Family fun

We are often looking for new and exciting things to do with our families. Brenda Watkinson reviews a range of attractions suitable for a family group day out, from theme parks and science and technology attractions to active pursuits and farm visits.


KEEPING THE FAMILY ACTIVE

Snowboarding at SNO!zone.

Snowboarding at SNO!zone.

Many family groups love the excitement of an activitybased day out. Based at three locations in the UK, Milton Keynes, Castleford in West Yorkshire and Glasgow in Scotland, SNO!zone offers a great day out for all the family. Featuring indoor real snow slopes, a visit provides the perfect opportunity to learn new skills with expert ski and snowboard tuition, or to practice your techniques on the 170-metre long main slope. Each SNO!zone is situated in an Xscape centre, where a range of other exhilarating activities are offered such as indoor skydiving, rock climbing and lazerzone. Refreshments are available in the SNO!bars and group menus can be pre-booked and served in a private area if requested. Groups can tailor-make their day to suit their members, with a 20% discount offered off main slope passes for parties of 10 or more.

In contrast to the world of snow, Waterworld is an indoor tropical aqua park located just off the A500 near Stoke-on-Trent. This all-weather attraction features slides, chutes and water-based activities to suit all ages and both weak and strong swimmers. Discounts apply to groups of 15 or more.

If you think your group would like the idea of swinging through breathtaking scenery on a zip wire, you might consider Go Ape. This tree-top adventure is available in 27 locations across the country. Your members will be kitted out with harnesses, pulleys and karabiners and given a safety briefing and training before they set off across tree-top high wires and challenging crossings using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope and wire.

For a range of outdoor activities, Active Outdoor Pursuits offers a variety. Based in Aviemore, Scotland, Activity Days for families are a good way to try out white water rafting, climbing, abseiling, canoeing and kayaking. Activities can be tailored to suit your group and no prior experience is necessary, with expert instructors on hand to give tuition and support.

In the south of Britain, in Hampshire, Calshot Activity Centre runs courses designed with families in mind in skiing, snowboarding, track cycling, rock climbing and archery during the autumn and winter months, and ‘wet’ courses such as sailing during the spring and summer. Calshot is happy to organise everything from single sessions to week long residential visits tailored to your individual group.


AMUSEMENT PARKS

With some excellent theme parks located the length and breadth of the UK, you will not need to travel far to find one to suit your group.

‘SAW – The Ride’ at Thorpe Park.

‘SAW – The Ride’ at Thorpe Park.

Thorpe Park in Surrey is certainly the place to get your adrenaline pumping. It has some of the best rollercoaster rides in the country. ‘SAW – The Ride’ is a highlight, the world’s first horror movie-themed roller coaster featuring a dramatic drop between huge spinning blades. New for 2011, ‘Storm Surge’ takes riders on a 64-foot spiralling descent aboard a spinning life raft. The attraction offers group rates for parties of seven or more with even more significant savings on multi-day tickets.

Also in Surrey, Chessington World of Adventures features over 40 rides and attractions set in nine themed lands. Highlights include the roller coasters ‘Dragon’s Fury’ and ‘Vampire’ while a gentler option is ‘Dragon Fall’, a leisurely boat ride featuring dips and falls before its plunging finale. Discounts apply to groups of 10 or more with one free place also offered for every 10 paying visitors. Two-day group tickets are also available.

For younger children, Legoland Windsor is aimed specifically at 3 to 12 year-olds and features over 55 interactive rides, live shows, building workshops and attractions within its vast parkland. New for this year, the ‘Atlantis Submarine Voyage’ lets visitors board custom-made submarines and travel around a massive ocean tank. Discounts apply to groups of seven or more if booked in advance. The Legoland Discovery Centre at The Trafford Centre in Manchester also makes an educational day out.

In the heart of the country in Staffordshire, Drayton Manor Theme Park near Tamworth offers a good combination of rides for all the family. For thriller seekers, both ‘Shockwave’, a stand-up roller coaster, and ‘Stormforce 10’, featuring a backwards water drop, are sure to set the adrenaline going while for little folk, Thomas Land offers 12 themed rides and an indoor play area. Discounts are based on a sliding scale starting from groups of 12 or more.

