Rewarding the best: part I

Date Posted: 19/03/2014

In the first of a new four-part series which catches up with last year’s Excellence Award finalists, Carrie Martindale talks to 2013 Group Leisure Award winner Janet Fielding, group travel coordinator at Diamond Holidays.

Name: Janet Fielding
Title: Group Travel Coordinator
Company: Diamond Holidays/The River Cruise Line
Number of years working in group travel: Five
Favourite work destination: Cruising the Rhine
Favourite holiday destination: The Maldives 

The Excellence Award recognises the commitment and dedication of an individual within the supplier sector, highlighting those who truly go the extra mile to provide an outstanding service. Nominations and votes are cast by group travel organisers, before the winner is announced at the annual Group Leisure Awards.

Hi Janet, first of all congratulations again on winning the 2013 Excellence Award at last year’s Group Leisure Awards. Could you tell us a little about your role and how you became involved in group travel?

Even though Diamond Holidays has always operated group holidays, it decided about five years ago to set up a designated team. I was currently working for the company, but I was working in the operations department, and I thought that with my past experience in selling and customer service, I would be good for the new groups team. It’s just been brilliant to see it grow over the last five years and to have been a part of it from the beginning.

What was it about the group’s side of the business that really appealed to you?

Even though I have spent 25 years in the industry, I had not dealt with the groups side of the business at that time, I knew it would be a fresh new challenge. I knew that each group would come with different ideas and putting those together and seeing them through to the end I thought would be very rewarding. I have been very fortunate over the years to have visited some wonderful places and so it’s really nice to be able to share that with the group travel organisers as well.

What would you say are the main highlights of your job?

I would say that no two days are the same. I think my enthusiasm and interest is still as high as it has always been. Another highlight is the building of a relationship with the group leaders - a lot of them have become friends, not just business. I also gain great satisfaction when a group leader comes back from a trip and rings me to tell me what a wonderful time they had, and they then start to plan the next one.

How do you think the group travel industry has changed in your experience?

I think group leaders have become more adventurous. If someone used to come to me wanting a two-day short break, they are now coming back to me for four or five or six day holidays and are looking further afield in this country. The river cruise groups are now looking at the Danube and the Moscow - they are generally looking at longer durations and different places to go to.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

Definitely circumstances which are outside of my control. For instance we had the flooding of the Danube last year and we had cruises going out there. That was a big challenge - to rearrange big groups of people. Current situations like political unrest in Russia could affect our Russian cruises – so those are my biggest trials really.

Have you enjoyed any personal holiday experiences which you have recommended to group organisers?

Yes I have – and I do. I enjoy walking and I often take a few long weekends away in this country to walk. When I come back, I always ring our walking group leaders to have a chat about my experiences and to recommend areas to go to. I also take one personal holiday with the company each year, which is a river cruise, and I actually take my mother - which is great as she sees it as our passengers would see it. Her feedback is invaluable really.

Could you highlight any destinations which you have found to be particularly popular with groups?

I have seen a big increase generally for Scotland. The Edinburgh Tattoo is always very popular for groups but they are now branching out and doing more touring of Scottish areas including the surrounding islands and the Lochs.

Could you name any up and coming destinations which you would recommend for groups over the next few years?

Definitely the Danube is the river to be on – it was this year, and it is for next year. I have already got groups booked on and - can you believe this - one group enquiry for 2016! Very prepared. And of course in the UK, our ‘experience trips’ are proving very popular. For example, afternoon tea at the Ritz and more recently our Tour de France trips taking place in Yorkshire. And although those particular trips won’t be available in three years say, something else will take their place.

How do you enjoy spending your free time?

I’m a big bird watcher. I absolutely adore it. I have an area in my garden which is bird friendly – so I enjoy watching them at home and also when I am on my walking weekends away. My husband has a Harley Davidson and we love to go off on the bike and enjoy all the wonderful villages and scenery that we have round here.

Were you surprised to be nominated for The Excellence Award?

Very surprised. When Rebekah rang me, she had to repeat the conversation twice before it sank in, because I was so shocked. Of course, I have followed all the awards in the magazine from day one, and never dreamed that I would be part of one myself.

How did clients and colleagues react to your win?

They made me feel on cloud nine. I had so many congratulatory phone calls and e-mails – and not just from group leaders but from colleagues from within the industry too. I came back into work afterwards and they had decorated my desk and I had the biggest bouquet of flowers delivered too. I know I won the award, but if I hadn’t have got my fantastic team round me, then I wouldn’t be able to give the level of service that I do.

Is there anything you would like to say to all the organisers who voted for you in The Excellence Award?

A huge thank you to everyone for making the effort to nominate me and to vote me in as the winner. I’m very privileged really to be working with some of the nicest and most professional group leaders in the country.

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