Rewarding excellence: Part I

Date Posted: 05/10/2010

In the first of a four-part series where we meet the finalists of the 2010 Excellence Award, we talk to our winner Julia Pearce of Daish’s Holidays.

Name: Julia Pearce
Company: Daish’s Holidays for Groups
Number of years working in group travel: 3 years
Favourite destination: The Algarve

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.

Group Leisure: Hi Julia, first of all congratulations winning the 2010 Excellence Award at this year’s Group Leisure Awards. Could you tell us a little about your role and how you became involved in group travel?
Julia: I’ve only really worked in groups for about three years since I got the job here at Daish’s. Prior to that I’ve always worked in hospitality. I started at Daish’s as a part-time waitress in the restaurant here at The Devonshire, and then when I needed to go back to full time work my mum saw that the travel office was advertising for a reservationist, so I ended up here.

I used to watch across the office at what the groups person was doing, thinking, I’d quite like to do that (laughs). A couple of people came and went, so I asked my boss if I could have the job. He kept saying no, and then the third time I asked him he said yes, ok. Perseverance got me there in the end!

Group Leisure: What was it about the groups side of the business that really appealed to you?
Julia: It just looked a bit more varied. Before, I sat there taking normal bookings for two or four person reservations, and I liked the look of the variety the groups side offered.

Group Leisure: What would you say are the main highlights of your job?
Julia: Talking to lots of people, because I’m a real people person - I always have been, what with working in hospitality. I love putting together all the group organiser weekends - another of my roles in hospitality was doing events so I really enjoy that - as well as organising the road shows that we’ve started doing. Obviously the main highlight was winning The Excellence Award!

Group Leisure: Tell me more about the group organiser weekends and road shows that you organise for GTOs.
Julia: I think we did the first group organiser weekend in 2006. Group organisers would ask for fam trips so we decided to make a event of it and did two weekends each year where we’d have the hotel exclusively for gtos and a partner, and we would organise excursions and do a presentation so they could find out more about the company. We’ve got one next week in Shanklin, which will be the first one we’ve done in that hotel so I’m really looking forward to that. English Heritage is coming along for the weekend and they’ve given us free entry to Carisbrooke Castle and Osborne House as part of the excursions. Organisers can also network between themselves as well, and the feedback I get is that it’s really useful.

Group Leisure: And the road shows?
Julia: Rather than spending lots of money on doing a lot of the larger exhibitions, we do a road show. We did one in July where we went to Derby, Leicester, Birmingham and Walsall - four road shows in two days. We do a presentation and GTOs are given the chance to come and talk to us. It’s funny because people ring us up and say, is that Danish travel? So we have them come along for a cup of coffee and a Daish’s pastry! It was good that we went to their doorstep rather than them having to travel too far to come and see us.

Group Leisure: How do you think the group travel industry has changed in your experience?
Julia: When I started at Daish’s, it was very much concentrated on our Tinsel and Turkey, early year themed breaks. So for four months of the years, November to February, I was horrendously busy, whereas now it’s spread throughout the year. Where I’ve offered new itineraries and new trips, I’ve made it more year-round with the groups department.

Group Leisure: What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
Julia: The biggest challenge I’ve just done was learning about bowls tours! I knew absolutely nothing about bowls and my boss at the time asked why we didn’t do bowls tours. Historically it was because of later dinners and that kind of thing, so he said, is that all that’s stopping us? I said, well that and the fact I don’t know anything about it! So after a few months of learning - I contacted a few bowls clubs and found out a lot about bowls – we put an advert in the Nationwide Bowler magazine which cost us about £500 and we got £120,000 worth of bookings.

Group Leisure: Have you enjoyed any personal holiday experiences which you have recommended to group organisers?
Julia: I go on all the Daish’s holidays with my family! It’s good because I know all the hotels really well, so I’ll go to them more than once and I’ll do different things every time I go. For example, I went to Shanklin in August with my husband and my children, and I went to have a look at Carisbrooke Castle and Osborne House because I hadn’t been and knew we were taking the group of GTOs there.

Group Leisure: Could you highlight any destinations which you have found to be particularly popular with groups?
Julia: I think this year from Daish’s point of view, it’s Bournemouth. The Isle of Wight and Newquay have both been quite popular throughout the summer, but Bournemouth had filled up for Tinsel and Turkey by March this year. Every group suddenly wanted to go to Bournemouth and I think it’s turned itself into a year-round resort really successfully.

Group Leisure: Could you name any up and coming destinations which you would recommend for groups over the next few years?
Julia: I’m a Torquay girl and it’s really trying to sort itself out. They’re trying to do a lot more, for example the Imperial Gardens will be opening at the weekends and the mayor’s been bringing in the continental markets during the summer. So I think within the next five years or so, Torquay will really be there as a regenerated seaside resort.

Group Leisure: Do you find that you have to be quite flexible in your approach in respect of the different types of groups?
Julia: Yes, every group is different. They’ve all got different requirements, whether its single rooms or number of pick-up points. Especially with all the bowls tours and walking tours that we do - for example, they might want different meal times, or coach hire to pick them up here, there and everywhere. So yes, you do have to be quite flexible. It’s good because a lot of the groups now have been away with me for a number of years so I know them really well.

Group Leisure: How do you enjoy spending your free time?
Julia: I spend lots of time with the kids - we love going out and walking the coast path, what with living in Torquay. I like going camping and travelling, although I don’t get to do as much travelling as I’d like; going on my Daish’s holidays - we all love them; socialising with my friends; having a nice glass of wine on a Friday night, that sort of thing.

Group Leisure: Were you surprised to be nominated for The Excellence Award?
Julia: Yes I was. I’d mentioned to a few group organisers that I’d quite like to be nominated for it, but I never expected to be a finalist! A couple of my organisers said they had nominated me so that was great, but I was really shocked when Rob (Yandell) sent through the e-mail saying I’d been short-listed!

Then at the awards dinner I was sat at the table with my GTOs, and I said, oh I don’t think I’ve won. They all said I’d done such a good job of talking them all out of the fact that I hadn’t won, that we were all really shocked when my name was actually read out!

Group Leisure: How have clients and colleagues reacted to your win?
Julia: It’s been really good. I’ve shared all the photos from the awards ceremony that you’ve got up on the Group Leisure facebook page, and I’ve had such good comments back from all my friends and family. All my regulars are really pleased for me - a lot of them have said I deserved it which was really nice - so I’ve had a lot of good feedback so far and it’s been really lovely. I’m taking my award and certificate off to the Isle of Wight for the group organiser weekend!

Group Leisure: Is there anything you would like to say to all the organisers who voted for you in The Excellence Award?
Julia: If it wasn’t for all the people who voted for me and who obviously travel with us, I wouldn’t enjoy my job as much as I do. And I think because I enjoy my job that shows through in the service that I provide. So I would like to say a big thank you to all those who nominated and voted for me.

Useful contact:

Daish’s Holidays for Groups:
0844-846 4684

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