Going for Group Travel

Deirdre Brown

Great Potential has been assisting Stoke Rochford Hall near Grantham with its Group Travel marketing since spring 2015. Spearheaded by GP Associate Deirdre Brown, the campaign has produced significant gains in both volume and value at the hotel. Increased business in this sector is in excess of £90k and the average rate per guest has improved by over £10 per person.

Work has included a full in-house training for team members about handling group market guests with he simple motto “arrived together but treated as individuals” at its core.

A marketing campaign  to the domestic group tour operator market combined with group tour organisers has produced the desired increase in the sector. This was underpinned with a ‘groups welcome’ drivers pledge to help the drivers and tour guides with their visits including routes and information about nearby attractions, an early warning of arrival by mobile phone and text plus individual welcome letters for all guests.

Inbound operators are now the next target along with some special interest activities aimed at some specific overseas markets using local attractions in the area and for meal and overnight stops for longer-haul groups travelling between London and Scotland.

Deirdre Brown is Great Potential’s Group Travel specialist and also runs Deirdre Brown Travel that was established in 2015 following the sale of Eddie Brown Tours in 2014 which Deirdre Brown operated for over 30 years. The new company specialises in fully escorted travel holidays and was a finalist in the Coach Tourism Awards for ‘Best Programme of the Year 2016”.
Contact Deirdre at: deirdrebrown@greatpotential.co.uk

New Editor – Call for Your News

Richard John

Richard John, author, speaker and event industry training specialist has joined Great Potential as guest editor of the consultancy’s consumer marketing campaigns and to deliver training and development activities for clients. A columnist for Conference News, regular speaker at industry events and Visiting Fellow at University of Derby Business School, Richard brings a wide range of knowledge and skills into the team at GP.

“With a sharp focus on what matters to customers and how our clients can improve service levels and business through excellent training and development, Richard is an esteemed and trusted colleague who adds great value to client’s business”. comments John Gallery, founder of Great Potential.

Great Potential’s consumer newsletter is issued to a qualified list of consumers and space is available to hotels, venues and attractions free of charge that are part of the Attractions, Hotels and Venues with Great Potential collection. Please make contact to take part in this growing commission-free service.

Please forward your articles and news to media@greatpotential.co.uk

If we could only see ourselves as others see us

Clive Rowe-Evans

Many years ago people went to bookstores and bought books of poetry, and read them. They would then meet with friends and talk about these new works from major poets. Those days are over now.

However those poets can still teach us one or two things.

“No man is an Island, entire of itself; everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” John Donne, British poet (1576-1631)

“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate you are sure to wake up somebody,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American Poet (1807-1882)

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet, British Poet, (1612-1672)

But perhaps the most famous and certainly one that has so much resonance for my hospitality colleagues, is,

“Oh, what a great gift we would have if we could only see ourselves as others see us”.” Translated, Robert Burns, Scottish Poet (1759-1796)

How often do we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes? Most hoteliers know that they should approach their business on foot, or from the car park, and experience the property as though they were first time guests. Most hoteliers know that they should experience a night’s sleep in every bedroom. But how many of us do that?

When we ask for comments, do we really listen, or do we know best? In Anthony Anderson’s blog on BeSplendid he reminds us of Alex Polizzi’s work. If you are aware of Alex Polizzi you will probably have seen one or both of her TV programmes, “The Hotel Inspector” and “The Fixer”. For those who are unfamiliar with the programmes she visits a struggling family business each episode. She identifies the main concerns and then using her knowledge and experience suggests how the business might be turned around. Strangely, many of the ideas that she puts forward are just dismissed outright because the owners know best; they have always done it that way and are not going to change. Ms Polizzi can point out litter strewn entrances, dirty signage, poor lighting, and still the owners refuse to change. The programmes point out that often many business owners can not see “the wood for the trees”, but also how important it is to step back and really look at the business in it’s entirety.

I was once taught by an eminent hotelier that to run a successful business at macro level I must learn to fly! Unless I could get up in the air, looking down on my business I would always be too involved in an individual detail and not see the bigger picture; not see how to develop the whole business and not understand the need to step back and take in the wider picture.

