An Expert View With…

KRKaren Roebuck

Head of Marketing, Tourism South East

HOW WELL DO YOU THINK GROUP TRAVEL IS UNDERSTOOD IN TOURISM DECISION MAKING?

I think it is appearing in more tourism strategies, particularly at a local level, as an increasing number of authorities and destinations are starting to see the value of it and are wanting to learn to understand the market better. It is certainly appearing in a larger number of business plans but often suffers from a lack of dedicated resources and budget, which could improve. TSE’s 2009 South East Group Travel Research showed a very disparate engagement in both the provision of services and promotion of a group travel destination. However, in the south east we have run workshops and worked closely with destinations and have seen a much higher level of engagement.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS TOURISM AGENCIES SHOULD BE DOING MOST TO SUPPORT THE UK GROUP TRAVEL SECTOR?

Giving their endorsement to more group travel initiatives and helping to reduce the costs for coach tour operators bringing groups into an area, which ultimately leads to a more affordable trip for GTOs and their groups. Trying to lower fuel costs and supporting the infrastructure and facilities that encourage group visits are both important factors in this. Identifying the group market as a key tourism target sector and encouraging research into the value of group travel within destinations would also help support this market. Recognising that by attracting one group, this actually leads to spending by up to 50 or so individuals, is a major part of this.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR REGIONAL AND LOCAL TOURISM BODIES TO DEVELOP MORE INCOMING GROUP BUSINESS TO THEIR PARTS OF THE UK??

Working together within partnerships is definitely the best way to develop group business. By splitting the costs of marketing and promotion between partners, creating combined visit packages at destinations and attractions, and linking up with transport suppliers, it means that resources can be pooled and skills shared, creating maximum impact.

Karen has spoken at several Group Travel Business Forum seminars on the importance of research and support for the group travel sector within tourism at all levels.