GTO of the Year 2015: meet the finalists

Date Posted: 08/09/2015

After five months of nominations and judging, the four finalists for the Group Travel Organiser of the Year award 2015 can finally be revealed.

Three women and one man have made it through to the final of the accolade for 2015, representing parts of the country from Peterborough to Kent.

The four finalists have been chosen as a result of a process of public nominations and judging that began in April this year.

Pictured (l to r): Andrea Golder, Mary Gotts, Carol Gower, Arthur Hunt. 

The winner was chosen by an expert team of judges from the group leisure industry at a recent judging day at Temple Bar near St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The name of that winner won’t be revealed until the Group Leisure Awards ceremony, which will take place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on Wednesday 21st October.

Until then, you can read more about the finalists below and see if you can decide who will walk away with the prestigious title and £1,750 to spend on a familiarisation trip of their choice.

The Group Travel Organiser of the Year award is sponsored by Travelsphere.

The final four, in their own words…

Andrea Golder, Thames Valley Tours

Pictured: Andrea's group on board Fred. Olsen Cruise Line's Balmoral on a mini cruise.

“My time as a GTO began some 30 years ago, organising occasional theatre or day trips for colleagues, but I became hooked once I started organising European weekend breaks and discovered how much fun it was to travel and experience new places as a group.

As retirement beckoned, I knew I wanted to continue, and I now run six or seven European and/or UK breaks each year plus the occasional day trip.

As a member of a large Civil Service sports club, I can pitch trips to its members, but these need to be non-profit making. This doesn’t worry me, as a free or discounted place is reward enough. 

In the next few months I’m taking my group on a Christmas cruise party to Bristol and Winchester, to Lake Garda, and on cruises to both Croatia and Rouen.

The most rewarding part of my role is the pleasure of taking people to lovely places and seeing the enjoyment it gives them. In particular people travelling on their own or with certain physical restrictions who would possibly be too nervous to go travelling without the support that group travel can give them. The smiles on their faces make it all worthwhile.

For me, being a group travel organiser is not a job – it’s a way of life!”

Mary Gotts, Ver-Colne Valley U3A

Pictured: Mary's group by the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

“I fell into the role of group events and holiday organiser by default originally. I was approached by our Chairperson at the U3A who asked me if I would I help set up a holiday programme for our members as the gentleman who had suggested the idea needed some help. 

I was reluctant initially as I was already involved in so many other activities, but I agreed to help get it off the ground and then step back. These were my famous last words, because when he realised what was involved in organising a group holiday he ran to the hills and left me holding the new born `baby`.

But the more I did the more I realised the need for it.  Members of our U3A are retired with families that have grown up and moved away, or are just busy with their lives, so granny or grandad, many now widowed, find themselves alone with no one to holiday with or the courage to undertake a holiday alone. What I am doing gives them the confidence and opportunity of a holiday with other members, to make new friends, and see and experience places they would not otherwise have ever seen.

I continually search for events and holidays that are a bit different, iconic or the chance of a lifetime. We’ve been to places like Moscow and St Petersburg, and Rome and Tuscany.

I love my ‘job’, even though it’s voluntary it’s 24/7. It's one that gives me enormous amounts of pleasure. Seeing the smiles, laughter and giggles on people’s faces makes it all worthwhile.”

Carol Gower, CBA Millennium Outings

Pictured: Carol's group at Suffolk Punch Trust. Photo credit: and EQ Life magazine.

“CBA Millennium Outings began in 2000. Instigated by the ‘Social and Community’ committee of Cranbrook Business Association, of which I was then chairman, the outings have a dual purpose – to provide the opportunity for local people to go places they would not otherwise visit (we are not best-served by public transport here) whilst raising money towards a much-needed new Community Hall (for which planning permission is currently being sought). 

Our motto ‘Enhancing Life in the Community’ was well-chosen – our passengers have indeed enjoyed a wide variety of days out and holidays. More recently the schedule has included a trip with Fred. Olsen Cruise Line and a Shearings Rhine river cruise, which has enabled us to raise a very substantial sum of money towards this eagerly awaited facility.  

With an active database of 400 names I am now assisted by an indispensable handful of enthusiastic voluntary helpers. I cover all aspects of planning the trips, including the preparation of information-cum-booking forms, which are circulated in batches of three or four outings about every ten weeks.   Others assist by receiving bookings and payments, book-keeping and banking, and the literature distribution – more than half being delivered by our volunteers, the remainder by post.

Attracting about 100 people per trip, so usually two coaches, our annual programme covers a wide spectrum of interesting places and events throughout the south-east and London area including popular theatre and concerts, historical properties and gardens and boat trips. Particular favourites are Brick Lane Music Hall and John Rutter’s Christmas Concert at Royal Albert Hall. 

I feel privileged to lead such a supportive, sociable and enthusiastic group.” 

Arthur Hunt, Peterborough U3A Travel Club

Pictured: Arthur's group on The Great Wall of China.

“Peterborough U3A Travel Club was formed over 20 years ago. Originally when the group was started it had only 50 members in total made up from members of the U3A itself and provided opportunities for them to go on holiday together twice a year to venues in the UK. My wife and I joined this club 12 years ago after I retired and we went on some of the holidays with the group, which was run at this time by Wallace Giddings.

In 2005 I started to help with some of the holiday arrangements and tested interest for holidays abroad amongst the members, this was greatly received and I took over the running of the holidays abroad, at this time we had 128 members.

The club has now developed and has over 400 members, I arrange four to five different holidays abroad each year sometimes with two full coaches to all areas of the Mediterranean usually including at least one cruise holiday.  Some of our holidays are farther afield and taking this year as an example we have visited China, Sicily, Malta and a 15 day cruise of the Mediterranean. The year is always finished with a Turkey and Tinsel holiday to Warners or a similar venue.

The most rewarding part of running the travel group for me is receiving all the Thank You cards and phone calls from the satisfied members at the end of the holiday and knowing it provides an opportunity for people to go away who would not otherwise do so.”

Tickets for the Group Leisure Awards are on sale now. For more information visit


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