An Expert View With…

GavGAVIN DAVIES

MANAGING DIRECTOR AND CO-OWNER, GROUPS DIRECT

Are you a ‘groups only’ business and how does that differentiate you from other travel and tourism suppliers?

I would say we are very much a group specialist company. We understand there are other companies out there offering both groups and individual tours and tickets, however we believe that the groups market is a specialised one and requires complete dedication from the whole team. We devote our time and efforts into making sure that group bookers receive the best price, great ideas and most of all the finest service.

How would you describe your offer?

We are a ‘Group Experience Company’. From days out with Blue Badge guides to attraction and theatre tickets, we can not only offer great value for money but advice and guidance from a dedicated team. We understand that group organisers are hard-working and often unsung heroes, and in that respect we want to make life easy for them by giving new ideas or a new version of a tried and tested day out that really creates a proper experience rather than just an exchange of tickets for a show or event. The enthusiasm and experience of the team most definitely sets us apart.

What do you feel is most important in building long-term relationships with group buyers?

Personality, flexibility and confidence in your supplier makes you feel that you are in a safe pair of hands. This is the key to long lasting relationships. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of dealing with a huge variety of group organisers and coach operators. Those relationships have become friendships along the way, which is exactly why I love this industry.

What have you found to be the considerations That are top of a GTO’s list when they plan an outing and how do you respond to these needs?

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.

How has the role of a ticket supplier changed over the last decade?

When I first started out in ticketing, many years ago, the cost of tickets was a moderate £25 for a top price ticket. Now tickets for theatre can exceed £70 per person. The role of the ticket supplier must be to support the groups market and encourage producers to understand how crucial group bookers are to the success of their shows. Parking in London has become a problem for coaches and our Chairman Simon Warwick has campaigned for many years to make it easier for coaches to drop-off passengers as close to Theatreland as possible. Once this is recognised, theatres will see an increase in group bookings for their shows. We understand that days out are just as important for group bookers now as theatre trips. With this in mind, it’s imperative that a tour supplier constantly listens to the GTO. There is now more choice than ever for group bookers so it’s our role to make sure we understand every aspect of the product before recommending anything. The tour supplier must constantly create new tours to recognise the variety in the market..

Gavin’s career started at Ticketmaster in 1999 after studying to become an actor. He soon realised that he enjoyed creating great relationships with group bookers more, some of which remain to this day. After Ticketmaster, Gavin went on to experience two other ticketing agencies, one of which was Group Line. Gavin worked alongside Simon Warwick for 12 years at Group Line and led the team to numerous victories at award ceremonies. After 16 years in ticketing for West End theatre, he launched Groups Direct in July 2015. Recognising the need for new ideas in the market, Gavin and his team create original days out and theatre packages to suit all group bookers, and he is now the Managing Director and Co-Owner of Groups Direct.