An Expert View with…



What got you connected to groups, and what special understanding of them have you developed?

I first encountered groups when driving coaches for Bowens in the 1990s where I realised I really enjoyed the special bond groups have when travelling together; some of the experiences stuck with me and I have stayed with the groups sector ever since. I am passionate about groups and know that understanding the group organiser and the nature and needs of their group is the key to being successful.

There seem to be a small number of people in the travel industry who really understand group needs. Why do you think that is?

The word ‘group’ scares a lot of people. They imagine all the complexity and scale of meeting a group’s requirements. Listening to the organiser’s needs and building a product or business around them is the fundamental requirement. If you run a hotel, what makes yours different to everyone else, what area of the groups market can you attract. You can build a successful business from the groups sector, but it takes time to understand it. It’s a significant business opportunity for those who are prepared to properly understand and address it. Perhaps it’s good for me that more people don’t!

What have you been able to achieve in terms of helping groups with the cruise market?

We work very closely with the cruise lines but often come across the problem already mentioned, of people ‘not understanding’ this market. Cruise lines often regard groups as retail bookings when clearly they are not! The agents dealing with the booking are often not trained to understand the GTO personally and connect with their needs. We negotiate the best group benefits for the whole group to ensure they have something different to the high street or newspaper offers, and see that their group are given the ‘personal touch’ and made to feel they are important. On several dates a year, we escort groups and learn the most important item we offer is our one-to-one service, ensuring the organiser deals with the same person throughout the booking process. We also allow group members to contact us direct with questions, to help increase bookings for the organiser. We provide an informative presentation to showcase the cruise to group members and have a ‘no minimum numbers’ policy, which enables the GTO to promote with confidence knowing the cruise will operate.There are many cruise lines out there offering great products; we want to ensure that a call to Cruise for Groups gives the organiser the very best choices and options for their group.

Steve started Cruise for Groups in 2010, adding Holidays & Cruises for You to the portfolio this year to help individuals booking trips. He began coach driving at 18, and continues to build a successful career in the groups industry. He won ‘Outstanding Contribution to Group Travel By an Individual’ trophy at the Group Travel Awards in 2012.