An Expert View With…

Simon W 2012 2SIMON WARWICK

CEO GROUP LINE & TICKET MACHINE GROUP LTD

What got you into group travel?

Whilst working as an actor and producer, I met Ronnie Lee who was the producer of the musical The King and I, and was also the founder of the Group Sales Box Office, an American group ticketing agency. I realised the potential of this concept for British theatres and audiences and so, with fellow producer Edward Snape, I set up Group Line to specialise in theatre ticketing for group customers. This was in 1991 and my aim was, and still is, to ensure groups get excellent value for money and as well as top class entertainment when visiting  West End Theatre. Group Line was our first brand and we now own several others within the company Ticket Machine Group Ltd.

What’s different for groups wanting to visit theatre?

By talking to GTOs, I discovered the challenges they faced when arranging theatre trips for their groups. Value was always a concern, hence we introduced the £29.50 ticket rate. Another was losing money on a trip by paying in advance for tickets which couldn’t then be sold. For this reason we launched ‘book now and pay later’, which allow GTOs to book tickets without obligation and without deposit, and then pay once they have confirmed numbers. Excellent customer service has always been the key in developing our offers for groups.

In the 20 plus years Group Line has been operating what changes have you seen?

The most significant change has been in the advent of the Internet. It has allowed GTOs to find out more easily what’s happening in theatre and has increased competition, but it has allowed Group Line to interact more pro-actively with GTOs and to improve the service we can offer to them. It has allowed us to add other ticketing services for London attractions so that the GTO can arrange a whole day just by coming to us. We are a one-stop shop!  A major development at Group Line in the last 12 months has been the internet site, www.groupline.com. This is the first website that enables group organisers to make a reservation and complete the payment process online.

Why should groups visit theatre?

There is nowhere else in the world that provides the variety and exceptional quality of theatre like London’s West End and I think the comaraderie created by visiting theatre as a group enhances the experience tenfold. We are seeing an increase in younger women coming to the theatre as a group, and they certainly realise the benefit and flexibility of travelling by coach –  with starting points convenient to their homes and, most importantly, direct access to theatreland – at times to suit the party.

Since 1991 Group Line has grown to be the most respected independent group theatre ticketing agency in the UK, with its unique approach to excellent customer service winning many industry awards. The company is responsible for selling over one million West End theatre tickets per year. Simon Warwick was awarded the Outstanding Individual Contribution to Group Tourism award at the 2013 Group Travel Awards.