the organisation.”
Katherine Byrant from the Wales Millennium Centre said,
“The range of speakers was very good and they had excellent experience.”