16 ways to make it work as a GTO

Date Posted: 04/02/2015

Andrea Golder from Thames Valley Tours gives her insight into how to get a group off the ground.

In the January edition of Group Leisure magazine, rookie GTO Janice Rand wrote in to our Speak Out page asking for advice on how to make the most of her newly-formed travel and leisure group.

GTOs from around the UK got in touch with advice, but no one put pen to paper quite like Andrea Golder from Thames Valley Tours.

Here are her words of wisdom to Janice, on how to make it work as a group organiser…

Building a group

We all know how crucial it is to get ‘bums on seats’ to fill trips. The overall price and free places usually depend on how many people are travelling. The more people you have in your group, the better chance you have of achieving the number of places required. 

If you are a member of an existing club or part of a large workforce, it is a very good start, but if you only have a small group, or are starting from scratch like I did in my local area, then it can be a challenge.

Aim to build up a database of your contacts. Most people have an e-mail address these days and e-mails cost nothing.  

Here are some ideas to help capture that all important data without breaking the bank!

1. Create a ‘Travel Contacts’ distribution list in your e-mail set up. Make sure you add the e-mail address of every potential customer you have gleaned so far and those you cultivate in the future. This distribution list is your life’s blood! 

2. Write a monthly newsletter with details of all forthcoming trips. A couple of photos will make it more interesting. It does not have to be ‘War & Peace’, an A4 page is all that is required. E-mail this newsletter to all your contacts, posting or delivering only to those who do not have a computer.

3. Identify local firms and organisations in your area that have substantial work forces, and speak to their HR department, secretary or sports & social club representative. Ask them whether they would be willing to display your notices, or circulate your trip details round the office by e-mail. Obtain a contact name, telephone number and e-mail address for future reference. Keep them updated with regular newsletters, posters, etc.

4. Seek out community notice boards and pin up notices about the trips you have got coming up. I suggest you invest in a cheap laminating machine which protects your notices from the elements. Keep the notices small.  I can get three slim signs out of one A4 page. These are easier to squeeze onto a busy noticeboard and are less likely to be obscured. Patrol your boards regularly, as people will remove them or cover them with other notices over time. Renew and update your signs regularly to generate interest.

5. Local magazines/newspapers may give you some free editorial. Send them a brief article about yourself, plus a couple of photos and details of trips coming up. If you are non-profit-making like I am they would usually be willing to help, especially if they are looking for material to fill pages. They may even be inclined to include your events on their diary page. An article like this would give you tremendous credibility and raise your profile within the community.

6. 'Freecycling’ websites, and local social networking sites such as ‘Streetlife’, often have ‘Events’ pages.  If you are non-profit making they will allow you to promote your events here free of charge.

7. Open a ‘Facebook’ page under your group identity. Keep it updated with your travel news.

8. Leaflet drops are hard work and time consuming.  If you do this, then try and identify property that fits the type of person you are targeting

9. Buy some plastic sleeved binders and fill with your trip posters. Obtain permission to leave these in popular local venues such as doctors’ or dentists’ waiting rooms, libraries, hairdressers, and the local take away restaurants. Anywhere in fact where people sit and wait for services and flick through magazines. Don’t forget to update these regularly.

10. Blow your own trumpet! When chatting to people at work, or while out and about, tell them about your trips. It’s amazing who overhears, and before you know it you have a couple of takers.

11. Have some business cards printed. You can get these done quite cheaply. Always keep a few on your person and then you have something with your details on to give to people that you meet. When they call you back, ask for their e-mail address.

12.  Invest in a little website. It need not cost the earth. You can obtain one for as little as £7.50 per month. I get mine through my online business card people. A web address on your business cards gives you credibility and looks professional. If you don’t have posters on you at the time, people you give your card to can look things up for themselves. They can usually respond via an e-mail link. Be sure to add them to your contacts list when they do.

13. Your booking forms should capture e-mail addresses of all adults named on them.

14. Take a stand at a local indoor table sale. Display posters of your forthcoming trips. You may not sell any there and then but it is a good opportunity to get people’s details for your database! Have a clip-board ready with a prepared data capture form for people to complete with their basic details. A few props like a globe, a small suitcase covered in labels, your press cuttings and some travel guide books could help set the scene. And don’t forget the open box of sweets to lure them in!

15. Make use of a captive audience. Once you have successfully pulled a trip together you have the perfect opportunity to pitch to a group of people who like travelling!  Along with the itinerary, include a copy of your latest newsletter and a couple of posters of trips you are promoting. Hand these out on the coach, or if you are flying, put them into a little pouch that doubles to hold their boarding passes.  These people now have time on their hands to read the material, and are highly likely to express interest in coming on another trip. You can follow them up on your return.

16. Word of mouth and personal recommendation are the best forms of advertising you can get. Once someone has been on one of your trips and enjoyed themselves, encourage them to pass the word and ask them for details of any people they know who might like to be included in your future mailings. If each person can provide just one new contact, your database will double at a stroke!

Here’s wishing you the best of luck and many happy adventures with your expanding group!

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