Also in Staffordshire, Alton Towers has built up a great reputation with its world class rides such as ‘Nemesis’ and ‘TH13teen’. There are also BMX live shows four times a day during the summer season. Discounts apply to groups of seven or more when booked in advance. If groups book online, they also qualify for Early Ride Time, which gives entry to the park one hour before general opening times.

‘The Ultimate’ at Lightwater Valley Theme Park.

‘The Ultimate’ at Lightwater Valley Theme Park.

In Blackpool, the Pleasure Beach has recently launched Nickelodeon Land, themed around characters from the popular children’s TV show. With over 100 rides and attractions, popular with families, the ‘Alice Ride’ takes visitors through the looking glass into Alice’s Wonderland. Discounts vary according to your group’s age.

Just outside Ripon in North Yorkshire, Lightwater Valley Theme Park offers groups a fun day out with over 40 rides and attractions. One of the most popular is the roller coaster ‘The Ultimate’, which travels 2.4 kilometres through dark forest. Discounts apply to groups of 12 or more.

Located just a short drive from the M6 in Lancashire, Camelot Theme Park features roller coasters, log flumes and a good choice of other rides. Pre-booked groups of 12 or more can benefit from discounts with free entry for the GTO, free coach parking and free posters and leaflets.

Another themed attraction of sorts is the London Dungeon, which delves into 1,000 years of the city’s darkest history with 14 actor-led shows and three scary rides. Priority entrance is available to pre-booked parties. There are similar Dungeons in Edinburgh, York, at Warwick Castle and now in Blackpool.


HANDS-ON LEARNING EXPERIENCES

For those whose minds have an inquisitive nature, a trip to one of Britain’s industrial or scientific attractions can help provide answers through the use of interactive and hands-on techniques.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! at Piccadilly Circus.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! at Piccadilly Circus.

Located in the heart of St Helens just 30 minutes from Manchester and Liverpool, the World of Glass takes visitors on a journey of discovery into one of the most common substances on earth, exploring the story of glassmaking from its discovery by ancient civilisations to the modern, multi-use material we know today. A state-of-the-art special effects film show sets the scene by showing how this material is used by modern society in technology as diverse as the world wide web and space exploration, before visitors explore the interactive museum galleries where the magic of glass is brought to life in a fun packed zone featuring distorting mirrors, kaleidoscopes and periscopes as well as an array of optical instruments. As well as live glass blowing demonstrations, visitors can also explore the Jubilee Cone Building, which houses the remains of the oldest glass making tank furnace in the world. Discovered buried beneath a concrete slab floor, the tank furnace has been excavated by archaeologists from Lancaster University. Discounts apply to groups of 13 or more and guided tours can also be arranged for an additional charge. Overlooking the canal, the Kaleidoscope Café serves refreshments ranging from a light snack to a full meal.

For groups visiting the capital, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is a place of wonders right in the heart of the West End. With more than 700 amazing artefacts on display over five floors ranging from a two-headed calf to a Mini Cooper covered in Swarovski crystals, Amazonian shrunken human heads and a model of the tallest man on earth, the attraction celebrates the weird, wonderful and bizarre in all its forms. With everything you can imagine (and plenty more you can’t), Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is a family day out that’s definitely out of the ordinary. A discount of 30% applies to groups of 10 or more with pre-booked guided tours on request for an additional cost. Audio tours are also available. Aimed specifically at children, a Scavenger Hunt consists of a fact finding sheet, pencil and a unique prize gift for an additional cost. As well as pre-booked meal deals served in the café, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! also offers combined tickets with the Rainforest Café, Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Café.

Located on the harbourside in Bristol, At-Bristol features over 300 hands-on exhibits, live shows and a planetarium. The latest interactive experience ‘All About Us’ has over 50 new hands-on exhibits and looks at the human body based around seven themes; cardiovascular, senses, reproduction, locomotion, digestion, DNA and brains. One intriguing exhibit is the Digestive Run where visitors can feed a skeleton and see how food runs through the body. Discounts apply to groups of 10 or more with free admission to GTOs.

Hands-on fun at Techniquest.

Hands-on fun at Techniquest.

