GTO of the Year 2016: the final four

Date Posted: 01/09/2016

After five months of nominations and judging, the four finalists for the Group Travel Organiser of the Year Award 2016 can finally be revealed.

Three women and one man have made it through to this year’s final four, representing groups from the breadth of the country – from Manchester to Dorset.

The finalists were chosen as a result of a process of public nominations.

Pictured (left to right): Vincent Doherty, Mary Gotts, Christine Taylor, Shirley Ward.

The winner was selected during an official judging day, which took place in Kensington, London, at the end of August.

Experts from the group leisure industry were on the judging panel, including Glen Thomas from award sponsors Travelsphere and former Excellence Award winner Jo Thompson from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The name of the winner will be revealed at the Group Leisure Awards, which will take place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on Wednesday 19th 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 £2,000 to spend on a familiarisation trip of their choice.

Vincent Doherty With Group Members In Belgium

Pictured: Vincent (in sunglasses) with group members in Belgium.

Vincent Doherty, Greater Manchester Police Sports & Social Club

Vincent organises days out, short breaks and holidays for the officers, staff and families of Greater Manchester Police, so the range of trips has to cater for everyone from young families and couples to single adults and pensioners.

In the past he’s organised everything from a Champagne trip to Reims and a paranormal experience weekend to group nights out to see Beyonce and trips to the Belgian Grand Prix and Wimbledon.

Vincent works full time, so he has to do a lot of his event planning in his spare time, which often involves burning the midnight oil and staying up into the early hours to get things done.

“The most rewarding part of being a group travel organiser is the feedback I get from people,” explains Vincent. “Like when people tell me that they would not have done a particular trip or been able to afford it on their own.”

Mary Gotts On A Rhine To Switzerland Cruise

Pictured: Mary Gotts on a Rhine to Switzerland cruise with group members.

Mary Gotts, Ver-Colne Valley U3A

If you recognise Mary’s face it’s because she was a finalist for Group Travel Organiser of the Year 2015. She was nominated for a second year for her continued efforts in organising group trips for Ver-Colne Valley U3A.

Mary is a lone ranger as far as organising is concerned. Without any help she organises, promotes and leads around three European holidays, two UK short breaks, and four day trips a year.

In the past 12 months she’s taken her group on everything from a river cruise to outings to Brighton and Birmingham. Looking to the future, she’s got a European Christmas market trip in the pipeline.

“I love what I do,” explains Mary. “I’m a people person. I love organising together with having fun and travelling. Seeing how much these holidays mean to people makes it all worthwhile.”

Christine With Her Group In Moscow

Pictured: Christine with her group in Moscow.

Christine Taylor, Wey Valley Theatre & Travel Club

Christine’s group organising started in 1996 when she took her first party to the West End to watch two boys from the school where she taught performing in Oliver.

Since then her remit has ballooned and she now arranges around 30 days trips, one UK short break, three European holidays and one long haul trip each year.

Christine’s group is made up of people of all ages, from 20 up, and one of her members will be celebrating 20 years of attending group trips this month.

“It’s really cheesy but I find it so rewarding when people say they have enjoyed their trip,” says Christine. “I also take enormous pride in knowing that I am actually keeping a few people in employment. The manager of one theatre told me I must be responsible for at least one person’s salary!”

Shirley With Her Group

Pictured: Shirley with her group on the Coronation Street tour.

Shirley Ward, Shirley’s Tours

Shirley started group trip organising in order to raise money for the local community and since 1982 she has donated more than £60,000 to local good causes.

Her group includes everyone from young families to grandparents and her programme of trips includes up to 20 days out, four UK short breaks and two European trips.

Referent examples of outings include a trip on a horse-drawn boat on the Kennet and Avon canal and a Norwegian fjord cruise with Fred. Olsen.

“I enjoy seeing people relax and enjoy themselves,” says Shirley. “Many of my members have become like my extended family. My group are so great.”

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