“Groups are really important and account for about 15% of our audience.”

Bridget Nolan

Tours Manager, Royal Albert Hall

Bridget Nolan, Tours Manager, Royal Albert Hall

Bridget Nolan, a singer and actress, became Tours Manager after part time roles in the Royal Albert Hall’s Front of House team and training as a guide at the famous venue.

How important are groups as part of the Royal Albert Hall’s audience mix?

“Groups are really important to us and account for about 15% of our audience at the moment. We hope to see that grow in the next five years as we form more relationships with GTOs. We are also working towards introducing a two to three year pricing plan, which we know is important for tour operators looking to book far in advance.

“As we head towards the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary in 2021, one of our aims is to develop and improve the public space within our Grade I listed building to allow for a more dedicated and enhanced space for our tour groups, along with refreshed catering offers for all of our tour customers.”

What benefits do you offer to groups?

“Firstly, for our group bookers we have a dedicated booking line (manned 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri), as well as an online group booking form, and group tour tickets, for groups of 15 plus people, are typically £4 cheaper than our individual prices. As a thank you to the GTO, we give them a complimentary tour ticket along with a free welcome drink when they bring more than 15 people.

“The GTO and group also receive access to great quality, value for money food and drink packages when pre-booking, and a further 10% off on Royal Albert Hall merchandise or purchases in Café Bar/ Verdi – Italian Kitchen, on the day. We also have a number of shows with special group rates, details of which can be found on our website or by contacting our Box Office.”

What events are popular with groups, and have expectations changed in recent years?

“The Hall has a number of events such as Classical Spectacular, which are really popular with groups and have fantastic group rates. We are also increasing the number of shows that the Hall itself promotes, which will give us more opportunities for special group rates, and enhancing visits with our guided tours.

“We now have a significant number coming to us that like ‘to make a day of it’. They extend their visit by doing a tour in the morning and choosing to learn even more about the Hall by booking a second tour or talk following a lunch or afternoon tea.”

Do you work with external ticketing agencies or do you have a dedicated booking team?

“We do work with external ticketing agencies, tour and coach operators, but the majority of our business comes direct through GTOs and local societies across the UK. We have a dedicated group tour team, and we communicate with groups through phone, email and online. A lot of people use our online booking form but others prefer booking via email or phone – whatever works best for the organiser really!”

As a performer yourself, does this give any insights into how to ensure groups get the best out of their visit?

“As a singer and an actress in a previous career, I always found the best way to engage an audience was to make the material you were given your own. Our tour guides are a wonderful and talented group of people, who all share a passion for the building and its history, while all having very distinctive and individual interests.

“While there is a script to our tours, we very much want our guides to take ownership of their tours and tell the story of the hall in their own personal way. In this way our guides’ enthusiasm and excitement about this iconic building make for very entertaining and fascinating visits for all our groups.”

This article was originally published in issue 278 (February 2018) of GTO magazine.