Moving across to Cardiff, Techniquest science discovery centre also has a planetarium, allowing visitors to see the night sky as never before, as well as more than 120 interactive exhibits and a science theatre, which stages curriculum-linked shows for schools during term time and shows for all the family at other times. Discounts apply to groups of 10 or more if booked in advance.

Further north in mid-Wales, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) is an education and visitor centre that demonstrates practical solutions for sustainability. Covering all aspects of green living from environmental building and energy efficiency to woodland management and organic growing, the centre features seven acres of interactive displays. Lectures, talks and Q&A sessions can be arranged for your group in advance.

In Leicestershire, Snibston Discovery Park is an interactive museum specialising in science and technology, engineering, transport, fashion, history and mining. There are over 90 indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits exploring the impact of technology on our everyday lives. You can also join real life miners on a tour of the former colliery here and take a ride on Snibston Discovery Park’s diesel locomotive. Discounts apply to groups of 10 or more.

Catalyst in Cheshire.

Catalyst in Cheshire.

Further north in Cheshire, Catalyst is a science centre and museum devoted to chemistry and how its products are used in every day life. There are three interactive galleries with over 100 different exhibits to fascinate everyone in your group as well as an interactive theatre and a discovery lab. Discounts apply to groups of 10 or more. Workshops, films and guided tours can be arranged in advance for an additional charge.

Housed within a former steel works, Magna in Rotherham features a number of interactive pavilions including Fire, Water, Earth and Air, full of hands-on activities suitable for all age groups. Special rates apply to groups of 12 or more if booked at least a week in advance.

In the heart of Edinburgh, Our Dynamic Earth takes visitors on a journey through our planet’s past, present and future, with interactive exhibits and impressive technology, including a 4D experience. Beginning with the Big Bang, children and adults alike can witness the creation of the Earth, follow the planet through its evolution and even catch glimpses of its future. Discounts apply to groups of 12 or more.


DOWN ON THE FARM

If you enjoy the fresh air of the countryside, a day at a farm could be just the answer. Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire was purchased by the Sampson family in 1984 and since then, with hard work and investment, they have built super animal enclosures and public facilities. Family groups can enjoy close up animal encounters such as feeding lemurs, being climbed on by meerkats and meeting Brazilian tapirs. The park has recently opened a new Discovery Centre, and is also home to a Speedway Museum. Entry to the museum is included in the park admission, which is discounted for groups.

A tiger feed at Paradise Wildlife Park.

A tiger feed at Paradise Wildlife Park.

Set within 120 acres of countryside, the South of England Rare Breeds Centre and Country Farm Park is located near Ashford in Kent. Highlights of your visit will include the daily Meet the Animals sessions, the walk-through Butterfly Tunnel, the Pig Racing and Pig Assault Course and the Woodland Discovery Trails. Discounts apply to groups of 15 or more if booked in advance. Groups can also enter the park at 10am, thirty minutes earlier than the general public.

Just 11 miles west of Salisbury, Farmer Giles has been open for over 20 years and is well practiced at giving family groups a good day out. As well as over 150 animals to meet, there are large indoor play areas with a bouncy castle, sand pit and ride-upon tractors and an outdoor adventure playground. Group visits can be arranged out of normal opening hours and discounts are available. Conveniently located just off the A303 and with plenty of coach parking, Farmer Giles also makes a good meal stop for passing groups offering morning refreshments, lunch or tea.

Cotswold Farm Park in Gloucestershire.

Cotswold Farm Park in Gloucestershire.

Also known as Adam’s Farm in the BBC TV Countryside series, Cotswold Farm Park was established 40 years ago to protect some of our rare and valuable old breeds. As well as 50 flocks and herds of rare breed farm animals including Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, visitors can also meet a number of smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, lambs and piglets in the Touch Barn. The Demo Barn stages seasonal demonstrations such as lamb feeding, milking and shearing as well as the Sheep History Pyramid Show, giving an insight into the development of sheep breeds through the ages. Discounts are offered to pre-booked groups of 20 or more. Talks and guided tours can also be arranged in advance for an additional charge.

