Continuing our series of interviews with the 2017 Excellence Award finalists, we speak to Dawn O’Farrell from Ramblers Holidays to find out how it felt to be shortlisted and the most rewarding parts of her job.
Dawn O’Farrell profile
Role: Private Groups Manager
Where: Ramblers Holidays
Main duties: Working with group organisers to help plan UK and overseas trips for them and their groups.
Q. You were a finalist for the Excellence Award at this year’s Group Leisure & Travel Awards, what was your reaction to being shortlisted?
A. I was absolutely chuffed to bits. I have been a finalist a few years now which has gobsmacked me, so this year I wasn’t quite as shocked because I know my organisers are so loyal. However, I was still surprised because we’re such a small company and the group of organisers we have is probably quite small in comparison to other companies.
Q. Why do you think you were nominated?
A. I think it’s got something to do with the fact I have a great pride in my work and I try to get back to everybody straight away and stick to times and I think organisers are really impressed because it’s not easy for GTOs to book overseas trips.
Q. What was the reaction of your colleagues and friends?
A. They were just as excited as me. When I got back after the awards and the show, you’d have thought I’d won! I had decorations and champagne waiting for me, and my desk was all decorated and there was a cake, waiting for me. A big chocolate one.
Q. What are your thoughts on the awards?
A. They are brilliant. It’s so nice to get the recognition, it felt so important and we got champagne and a certificate. The awards are so important for the recognition and brilliant for the individuals who are nominated and for the companies too.
Q. How would GTOs describe you having worked with you?
A. They would say, flexible and honest, because if I give them a price and if anything comes in cheaper I always offer that, and I’m efficient.
Q. What’s the biggest group you’ve planned for?
A. 53. They go all over the UK and overseas. They do two grades of walking with three of our leaders and in the UK I arrange their coach transport, hotels, and holidays and drop offs. They are our biggest repeat group and they’ve been doing it for years with us.
Q. Any advice for the travel industry?
A. Be honest, efficient and get back to them when you say you will.
Q. How did you find the Group Leisure & Travel Show?
A. I love the show, we came a few years back, but we handled it totally differently this year, we invited our organisers along with us so they could see other things as well. And it was nice for us to meet people face to face; we found it really, really useful.
Q. Can you describe your role on a daily basis?
A. Coffee is the main thing (laughs). To be honest every day is totally different and I’m speaking to different people. This time of year is particularly busy with people making bookings for next year. It’s all about prioritising really. I love my day, and I’m not joking when I say I go home with a smile - every day, I really do. I’ve been in this job since I left school.
Q. What would you say is the biggest challenge?
A. I get frustrated when I can’t give organisers the date, or the price they want. Pricing can be challenging, trying to keep everything as low as possible. And another challenge, for me, is the computer (laughs). When I started we did everything manually, and all the updates can be frustrating. We still have organisers who don’t have a computer though, so I have to do things manually and send things through the post which is nice.
Q. What hobbies do you have?
A. I love socialising and having my friends round, I like reading and making things. I like going away for short breaks with my partner. I like visiting London, dancing, cooking… sleeping.
Q. Would you recommend working in the group travel sector?
A. Oh, definitely. You get so much reward because you’re part of planning someone’s dream. And the thanks you get from organisers. I get paid to do my job and they send flowers, cards – the appreciation is lovely and it a great feel factor job.
Q. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
A. I don’t like long haul myself. I think I’d go all around this country. What I’ve seen of the coastline has made me realise just how beautiful our country is. Even just driving up to Birmingham, the landscapes are so different.
Q. What’s the best advice for GTOs?
A. Make sure you’ve got everything you need written down so there’s no misunderstanding as sometimes that can cause confusion.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your role?
A. The thanks I get. Just knowing I’ve done a good job. Reading the feedback we get from groups is just amazing and I feel a little gutted if I don’t get ‘excellent’, I think ‘what can I do next time to make sure they get what they want?’ Each person’s expectation is different, though, so the appreciation I get and the feel-good thing is the best part.
To find out more about Ramblers Walking Holidays, visit www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/home.