General Manager – UK, Collette Worldwide Holidays
What have you learnt about improving the experience for groups when taking them overseas?
Care and attention to the details of the trip, and identifying exactly what the group wants and expects are vital. As a tour operator, we take for granted that we can organise the tour logistically – transport, accommodation, sightseeing etc. – but for the groups market we also need to be aware of the special needs and interests of each group, and add elements that would particularly appeal to that group to the regular standard holiday. For example, is there a museum or attraction at the destination that would not have mainstream appeal, but would add to a particular group’s enjoyment? To do this successfully involves good dialogue between all aspects of the tour operator’s business – the sales manager, the product team and the tour manager.
As a tour operator, what do you find the most challenging and different element of your business with groups?
The whole social dynamic of group travel is what separates it from normal individual tour sales. Time and space needs to be found within the trip for the group to interact and spend time socially, and this can mean different things to different groups. As a tour operator, we need to know what is important to each individual group we are dealing with. An overseas trip – especially a long haul one – is an important element in the life of that group. Each group is different, and needs to be treated individually.
What is the best way to support a group client?
Make it easy for the group to promote the trip, communicate regularly from the time the trip goes on sale to the departure date. Communication is especially important with long haul trips, as the window between announcing the trip and the departure is often as long as 18 months, so many things can happen over that period. Airline schedules might change, environmental factors might impact the trip (e.g. earthquakes, floods) and political changes etc. Often these factors are dramatised in the media, and this raises questions and uncertainties within the group. Regular communication helps allay these fears.
Peter has many years of experience in the field of tour operating and is a member of the Group Travel Business Forum.