Located on the B5195 between Ormskirk and Formby in Lancashire, Farmer Ted’s Farm Park welcomes groups throughout the year and provides hands-on education about farming and the different types of farm animals including cows and calves, sheep and lambs, ponies and horses, hens, ferrets, water buffalo and guinea pigs. Other highlights include a daily milking demonstration, tractor rides around the farm, a bird of prey demonstration and quad barrel train ride. The Worral House Farm Larder is known for its excellent produce while Farmer Ted’s Grill serves only food freshly prepared on site.

Voyages of discovery

Carrie Drage catches up with Bob Walker of Mancass in Manchester, who recently booked his first group cruise and overseas walking holiday, to see how things have changed since he first began his role.

Bob Walker

Bob Walker

When GTO first caught up with group organiser Bob Walker back in 2000 he was basking in the glory of organising his biggest ever day trip, involving chartering a train for 452 members from the north west to the Millennium Dome. Ten years on, Bob has since retired from his management role at BT but has continued to remain active on the committee. Two years into his retirement, he is still organising about 85% of the club’s activities, amounting to roughly half a dozen overseas holidays, three or four day trips and a couple of long weekends a year. He remarks, “When I was still working at BT, the demands of my position as Social Secretary were so huge that it was like I was holding down two full-time jobs. Even now, I still devote about 25 hours a week to the role!” He continues, “When I retired, there wasn’t any pressure from the committee to step down; most of the other board members are retirees anyway so it was just accepted that I would stay.”
A group organiser for nearly 30 years, Bob first began arranging holidays and day trips for his colleagues at BT in 1982 when he became Secretary for the Macclesfield BT Sports and Social Club. He says, “Four years later, our club merged with other BT sports and social clubs from the Manchester area to create MANCASS and, as Secretary, I automatically became a committee member. Then, in 1992, I became Social Secretary.”
The activities of the club are open to BT employees and retired staff as well as friends and family, and to cater for the various ages of the members, Bob’s programme is suitably diverse. There are currently 1,800 members and each of them pays a monthly fee of £5.25, which also includes a share in the lottery. He explains, “We usually draw 14 winners each month and the top prize is £1,000. Any remaining money is then used to subsidise the trips. We allow non-members to come on our trips; however, they must pay the non-subsidised rate.”

Snowmobiling on the Finland Snow Safari.

Snowmobiling on the Finland Snow Safari.

Bob sits on a social committee with five other people who meet four times a year at BT’s offices in Rochdale. Once the programme has been agreed, a quarterly newsletter is distributed by email or posted to the 500 or so members without internet access. An internet page is also regularly updated and twice a week an e-shot is sent out. Bob gets a lot of his ideas from magazines such as GTO as well as books and trade shows. He also attends familiarisation trips and speaks with tour operators and other members of the Group Travel Organisers’ Association. He says, “I sit on the committee of the GTOA’s Northern branch and the various events held throughout the year offer a good opportunity to network with other GTOs.”


Long-haul holidays

Overseas holidays make up the majority of Bob’s programme and one of Bob’s most memorable holidays was a four-week round the world adventure for 96 people in 2005. Starting in SINGAPORE, the members went on to visit Sydney in AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALND, FIJI and LOS ANGELES, before returning to the UK.

Bob’s members in Australia.

Bob’s members in Australia.

Fifteen days were spent exploring New Zealand and Bob was impressed with the variation of the country. He says, “There was a lot included in the itinerary such as a maori evening in ROTOROA, a scenic train ride from CHRISTCHURCH to ARTHUR’S PASS on the tranzalpine express and a cruise to MILFORD SOUND.” Although Bob likes to avoid optional activities where possible, preferring instead to incorporate activities into the programme that the whole group will enjoy, tours are sometimes able to accommodate niche interests. He adds, “On this occasion, we stopped just outside Queenstown at the KAWARAU BRIDGE bungee jump and five of our bravest members took the plunge.” Four years later, Bob returned to Australia for an extended four-week tour of the country with 22 members, booked with SOUTH QUAY TRAVEL & LEISURE in London. He comments, “They did an excellent job with the itinerary and the whole trip ran really smoothly.” The journey took in the major cities of MELBOURNE, CAIRNS, ADELAIDE, SYDNEY and PERTH as well as the RED CENTRE. Bob says, “One of the most memorable experiences was eating dinner under the stars in the middle of the desert. I’ve never seen a sky so clear in all my life!”
Another extended holiday was to Peru and Brazil in 2008 with 16 people; again, it was booked with SOUTH QUAY TRAVEL & LEISURE. Lasting nearly four weeks in duration, the holiday included a trip to MACHU PICCHU. Bob says, “This ancient city definitely has the wow factor.” The itinerary also included three days in RIO DE JANEIRO, where the group stayed near Ipanema beach. Bob remembers, “We enjoyed a cocktail party on SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN at sunset, which was an incredible experience.”

