GTO Derek Hoskins, Solihull U3A, tells us how he ensures best value for money for his members and what makes all the hard work worthwhile. 

Members of GTO Derek Hoskins' group at the White Star Line Offices in Liverpool.

Derek says the value for money is key and he has trialled sharing with another group to make trip more viable which has worked well.

Firstly, Derek, tell us about your role

I am a committee member of Solihull, web master as well as being the GTO, supported by my wife Penny who is a past chairman. I am also the convener of a special interest group within Solihull U3A, called Taking Mystery out of History organising trips to places of historical interest. The first trip I ever did was to Bristol to see the SS Great Britain which worked really well, and it all went from there.

How do you come up with ideas for your day trips and holidays?

Penny and I are always looking for trip ideas to offer to our members. When we find something interesting, we like to try it first to ensure that it will be accessible for older members, it must also be good value for money. If a hotel stay is involved, it has to be a nice hotel!

To get inspired, I joined AGTO and we also read Group Leisure & Travel magazine and go to the Group Leisure & Travel Show every year to look around and talk to exhibitors. We also talk to other GTOs as well as coach operators and peruse lots of group travel brochures.

Derek’s group at a glance…

GTO Derek Hoskins and his wife Penny in New York

Group name: Solihull U3A / Mystery out of History
No. of members: 60
Time organising: 6+ years
Based: Solihull

What sort of things do you look for when deciding where to go?

We are mostly happy to look at anything: historical, gardens, city tours and more. We always try to give added value, such as including entrance fees, arranging guided tours etc, all within the member’s price.

Can you tell us about some of the places you’ve been to?

We started small! A car share trip to Chedham’s Yard in Wellesbourne, a time capsule of a blacksmith and wheelwright workshop.

We arrange visits to Birmingham museums, theatres and places of interest by public transport as much as possible. Our latest visit of this type (following seeing their stand at the Group Leisure & Travel Show) was to the West Midlands Police Museum in Steelhouse Lane. It wasn’t just a few cells but a full-blown prison in the heart of Birmingham, who knew?

We branched out into day coach trips including Painswick Rococo Gardens (for the snowdrops) and Southwell Workhouse and the Minster.

GTO Derek Hoskins' group at Bamburgh Castle

The group do a mixture of day trips and short breaks, travelling all over the UK including to the likes of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland.

We also do one or two-night coach trips with hotel stays. Our first was to Castle Ashby Gardens and Althorp House, and later Chester and Liverpool.

We took our group members to Thursford Christmas Spectacular and in 2023 we went on a four-night trip to Durham, where we visited Nostell Priory near Doncaster and went to the amazing Kynren show as well as visits to Beamish, Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle and Gardens and Harrogate. I am currently organising a five-day trip to France in May this year.

How would your group describe you as a GTO?

Our members always seem to enjoy the trips and understand how much hard work goes in to making them enjoyable.

Solihull U3A is a not-for-profit charity, so when I get the bonus of free seats for the number of people I get on a coach, I use that money to give extra benefits to people on the tour. It may be that I can use it to pay admission charges, or provide Blue Badge Guides, or simply provide everyone a free drink with their evening meal. This is appreciated by the members.

Members of GTO Derek Hoskin's Solihull U3A group at Alnwick Castle

Derek’s wife Penny (right) helps him with the planning and organising. 

How much time do you spend organising trips?

I would think that when planning and booking a new trip, I spend around eight to ten hours a week.

What do you love the most about what you do?

Seeing our members enjoying a trip and knowing that the hard work was worth it because the trip was a success.

“We always try to give added value, such as including entrance fees, arranging guided tours etc, all within the member’s price.”

What’s the biggest challenge?

Affordability. On day trips, just hiring a coach can be £700 plus for the day and I need at least 40 members on the coach to make it affordable. Our recent trip to Durham was a ‘group share’ with another group. This may be the way forward for us to be able to continue these trips.

Making sure everything ‘works’ and getting the balance of activities right, making sure the books balance so that we do not make a loss and chasing people for money!

Without the help and support given by our coach company partners, there would be no trips! Also, it is the coach driver who helps make a trip successful.

GTO Derek Hoskins' group at the Coffin Works in Birmingham.

Derek and his wife Penny are always looking for interesting ideas for their members. Here they are visiting the Coffin Works in Birmingham.

Where’s on your bucket list to travel to?

I’d love to do the trip which includes the Royal Mint Experience and Hensol Castle Distillery tour which I found out about at the GLT Show in 2023.

I’d also love to go to Belfast, do a river cruise, take a group to the theatre in London as well as some city trips, perhaps Ely.

Would you like to tell us about your work as a group organiser? Get in touch by emailing