“One or two-night breaks used to predominate but we now see more four-night stays”

Julie Gibson

Sales & Marketing Manager, Abacus Hotels

Julie Gibson, Sales & Marketing Manager, Abacus Hotels

Offering three excellent four star properties, Abacus Hotels are confident that there will be one to fit your group’s individual requirements.

What is your offer to the groups market?

Orton Hall Hotel and Spa in Peterborough (70 bedrooms) is perfectly placed for city breaks, and for groups travelling from the Midlands to the Norfolk coast; Knight’s Hill Hotel and Spa, Kings Lynn (79 bedrooms) has extensive views over the Wash; and Le Strange Arms Hotel in Old Hunstanton is our smallest property with 46 rooms, and is right by the beach.”

What’s important to GTOs when they choose a place to stay?

“Location is important, and we are fortunate that Le Strange Arms and Knight’s Hill give easy access to a range of attractions including Sandringham House & Gardens, Holkham Hall and Thursford for the Christmas Spectacular.

“Groups like good leisure facilities such as a spa and swimming pool, and the hotels’ location near to golf courses appeals to some.

“Other speciality offers include groups looking for active holidays such as walking and bird watching who find there are many attractive footpaths and nature reserves close by. Budget is always a significant consideration, of course.”

What types of support do you offer to GTOs?

“Having been in the industry for over 19 years, I have learnt what matters to GTOs by meeting and talking with them, and so we developed the way we work to support organisers.

“After a GTO makes the first enquiry, the person they speak to will see the booking through from start to finish. This gives continuity of service and makes the booking process more personal.

“We do not offer online booking or use Internet hotel booking websites because by speaking directly with organisers we can more easily tailor their stay precisely to their group’s needs.

“We are happy to consider almost any request – as long as it would not upset any other guests! This flexibility is part of the extra value our hotels can add to a booking over and above a more formulaic budget hotel.

“In addition, we offer up to six single rooms per group booking without a supplement, plus one free room per 20 booked. Payment is to the hotel, not to a third party, and made by the GTO.

“We can also offer a familiarisation visit to genuine GTOs who are seriously considering bringing their group to stay.

“At all our hotels we additionally offer relaxing meal stops to non-residents – whether a lunch, an afternoon tea or just a refreshing cuppa. We have carvery lunches in our on-site pubs at Knight’s Hill and Orton Hall.

“If an organiser or coach driver rings ahead with an order we can make sure everything is ready for the group’s arrival as we know that turnaround time is important.”

Has the groups market changed over the past decade?

“A significant change has been in the number of nights groups stay.

“One or two-night breaks used to predominate (and we still have these bookings for groups attending Thursford) but we now see more four-night stays. I think this is because the cost of the coach and fuel is greater, so it is more economic for a group to stay for a longer break.

“This allows more ‘downtime’ and our leisure facilities have thus become an important element of these longer stays.

“March to May and late September to November still remain favourite periods for our groups.”

How do you promote the hotels?

“As a local Norfolk girl I am extremely passionate about the area, and enjoy travelling the country sharing my experiences with GTOs.

“I attend many travel trade shows, and find talking face-to-face with GTOs is an essential way of promoting what we offer, but we also mail out brochures and advertise in magazines.”

What’s been the most unusual group booking?

“We welcome all types of groups from masonic groups to art societies and gardening clubs. We love to see Classic Car clubs with their beautiful cars lined up on the lawns.

“This year the Norfolk Cycling Group stayed at Knight’s Hill Hotel during their charity bike ride. Because of the value of the bikes they kept them in their rooms overnight. The team said this was quite a spectacle to see!”

This article was originally published in issue 282 (August 2018) of GTO magazine.