An Expert View With…

geoff holtGEOFF HOLT

SALES MANAGER, ISLE OF WIGHT TOURS

Tell us about your role and how you make it work

As sales manager I have seven people in my team and our role is to work with GTOs to make sure the holiday we plan with them exactly fits their needs. I am constantly out and about seeing customers and spend much time with groups, which gives me a great insight into how groups work and what’s important for them when they are on holiday. For us, it’s not just being at the end of the phone that counts, we pride ourselves on being extremely proactive to make sure every holiday we organise for a group is unique and special.

Who is your market?

When Isle of Wight tours began in 1989 the focus was providing holidays for traditional social clubs, and this is still important to us but it’s been vital to diversify. The company is now the market leader for special interest holidays such as sequence, square, ballroom and line dancing holidays, as well as bowls, skittles, petanque darts, rambling, golf and fishing breaks. There are 45 Line Dancing holidays organised for this year alone, with destinations including Amsterdam, Ireland and the UK. Another important focus is organising reunions for ex-servicemen and women, and we have become the leading supplier of this type of event taking care of every aspect including Remembrance Services and March-Pasts. In short, however, we will take any adult group from anywhere to anywhere! We refer enquiries from youth, educational and ‘hen’ and ‘stag’ groups to specialists in these sectors.

How do you keep ahead in a competitive marketplace?

Our point of difference is our focus on what a group needs and our personal involvement. When we work with a GTO and their members, we listen carefully to what they want and then suggest what will work. We pay attention to every detail and will book everything from start to finish, using hotels we’ve checked for quality and professional coach companies. We think it’s important to build on our relationships and, for example, we invite a number of our most loyal GTOs to our annual get together at Warners Leisure Resort in Yarmouth on the island. This event, ‘Our own excuse for a party’ party is always well supported by groups too, and the whole Isle of Wight Tours team comes along.

We also work with others in the industry, even our competitors, as we believe it’s better to share information than keep everything to ourselves. Everyone is stronger this way and we can also benefit from others’ ideas. We are a member of Skal* (International association of Travel & Tourism Professionals) and through this we made contact with the team from Celle, Germany, who were looking to promote the city in the UK. We went on to organise a ‘fam trip’ to the city, taking Albatross Travel as well as GTOs, and subsequently have organised several group holidays there. We find the opportunities come from talking and not from sitting in the office.

* Skal is the only professional organisation promoting global tourism and friendship. It is the only international group uniting all sectors of the travel and tourism industry. Skal International has 17,000 Members in 400 Clubs in 87 Countries.

What’s changing in the marketplace and how do you respond?

Groups’ needs have always evolved but change is now faster than ever. Increasing numbers of single rooms are requested and disabled facilities are also needed. We also have to take into account the changing legislation that is affecting the coaching and holiday industry. No two groups are alike and itineraries must be customised, since one size does not fit all. The one thing we have learnt in our response to change is to be adaptable in our approach – if a company or individual is not of this mind-set then they will not survive in the group market for long.

Does the name Isle of Wight tours cause confusion?

Initially people can think we only do tours on the Isle of Wight, but I have found that the name is a positive because it provides an entré into a conversation and a way to connect to a new GTO.

Geoff was involved in the hospitality industry from birth since his family owned a hotel in Lake on the Isle of Wight. He helped out as a child and progressed to jobs as a waiter and barman as he grew up. Whilst studying for a degree in Geology for the Petroleum Industry in London, Geoff had a part time job with the Hilton Hotel. After graduating, Geoff returned to hospitality, working in London for the Livery Halls and as a butler for Price Waterhouse Cooper amongst other jobs, before going back to work on the Isle of Wight in 2000. Geoff joined Isle of Wight Tours in 2010 as Sales Manager.

Isle of Wight Tours has been established for 27 years and specialises in organising trips for groups, of 10 people or more, from any location – whether in the UK or overseas – to destinations in the UK, Ireland, Europe and Jersey.