An Expert View With…

LIZ HILL

FOUNDER, RURAL CONCIERGE, HEREFORDSHIRE

What inspired you to set up Rural Concierge?

During my time working within Visit Herefordshire I realised that, compared to other areas, there was hardly any mention or promotion of our area to groups and coach operators. The market was really missing out on all of the great things there were to see, do and explore. So, when I was made redundant in 2013, my passion for promoting the area spurred me on to develop Rural Concierge to create tours and itineraries to promote some of the hidden treasures of Herefordshire and surrounding rural areas to Group Organisers.

What is your profile in Herefordshire?

A year after starting Rural Concierge, I felt I needed a physical base rather than relying on an online presence only. I set up a kiosk in Hereford, and it’s been an ideal base for all sorts of enquiries. It started mainly to promote my own day trips as a group organiser, but since then it has opened the door to all sorts of options that have helped develop Rural Concierge. The kiosk has become a leisure hub promoting Herefordshire attractions and accommodation, selling Coach Holidays (including Edwards Holidays), day trips, theatre breaks as well as my own trips to residents and visitors. I also meet GTOs who are visiting Hereford as a recci for a potential trip. I find it’s vital to be prepared to work with others and to adapt tourism offers to take advantage of opportunities.  To this end I’ve just begun working with Philippa Brewell, who set up British History Tours in 2014, to create packages aimed at visitors looking for a more exclusive experience around historic Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

What types of activities can groups can enjoy in Herefordshire?

Because there are so many things to see, I have collated a groups brochure that showcases a number of themed itineraries and experiences to market to specialist groups. As well as gardens, food and drink or art itineraries, walking and cycling routes, the Wye Valley is not to be missed. This was the Birthplace of British Tourism with The Wye Tour starting in the 18th century. Steeped in history and much undiscovered, very little has changed over the years and a tour with a guide or expert really brings the place alive as you follow in the footsteps of Nell Gwynne, Edward Elgar and William Wordsworth.

What kind of specialist and overseas groups have you worked with?

Every enquiry and booking is different. Because there are so many small businesses in Herefordshire providing a specialist experience or tour is a must.
Recently, I had a group from Germany who were returning to join us on a Herefordshire Cider Tour. Because they visited only last year, I had to think of something different for them to do and luckily, I was aware of an event that was taking place on a cider farm – and they were able to take part in Morris Dancing. We did joke about it before hand, but I think once the cider flowed a little, they were more than happy to get involved! That was especially good combined with meeting a Hereford Calf called Angela MerCow!

What would you like to see happen to support areas like Herefordshire get more profile and group visitors?

Funding would be an easy one word answer, but we all know how difficult that is. So, with a bit of creative thinking and partnership working, I would like to see more areas working together in partnership to theme niche and specialist packages to strengthen offers. There are so many unique experiences that rural areas have that will complement places that are already on the main tourist map. I’ve had some great conversations with tourism experts around the country and it would be great if some sort of ‘working group’ could be facilitated that could possibly follow on from the GTBF Summer Seminar that took place at the beginning of June before the GTO Awards. I found this to be a huge benefit to discuss issues and challenges with like-minded businesses and organisations.

In 1996 Liz Hill studied an HND in Business with Travel Management at New College Durham, then joined Thomas Cook in Peterborough. She returned to Herefordshire in 2000 and worked in various local travel agents and from home selling Teletext holidays under Co-op Travel (Future Travel). She then changed focus in 2008 and joined Visit Herefordshire as a Tourism Officer until being made redundant in 2013.