An Expert View With…



What definition of a group do you use, and have group expectations changed over your career?

Interestingly, each client I work with targets a different type of group visitor. It could be groups who arrive through coach and tour operators, language schools or incoming operators, as well as private groups. Group expectations of a visit are now much greater than they once were. Where groups were mainly happy to arrive at an attraction and generally ‘mill around’, most now require additional products for their visit. This could be catering, a specialist tour or talk, or privileged access. They are now much more savvy and aware of the possibilities, and successful attractions must take care to fulfil each group’s demands.

How can suppliers partner with regional and government tourism bodies?

From the clients I work with, I can give some examples. Blenheim Palace is fortunate to receive a high level of support from government bodies such as VisitBritain, and the attraction is invited to take part in sales missions each year, as well as hosting familiarisation visits for potential incoming groups. Regional tourism and destination bodies, VisitOxfordshire and Oxfordshire Cotwolds, also bring many media visitors to the palace. Beaulieu National Motor Museum works closely with Tourism South East and VisitHampshire to take advantage of shared stand opportunities at trade shows. The type of support will vary from region to region, but attractions should always try to make the most of whatever opportunities that are presented.

Are there other ways to stretch tight  budgets?

Given the financial restrictions facing many attractions and destinations today, it’s essential that they take every opportunity to work together; for example, by sharing stands at trade shows. My advice would be, don’t be blinkered, work with your competitors as your activities and offers complement each other. Get together, and share and brainstorm ideas so that what little funds you have go as far as possible!

What advice would you offer to the industry about developing the group market?

The group market is continually evolving, so you always need to be vigilant. Do not be complacent and always develop your products so that you have something new to offer that will appeal to new and changing tastes and types of groups. Most importantly, listen to what group organisers, and tour and coach operators, are asking for, and respond to these ever-changing demands. And check what the most innovative and forward-looking suppliers are doing!

Ulrika Ericson has been involved with travel trade and group tourism since she arrived in the UK from Sweden in the 1980s. Gaining experience working with the sales team at Madame Tussauds and the London Convention Bureau, she founded a tourism consultancy, Lincris, in 1996. Since then, she has helped a number of clients with a remit of developing group visits and has built up experience of many aspects of the tourism industry. Currently she works for Blenheim Palace, Beaulieu National Motor Museum and Tourism South East.