Bungee jumping at the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand.

Bungee jumping at the Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand.

More of the world’s natural wonders formed the itinerary for the 22-day ‘Parks and Canyons’ holiday in 2010 with SUCCESS TOURS. Bob says, “I’ve always found them to be extremely reliable and flexible too. They put a lot of effort into creating an itinerary that is perfectly suited to your group and are good at suggesting experiences that will enhance the holiday.” Twenty people made the journey to the United States, with visits to BADLANDS, CANYONLANDS, MOUNT RUSHMORE and CUSTER STATE PARK included in the tour. Bob says, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, with its extraordinary geysers and hot springs, was a particular highlight. The wildlife here was incredible.” To bring variation to the programme, the tour also included three nights in the lively cities of LAS VEGAS and NEW YORK.
The following year, SUCCESS TOURS also organised a two-week break to EASTERN CANADA for 13 people. Bob reveals, “I appreciated the fact that they were able to run the tour for a smaller group of people than expected, for a marginally inflated price.” The tour visited some of Canada’s largest cities including MONTREAL, QUEBEC, OTTAWA and TORONTO, with guided city tours included in the programme. The group also visited NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE and NIAGARA FALLS, where they enjoyed a very wet boat ride under the falls aboard ‘Maid of the Mist’.

At Niagara Falls aboard ‘Maid of the Mist’.

At Niagara Falls aboard ‘Maid of the Mist’.


European coach tours

As well as a programme of long-haul tours, Bob also organises regular holidays to the Continent. France has long been a popular destination for the group, with a five-day tour of the LOIRE VALLEY in 2004 one of Bob’s most memorable tours.
He says, “The 38-strong group enjoyed wine tasting at CHÂTEAU DE NITRAY, a beautiful château surrounded by enormous vineyards.” Bob booked the break through GREATDAYS TRAVEL GROUP in Manchester, remarking, “They are an easy company to work with when it comes to arranging tours. Greatdays were also the ones that discovered the little gem, Château De Nitray.”
Italy also never fails to impress and, in 2005, 46 members enjoyed a seven-day break to UMBRIA with SUCCESS TOURS. Bob recalls, “We did allsorts here, from touring an olive oil factory to visiting the APENNINE MOUNTAINS.”
In June this year, SUCCESS TOURS arranged another Italian adventure for 33 members to the island of SARDINIA. Four out of the six nights were spent at the PAUSANIA INN, an “excellent, family-run hotel” where the group received a cookery lesson. Bob explains, “We spent the morning learning how to make fresh pasta and, in the afternoon, we walked from the hotel to the family’s vineyard where we enjoyed cheese and wine on the veranda.”
A little less relaxing was the FINLAND SNOW SAFARI, a three-night break in 2003 with 26 members. Bob says, “We were based in IVALO about 300 miles above the Arctic Circle.” During the trip, the group tried a number of activities such as dog sledding, snow mobiling, tobogganing and kick sledding. Bob adds, “A few months earlier, I’d arranged a Christmas break for the children to see Santa Claus in his grotto. The popularity of this trip is what prompted me to organise an activity holiday in the region.”

Outside the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

Outside the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

Culture vultures aren’t left disapponted by Bob’s programme either, with a highlight being the seven-day holiday to RUSSIA with 40 people in 2007. The group divided their time between MOSCOW and ST PETERSBURG, travelling between the two cities by overnight train. Bob remembers, “In Moscow, we visited the KREMLIN and RED SQUARE where we watched the local citizens preparing for the May Day parade.”