Honest comments from guests can be helpful and must become the basis of action. It was reported in the New York Times that in 2010, thirty-five million reviews posted on TripAdvisor revealed everything from snooty staff to filthy toilets, but they also revealed the reviewers overly picky standards. It is off course up to the hotelier to determine which is which and act accordingly, not to take a self defeating defensive attitude. We know that some hoteliers complain that TripAdvisor is not prepared to remove questionable reviews from the site, or retire older reviews, and indeed screens owner’s responses more vigorously than guest’s comments. The tension over these reviews highlights how much is at stake as hoteliers obsess over these reviews but none of this should  hide the fact that genuine customer’s comments are vital for developing the business into a customer orientated one, and not one that the hotelier deems to offer. Everyday the customers are asked, “How did you hear about us?” So many respond, “ TripAdvisor, TripAdvisor, TripAdvisor”.

So, how does the small hotelier get everything right? We can’t be good at everything, despite the fact that most of us have to wear many hats. Even so it is good to accept that you can’t be good at everything. If it becomes clear that you or your colleagues lack certain skills, or indeed time, then perhaps the answer is to bridge that gap. This is the time when a professional, non related outside advisor can fill that gap at a comparatively low cost. Incidentally that same person can look at the business with a very objective view, just like that first time guest.

So back to Robbie Burns and his famous poem,”….if we could only see ourselves as other see us”. This comes from a poem with the unlikely title of “To a Louse”, supposedly inspired by Burns seeing an upper class well dressed woman walking along unaware that she had a louse crawling over her bonnet. The next line of the poem has been translated as, “It would save us from many mistakes and foolish thoughts” Now I am not suggesting that any of my readers have a louse on their property, but oh! how important it is for us to see our businesses as others see them, knowing that it would save us from making so many mistakes and having foolish thoughts!

Clive Rowe-Evans, director, Management with Great Potential cliveroweevans@greatpotential.co.uk

Acknowledgements; Mark Sherman Ph.D,  Dennis E Coates Ph.D

Walking the welcome for Group Travel

Stuart Render

Walking the Welcome for Group Travel – by Stuart Render

We all like a nice welcome.

Whether we’re checking in to an hotel, or arriving at the ticket desk at a visitor attraction, a smiling face and an appropriate choice of words makes all the difference.

It doesn’t happen all the time of course. How often have you been met with that immortal phrase: “Can I help you?”

There’s a huge temptation to respond by saying: “No thanks, I’m standing here just for the fun of it.”

Of course, that would be churlish, and in the case of hotel reception staff, a firm guarantee that your allocated room will have a spectacular view of the bins.

But with tourism suppliers working harder than ever to attract and retain business, delivering a first class meet and greet has never been more important.

Over the last few years I’ve travelled on a fair few coach tours. Arriving at a hotel or attraction I always aim to be one of the last in the group to leave the coach.

While the courier, driver or guide at the front of the group is likely to receive a warm welcome, I’m keen to see how that welcome is maintained, right through to me, at the back.

Each and every member of a group is a customer of course, and each deserves the same, warm welcome. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen.

Hotels will often give the room keys to the courier or coach driver who then returns to the coach to hand them out. This makes sense, as it eliminates the need for the passengers to queue at the reception desk. But what happens when you make your way into the hotel? Is the hotel team there to say hello, and to meet and greet you as a valued customer?

More often than not the answer is no. The room keys have been issued, and the team have now moved on to other tasks.

There are exceptions. On the return leg of a recent coach tour to Italy I stayed in a Novotel in north east France. The welcome couldn’t have been better. Three members of the hotel team, all smartly dressed, and proffering a welcome drink, made sure that each member of our group received the same attention.

Visitor attractions can be just as guilty when it comes to recognising that each member of a group should be treated as an individual customer. One attraction that gets it right is Woburn Abbey and Gardens. The dedicated groups team there not only delivers a meet and greet, but also a ‘wave away’ at the end of the visit.

None of this is rocket science, and it doesn’t require too much additional effort to get it right. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, those hotels, attractions and suppliers that step up to the plate will be noticed. Those that don’t will also be noticed!

If you’re responsible for the meet and greet where you work, take a moment to walk the welcome. And do watch out for the last person in the group. It might be me!

Stuart Render FCIPR MTS

Stuart runs Stuart Render Tourism, an independent consultancy supporting the coach tourism industry with a mix of bespoke consultancy, writing, PR and media relations services. Formerly editor of coach tourism trade magazine Coach Monthly, chairman of judges at the National Coach Tourism Awards, and a Board member of the Coach Tourism Council , Stuart is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a Member of The Tourism Society. His early career saw him in senior public relations roles working for travel and transport organisations including FirstGroup and National Express.