An Expert View With…

JBJACKY BIRCH

head of group sales, ­Ascot Racecourse

How can a venue best reach out to groups when marketing to this sector?

1 Get to know your existing customers. With group organising it’s personal, and GTOs need to trust who they are dealing with and feel confident in their ability. Find out what works and what doesn’t so you can tailor your package and/or event to your group organiser and their members. In time they will introduce you to new GTOs and also recommend you to others.

2 Arrange some familiarisation trips and stands at key exhibitions so that group organsiers can get to know you and your venue/product.

3 Establish relationships with key organisations and other venues as they can help and guide you plus put you in touch with organisers and suggest ways to work together.

4 Have fun! The more enthusiasm you show, the more organisers will warm to you and want to work with you.

What is the best way to package a luxury product for the groups market?

The best way to package a more upmarket product to the groups market I find is to go in with a lower entry price, but have the option to upgrade. For most groups at the moment price is an issue but they still want to go out! For Royal Ascot, for example, I will price a package including a Silver Ring ticket (starts from £15 per person) with the option to upgrade to our Grandstand ticket. GTOs can then ‘add on’ extras such as lunch, afternoon tea and drinks so that way we always have something to suit every group. We also offer organisers the option to offer both ticket types to their members so they have the choice of either. The organiser still gets the group rate no matter how many of each they have.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your time working with groups?

The most important lesson I learnt when coming into the groups market was to have patience! It can take a very long time to get a group organised and a sale rarely happens overnight. GTOs have many questions and as mentioned before they need to trust you AND your venue before they bring their group to you. Many group organisers I met three or four years ago have only just started to book with me, but now they do they return every year and recommend Ascot to others they know. You need to be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort and you will be rewarded in the end!

Jacky is a well known group travel professional in the industry and is one of the first members of the Group Travel Business Forum.