We look at how group organisers have been adapting and how all eyes are on plans for 2021.
Many groups are already planning for a busy year and also a focus on more trips in the UK.
Sylvia Saxon, Saxon Group Travel and chair of the New Meridian Association, said: “I think people are going to be travelling in the UK a lot more this year, in fact I’ve asked Brightwater Holidays to put together a week to go around Scotland. Once people know that we’re going to be out of the restrictions and the vaccine takes hold it’s going to be very busy. I’ll certainly be front of the queue when it comes to getting the vaccine.
“I do feel we’ve turned a corner and I think people are going to be more likely to travel in groups this year than ever before because they feel safer together rather than doing their own thing.”
On how they’ve kept up morale and kept in touch in 2020, Sylvia said: “We’ve all stuck together and just like Group Leisure & Travel magazine, I’ve continued sending out newsletters to New Meridian members – I’ve had so much positive feedback from people saying ‘thank you, we know you’re looking out for us and keeping us updated’.”
Pam Galloway, Bury Leisure Club, said she’s hoping to start with a few “low key” trips this year adding: “We have a couple of river trips booked for the summer and three short breaks to Swansea in May, Bournemouth in September and Chester in October. We hope to reinstate a city visit to Coventry. Fingers crossed.”
How groups have been adapting
Throughout 2020, communication and staying in touch was key, especially among groups for whom the social aspect is so important.
Wendy Hartley-Scarff, CEO of the Association of Group Travel Organisers (AGTO) told us what they’d been doing: “Our hard-working branch committees have been phoning round many of their GTO members to find out how they are, and what support can be offered.
“Talking with our members I’m finding that the feeling of belonging to a group of like-minded individuals is proving to be a real benefit. But what I’m also finding is the desire for GTOs to start travelling again. The reassurance being given by coach operators, destinations, attractions and suppliers about Covid-secure travel and hospitality is giving our members the confidence to get out and about. As one GTO told me ‘we can’t put our lives on hold forever’.
“Whilst we can’t be certain what 2021 will bring, we can be certain that our community of 600 or so GTO and Associate members are looking ahead with a renewed optimism.”
Wendy Hartley-Scarff, CEO of the Association of Group Travel Organisers
Gwen Wright, The Arts Society (Cranleigh branch), said they have adapted by having their monthly live lecture meetings over Zoom and have been keeping in touch with members also by email.
She said: “For the moment, the visits booked for early this year are relatively local and we will rely on the ‘drive yourself’ principle to avoid complications over coach transport. The plans focus on outside venues such as the Tulip Festival and going to Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens for the Rhododendrons.
“We sincerely hope to revert to more adventurous distances as time progresses and have provisionally booked Southampton in July. We created a home-designed Christmas card and sent it to all our members. Inside there was sheet outlining both visits and lectures for the first six months, giving hope and boosting morale.”
Travel insurance and Covid-19
The advice to group travel organisers, and their group members, is to check what cover their travel insurance provider has for the impact of Covid-19. For example, does it cover if somebody has to self-isolate and therefore is unable to travel?
Some providers, for example Towergate Insurance, are offering certain Covid-19 cover as standard while others are changing what cover they offer as of 1st January 2021.