In the UK

In addition to overseas holidays, Bob also organises regular day trips and weekend breaks in the UK, with transport supplied by ROY MCCARTHY COACHES in Macclesfield and SWANS TRAVEL in Manchester. He says, “The firm I use depends on the direction we’re headed in. Roy McCarthy Coaches is an excellent family-run company and I know the drivers and staff really well. Swans Travel, again a family-run concern, has a good portfolio of well maintained coaches that meet all of our needs.”
The mystery tours twice a year are always popular additions to the programme, with past destinations including JERSEY, SOLIHULL, TORQUAY, ST ALBANS and STOCKTONONTEES. In 2007, TELFORD was the destination for Bob’s summer mystery tour, with visits to the IRONBRIDGE GORGE, SHREWSBURY, WROXETER VINEYARD, POWIS CASTLE and a ride on the WELSHPOOL & LLANFAIR LIGHT RAILWAY all included in the itinerary for the weekend.
Meanwhile, in 2006, another interesting addition to the UK programme was the five-day break to NORTHERN IRELAND with 18 members, staying in the STORMONT HOTEL, located adjacent to STORMONT CASTLE and the PARLIAMENT buildings, the seat of Northern Ireland’s government. Other highlights included visits to the GIANT’S CAUSEWAY, BUSHMILLS DISTILLERY and the ULSTER FOLK & TRANSPORT MUSEUM.

Taking a rest at Barnsdale Gardens

Taking a rest at Barnsdale Gardens

When it comes to day trips, Bob has set a maximum travelling distance of 120 miles; anything beyond this will be considered as part of a longer break. The members have broad interests and, in recent years, the group has been on day trips to destinations such as BARNSDALE GARDENS in Rutland, DENBY POTTERY in Derbyshire and the BLACK COUNTRY LIVING MUSEUM in Dudley.
As previously mentioned, a series of regular walking trips also contribute to the day trip programme. Four years ago, for example, the group enjoyed a memorable ramble round the DERWENT VALLEY. Bob recalls, “We walked five miles round the DERWENT RESERVOIR where the Dam Busters used to practice and, afterwards, we visited the DERWENT DAM MUSEUM.”


Two firsts for the group

Although Bob has been organising for nearly 30 years, he still manages to introduce new experiences for his group.
For instance, in 2007, he organised his first seven-day group cruise for 30 members with NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE (NCL), booked through SUCCESS TOURS in Wiltshire. He says, “What appealed to me most about NCL is their freestyle cruising concept. As somebody who had to wear a shirt and tie for most of his working life, the last thing I want to do while on holiday is get suited and booted for dinner.” The ship sailed to ALASKA out of VANCOUVER where the group enjoyed whale watching off the side of the boat, gold panning and a scenic train ride on the WHITE PASS & YUKON RAILROAD. On returning to Vancouver, the group flew to Hawaii for an additional week. Bob adds, “We went swimming with turtles in the sea, visited PEARL HARBOR and climbed to the top of a volcano.”

On the Alaskan cruise with NCL.

On the Alaskan cruise with NCL.

On top of this, last year he arranged the group’s first foray into overseas walking holidays. He explains, “We’ve been doing walking trips of the local area for quite a few years so I thought it might be nice to venture a little further afield.” Thirty-six members made the journey to MADEIRA for seven days, arranged through ATLANTIC HOLIDAYS based in Gloucester. Bob says, “The whole trip went very smoothly. I’ve no qualms about using them again.” The holiday included four walks as well as a coach tour of the island and free time to explore the area. He adds, “I’d heard a lot about the LEVADA WALKS (trails that follow the levadas or mini canals) before our trip and we weren’t disappointed, despite the region experiencing devastating mudslides shortly before we were due to arrive.”


