Expert View no.4 – Peter Traynor

PETER TRAYNOR

PETER TRAYNOR GENERAL MANAGER – UK,

Collette Worldwide Holidays, shares some key insights about group travel

? WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT IMPROVING THE EXPERIENCE FOR GROUPS WHEN TAKING THEM OVERSEAS?
Care and attention to the details of the trip, and identifying exactly what the group wants and expects are vital. As a tour operator, we take for granted that we can organise the tour logistically – transport, accommodation, sightseeing etc. – but for the groups market we also need to be aware of the special needs and interests of each group, and add elements that would particularly appeal to that group to the regular standard holiday. For example, is there a museum or attraction at the destination that would not have mainstream appeal, but would add to a particular group’s enjoyment? To do this successfully involves good dialogue between all aspects of the tour operator’s business – the sales manager, the product team and the tour manager.

? AS A TOUR OPERATOR, WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING AND DIFFERENT ELEMENT OF YOUR BUSINESS WITH GROUPS?
The whole social dynamic of group travel is what separates it from normal individual tour sales. Time and space needs to be found within the trip for the group to interact and spend time socially, and this can mean different things to different groups. As a tour operator, we need to know what is important to each individual group we are dealing with. An overseas trip – especially a long haul one – is an important element in the life of that group. Each group is different, and needs to be treated individually.

? WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO SUPPORT A GROUP CLIENT?
Make it easy for the group to promote the trip, communicate regularly from the time the trip goes on sale to the departure date. Communication is especially important with long haul trips, as the window between announcing the trip and the departure is often as long as 18 months, so many things can happen over that period. Airline schedules might change, environmental factors might impact the trip (e.g. earthquakes, floods) and political changes etc. Often these factors are dramatised in the media, and this raises questions and uncertainties within the group. Regular communication helps allay these fears.

Peter has many years of experience in the field of tour operating and is a member of the Group Travel Business Forum.

For more information, please visit the Group Travel Business Forum.

BUSINESS TOPIC

As members of the Tourism Alliance, the GTBF now receives updates on key travel trade issues…

? The Government Equality Office is pressing on with new legislation that will prevent tourism businesses (other than tour operators) marketing to particular age groups. Legislation is being introduced on the basis that marketing to particular age groups would be discriminatory – despite the only evidence the GEO presented in the consultation document showing that there is, in fact, a benefit to customers and businesses of operators being able to target specific age groups.(http://homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/)

For more information, please visit the Group Travel Business Forum.

THE CHANGING MARKET & LAUNCH OF GTBF MEMBERSHIP, TATE MODERN

Group Travel Business Forum

The Forum held a successful event in November…

Wednesday 23rd November

The annual winter meeting of the GTBF at Tate Modern on London’s Bankside saw around 40 group professionals consider further findings from the National Group Travel Report 2011, including those that highlighted the growth of day trips – particularly overseas – and UK short breaks. Michael English of groups specialist Tailored Travel explained how his company changed its business model from purely offering the single destination of Italy to expanding further across Europe to meet his group customers’ needs. He has seen 40% of his business based in the UK this year, and emphasised the importance of suggesting different ideas to retain business if groups can no longer do what they used to. Gerry Brown of sector skills council People 1st highlighted the importance of customer service in the overall group experience. The UK was ranked 17th in the world in terms of customer service and People 1st are working to get it into the top ten with its World Host programme, particularly as the Olympics are approaching. Kurt Janson of the Tourism Alliance welcomed the Forum into the Alliance and gave an overview of the campaigns the organisation is working on. He was pleased that the group travel sector will now be represented in tourism policy debate. Discussion followed including the impact of the Olympics on tourism next year, educating the industry about how to treat groups well, particularly in the hotel sector, and a round-up of the new membership scheme for the GTBF, which brought us several new members on the day.

For more information, please visit the Group Travel Business Forum.