Branching out – another GTOA local branch explained

Date Posted: 22/12/2013

Pictured: Andrea with her group, Thames Valley Tours, on a Valkenburg and Cologne trip.

Rachel Bailey spoke to Andrea Golder about the emergence of the new Solent (Meridian) Branch of the Group Travel Organisers Association (GTOA). Andrea explains, in the role of chairman, why there is a need for yet another local branch and their plans for the future.

Group Leisure: How are you feeling about the progress of the Solent Branch?

Andrea: We are very excited about this new branch; we felt it was something that was needed to cater for the true active group travel organiser.

Group Leisure: Where did the idea come from?

Andrea: We were getting increasingly frustrated by our own branch that wasn’t catering to our needs, particularly with the production of familiarisation trips, which are so crucial to dedicated GTOs. There are a lot of people within the branch, and in the GTOA as a whole, who are not what I’d call active group organisers. They’re happy to be a member, pay their fee and then go away on the fam trips and enjoy a weekend out, but I’m not aware that they do an awful lot with this information. So we felt there was a need to take things to a higher level, and to create a branch which would cater to the need of the active GTO.

Group Leisure: How have you gone about creating the new branch?

Andrea: Initially we considered trying to get ourselves onto the main committee so we would have more of a say in what went on at branch level. It is difficult to become elected as an officer of the committee because the current situation is that you cannot be nominated in advance. You have to stand up at the AGM to say that you'd like to stand which is very difficult particularly after the Officers have already indicated that they wish to re-stand. We knew we wouldn’t be able to influence the committee too much at that level. The only thing to do was to break away and form our own branch.

Group Leisure: Have you had a lot of support?

Andrea: We’ve got a tremendous amount of support out there for it; a lot of: “This is just what we need, please can we join you?” We didn’t set out to poach members from other branches, or indeed our own, it just so happens that once word got out; they wanted to be with us. We have an awful lot of support both from associates and members about it.

The proposal was accepted by the GTOA National Committee by a majority at the meeting on 14th December. In fact, only one person voted against it, and it will now be taken to the general vote at the AGM in January. With or without full recognition, we will be operating as a branch in waiting, as it were, until we get the recognition we’re asking for. It’s what people need.

Group Leisure: What are your main aims?

Andrea: We want to give active group travel organisers what they want. We’ve got two quality fam trips in the pipeline (one to West Midlands Safari Park, another to the New Forest). We’ve already produced our first newsletter, which is for people who have voiced an interest in us. We’ve also met our ideal, which was to recruit new blood. This is more important to us than taking in existing members. We want to go out and network and recruit new members for the GTOA which is good for us, good for the individuals, and good for the GTOA itself.

For further information about the new Solent Branch, contact vice chairman Sylvia Saxon on 01202-740995 or email

To find out more about the Group Travel Organisers Association, visit

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