An expert view with…



Why and how have you got involved in Group Travel?

I really wanted to be an architect, but I had no choice as I grew up in the 1970s with our family travel business Shearings Holidays. In those days we operated 140 coaches, four travel agencies and two hotels, so I guess ‘Group Travel’ just got in my blood! My father would be planning coach departures and devising pick up lists on the dining room table, and our family holidays usually involved hotel inspection trips in Europe. My weekend job from age 10 was as a porter at the coach station from where the tours were departing.

What do you consider to be the most important factors in working successfully with GTOs?

Personal contact is number one for us. We have introduced two personal group travel consultants, Claire and Emma, who are the first point of contact for all our Group Travel Organisers. We exhibit at most of the travel shows across the UK where our staff can meet our clients in person. We visit some clients at their homes or alternatively everyone is always welcome at our offices.  I am always around if any of our clients feel the need to speak to me, and many have my private mobile number.

How do you develop your ideas and distinguish your group offers?

We have a product development team who are out and about throughout the UK and central Europe talking to hotels and tourist boards. I get inspiration from travel books, guides and journals and enjoy bolting different elements together to create an interesting and unique holiday.

We typically work with good 3 and 4 star hotels, many of these we have used for over 40 years so we have great personal relationship with the owners and their families. Due to our buying power we often have great prices and deals, which we can pass on to our groups.

We do not ask for  minimum numbers for our tours, but if you run a coach with 10 people, for example, the cost is shared across fewer persons so the holiday becomes more expensive. The maximum number we can take on a trip or holiday usually depends more on the size of the hotel or venue as we can always hire more coaches.

What has been the most significant change in the group travel market in your 28 years?

The internet changed the market place. Everyone now has more information at their fingertips and with a few keywords you can find and share information in seconds compared with what would have taken days or weeks to arrive by post.

After leaving school Paul went to work for the family business ‘Shearings Coach Holidays’. The business was sold in 1983, following this he completed a two year stint in sales at Florence and Grange Tours of Morecambe, which was part of the Cotter Holiday Group. In 1985 Paul joined forces with his father, John, to create a wholesale tour operator Greatdays, where 28 years later Paul is now the Group Executive Director and employs a team of 40 based in Altrincham, Cheshire. The firm now handles over 2,000 group bookings each year for GTOs and trade customers.