An Expert View With…

dilwyn1165DILWYN JONES

OWNER, SABRINA BOAT, SHREWSBURY

How do groups figure in your business?

Groups are hugely important to our business. We host up to three coach parties every day. The boat trip takes passengers all the way around Shrewsbury Town Centre on the river loop, which allows people to see a lot of Shrewsbury and the stunning scenery. Groups can sit together and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, all served via table service, before listening to our commentary on the return leg. As the owner of the business, I believe it’s my job to be hands-on. Along with Mark in the office and my skippers, I take group bookings and give live commentary on the cruises. I help groups to set up packages and give advice on what to do in addition to the cruise. I also work with museums and restaurants to make group days out in Shrewsbury easier.

How do you vary your offers to different groups?

We tailor packages for different groups by working with a number of other businesses in the town such as cream teas at farm shops and garden centres, and meals at local restaurants. Our commentary is generally an overview of our medieval town, but it can be tailored to suit the needs of the groups such as haunted cruises or themes such as Charles Darwin, who was born and grew up here in Shrewsbury.

What makes riverboat cruises appeal to groups?

Riverboat cruises are very popular with groups because they allow a relaxed environment where people are able to sit back and enjoy refreshments while learning about their destination all together. In particular, with the Sabrina Boat, coaches are also able to drop off and pick up directly outside the pontoon, which is very convenient for the coach drivers. I have always loved being near water and it gives me great satisfaction to have the opportunity to share my experiences on the river with others. I love the growth that Shrewsbury is experiencing in the group market and tourism in general, so it is really satisfying to be part of that.

As a successful riverboat operator, what advice would you give other professionals to ensure their offer fits group needs?

My main advice for targeting groups is to make the planning and visit as easy as possible. Organising a large group can be a very hard task and so any destination or attraction that is easy to communicate with will appeal to group travel organisers. My most important tip is to ensure that all visits are enjoyable for the guests. Plus always offer the GTO and coach driver biscuits with their tea!

Dilwyn studied leisure management at the University of Gloucestershire prior to beginning a career in leisure, hospitality, sales and management. He initially set up a sports coaching business and worked in the UK and America before returning to Britain and running various leisure businesses. On buying Sabrina, he then studied for the Boatmasters level 2 qualification, enabling him to become a captain of the boat.