An Expert View With…

Group Travel Business Forum.qxp:UK news.qxdCHRISTINE MORGENSTERN

travel trade sales & marketing manager ­English Heritage

What do you consider the key to providing a good group travel service?

Ideally you will have experienced yourself what it’s like to organise a group trip. That way you understand what is important for a group visit. And if you haven’t done it as a job – organise a fam visit or talk talk talk to your customers and LISTEN. Things do change and different stuff becomes more important with time – so make sure you know what your groups want, and anticipate and meet changing expectations. It’s also important that you really care. Find out how a visit went and be open to change things if they’re not convenient to the GTO. And for coach and tour operators, also talk to the office staff to ensure that your booking procedures work well for them too!

What’s the best way to manage the pressure of group demand?

At many sites we ask for groups to pre-book – that way we can make sure we have enough staff for our groups on the day. At key sites we have staff members who specialise in looking after our group bookings. They are not only experts in helping GTOs plan in advance, they will also welcome the groups on the day to make sure all is running smoothly.  For example, at Audley End House in Essex, Lynda Dyer will advise when best to arrive for a coach parking space, when to have lunch to avoid clashing with another group, will arrange tours of the house and visits to the service wing and stables.

What do you know about the groups market now that you didn’t five years ago?

That all the speculation that the internet would make group travel obsolete because it would be easier for people to make their own travel arrangements on the web was wrong!  Group travel has certainly changed in terms of the type of excursions on offer and facilities available when on the road. But GTOs have adapted their excursions and holidays because they are creative people!  There will always be a future for group travel because it is about sharing an experience with like minded people and friends; that’s important to people and will continue.

Christine won Outstanding Contribution to Group Travel by an Individual at the Group Travel Awards in 2010.