An Expert View with…

MD PicMAURICE DUCKWORTH

MANAGING DIRECTOR,
FIRST TRAVEL SOLUTIONS

What’s your thinking about meeting groups’ travel requirements more effectively?

Groups benefit from a seamless service and avoidance of multiple conversations where things could be brought together. I believe in the importance of providing a single point of contact for group travel organisers who takes ownership of understanding the client’s needs and creating the package. We are a travel provider (across coach, bus and train services) but we do not want the travel element – or any part of it – to be a separate discussion and transaction. To be truly effective you have to build relationships with operators, accommodation providers and venues who share a passion for group travel.

What are the challenges in creating a seamless process for groups to book a package that includes travel, hotel and visits via a transport operator?

The biggest challenges we have been addressing to create a seamless booking process for group travel are the time that it takes to turn around quotes and the bespoke requirements of extended tours involving multiple elements. Some organisations we have sought to deal with are not sufficiently resourced and can take up to three weeks to return a quote. Co-ordinating all the elements and ensuring that all parties have the required information does make the booking process labour intensive. We accept that challenge and the need to get the right people addressing it. It is important for us to ensure group buyers understand the compliance and safety checks that need to be undertaken too.

How do you see the pattern of group buying evolving and what does that mean in addressing the market?

Group buyers like the personal touch and tend to repeat successful experiences. Events in the news tend to shape choices and concerns. I would like to see us using all aspects of travel open to us to offer our group buyers opportunities to visit new venues based on their individual preferences and emerging leisure trends. Groups do not need to be ‘coach-sized’ in order to qualify for benefits in terms of price and service. I would like to offer group deals for parties from 4 to 400!

Maurice has over 15 years experience in providing pre-planned and emergency provision of bus and coach services. He joined Fraser Eagle in 1994, where he pioneered the company’s rail replacement services. He founded First Rail Support in 2004, from which First Travel Solutions has developed to look at ways in which to combine multi-modal forms of transport for groups. In his spare time, Maurice is a Special Constable with Lancashire Police and was awarded the MBE for services to the community and policing in 2009.