Wise words

Understandably, after nearly 30 years in the trade, Bob has a lot of advice for GTOs just starting out and his number one rule is know what you want to achieve from a trip. He says, “When I put a holiday out to tender I often get suggestions from tour operators that I hadn’t considered myself and, although it’s useful to get another person’s input, it’s also important not to divert too much from your original plans.” He is also careful about using reputable suppliers, adding, “The cheapest is not always the best”.
In the current climate, value for money is an important factor to consider when booking a holiday but Bob understands that certain standards have to be met. He says, “Essentially, my trips do what they say on the tin. That said, I also like to keep a few surprises up my sleeve so not everything we do is put down on paper.”
As well as keeping the customer happy, Bob knows that it is important to be on good terms with the coach driver. He says, “They have a font of knowledge that GTOs can use to their best advantage.”
Looking ahead to what Bob has planned for the rest of 2011 and 2012, there are a number of holidays pencilled in the diary including a six-night NORTHERN LIGHTS cruise with CRUISE FOR GROUPS in February, a long weekend to LISBON with SUCCESS TOURS in March and a 10-day break to SLOVENIA with ANDERSON TOURS in September. On the home front, members have a CHESTER weekend in December, a spa weekend near ROTHERHAM in January and ROYAL ASCOT weekend in June to look forward to. He adds, “Further walking tours, overseas and in the UK, are also in the pipeline and I would like to visit a cookery school too, but I need to find the right one to suit my group first.”
There are many perks to being a group organiser, not least the fact that it provides an opportunity to see places or do things that you might not do as an individual and, 30 years on, Bob admits that he still gets the same buzz from arranging trips. He remarks, “The main thing is knowing that all your hard work has come to fruition when you see people enjoying themselves. This is what makes it all worthwhile and is why I intend to carry on for a few more years yet!”

Tourism and Events Showcase

NOW in its second year, the Tourism & Events Showcase, which highlights the many visit options in Yorkshire and the East Midlands region, is set to take place on Saturday 4th February 2012 at Harewood House in Leeds.

Organised by Group Travel Organiser magazine, supported by Leeds & Pennine Yorkshire, Yorkshire Attrtactions Group, Tourism South East and Landor Travel Publications this FREE exhibition held in the Pavillion overlooking the main house, is aimed at group and event organisers along with members of the travel trade and will bring together around over 60 attractions, venues, destinations, tour operators and accommodation providers under one roof, offering you the opportunity to discuss your requirements face-to-face and pick up new and exciting ideas for your group activities.

As an added incentive, Trevor Nicholson, head gardener at Harewood House, will be presenting a talk on ‘The Gardens at Harewood House – Through the Seasons’ at 3pm in the Steward’s Room. Spaces are limited so GTOs will need to book their place at the Harewood House stand on the day.

On the day, visitors will also be able to join an exclusive free behind the scenes tour of a closed season Harewood House to see the extensive conservation work undertaken during the closed season. This will include areas not normally available on public tours.

Hotel accommodation is also available at reduced rates – please contact Julie Hart for more details.

Exhibitor enquiries to Leonard Green 01706 218539 leonard.green@grouptravelorganiser.com

Visitor registration is now open so log on to www.tourismshowcase.com to book your place; otherwise telephone Julie on 0845 166 8131 or email info@tourismshowcase.com

Group Travel Organiser has teamed up with Yorkshire’s Magnificent Attractions to offer GTOs a familiarisation weekend in this great county.
The base for the weekend will be the Mercure Leeds Parkway Hotel, which is located just 15 minutes from Harewood House, the host venue for next year’s Tourism & Events Showcase on Saturday 4th February 2012.
Arriving on Friday 3rd February, guests will be invited to take a leisurely dinner in preparation for the following day’s events.
The next morning, GTOs will be shuttled to Harewood House for the Tourism & Events Showcase, returning to the hotel for an evening meal.
Sunday will be set aside for exploring a selection of Yorkshire’s Magnificent Attractions, a consortium of 21 major attractions in the region, including the Royal Armouries in Leeds and The Hepworth Wakefield, the new £35 million waterfront gallery. Transport and lunch will be provided.
The day will conclude at approximately 4pm.
Places will be offered for 25 GTOs and their guests. A one-night stay costs £35 per person for dinner, bed and breakfast (based on two sharing) and two nights is £70 per person. Three nights, including Sunday, is just £85 per person.

We very much look forward to seeing you at the Tourism and Events Showcase 2012. If you have any other queries about the show, please telephone Julie on 0845 166 8131 or email info@tourismshowcase.com