Meet the 2024 finalists of a very special annual award that highlights the amazing experiences and memories that brilliant group travel organisers create for their members.  


Since the first recipient back in 1999, this prestigious accolade has been a highlight of the Group Leisure & Travel Awards, which are Britain’s only national awards for group travel. The GTO of the Year Award® has helped to highlight so many people making a huge difference to the lives of others.

The winner will be announced at the Group Leisure & Travel Awards in London on 27th June and scoop a prize of £2,000 to spend on a holiday to remember. 


The finalists for 2024 are…

Joyce Cook, Basingstoke & Old Basing U3A

Joyce has been a group travel organiser for 35 years, taking members all over the world to the likes of Spain, Canada, Austria, Cyprus and most recently, Montenegro.

When she first began organising for the U3A group, there were 70 members and she has grown it to more than 400 with many people who join the branch doing so because they have heard about the holidays available to book. 

GTO of the Year 2024 finalist Joyce Cook with her group on holiday

GTO, Joyce Cook has taken her group all around the world - she loves arranging mystery tours and going the extra mile for special occasions. 

Joyce prides herself on coming up with new ideas of where to go and told us: “I rarely repeat the same location within three years. I like to look at where we went the previous year and then look in the opposite direction.” 

Arranging a range of day outings and UK breaks, as well as European and long-haul holidays, Joyce caters for various interests. Asked what the most rewarding aspect of her role as a GTO is, Joyce said: “Seeing smiles at the end of a trip. I also look out for people who are on their first trip, perhaps since a bereavement.

“It is rewarding when you see these people joining in and laughing. Several of my members have made new friends this way and now they will share with one of their new friends rather than having a single room.” 

Nicola Haynes, Theatre Trips Essex

It has been a real family affair for group organiser, Nicola who took over running the group from her dad Ken some years ago. He had initially set it up in 1975 to raise money for a local swimming pool and it has grew from there and now boasts about 10,000 members.

Catering for all ages, ranging from babies to a 94-year-old, Nicola’s focus is on theatre trips but she also arranges a host of other experiences such as garden visits, guided tours, river cruises, shopping, theme park outings and more.   

GTO of the Year 2024 finalist Nicola Haynes with her group enjoying a cruise

Nicola organises all sorts of experiences for her members from afternoon tea cruises to theatre outings and more. 

Describing herself as a “real people person”, Nicola aims to include everyone on her trips because she wants them all to “enjoy their special day out and have the best time”. She added: “It is the best feeling to be able to offer people the chance to see first-class musicals in our wonderful West End.”

Nicola goes over and above for her members, ensuring that any requirements are met and adding special touches such as getting balloons arranged in advance for birthdays and special occasions. 

On what her members would say about her, Nicola told us: “I always give my best effort. They know that I work every day, sometimes into the long hours, to ensure the smooth running of trips.”

Patsy Steadman, Force Club, Avon & Somerset Police

The aim of the police club is to provide health and wellbeing to its 5,000 members and a big part of that is organising subsidised events and holidays. For many it’s a chance to have quality family time away from their busy jobs. 

Patsy has been manager of the club for more than 30 years but still absolutely loves what she does, bringing lots of enthusiasm and drive. Her role is all-encompassing; she is involved in everything from research to organising trips, sorting membership, as well as promoting events and holidays through talks and videos. 

GTO of the Year 2024 finalist Patsy Steadman on a skiing holiday

Group organiser, Patsy has the wellbeing of her members at the forefront of her mind when arranging holidays. 

Receiving good feedback is very important to Patsy who said: “The most rewarding part is knowing that you have made a positive difference to people’s lives. My aim is to research and find the best deals for our members. Even better if we can subsidise those deals so that in these challenging times the members are able to afford our events and enjoy themselves, particularly as many of our members are involved in highly stressful situations, which can affect their health in many ways.”

She added: “I absolutely love my job and I cannot wait to get into work to face the next set of challenges that have kept me motivated and focused on providing a great service to our membership.”

The Group Travel Organiser of the Year Award® 2024 is partnered by Ambassador Cruise Line.

Ambassador Cruise Line logo

Ambassador sails for the British market from eight regional UK ports including London Tilbury, Newcastle, Dundee, Liverpool and Newcastle. 

Its two ships, flagship Ambience and Ambition, carry 1,400 and 1,200 passengers respectively, sailing to destinations around the world with a focus on premium-value no-fly cruises. 

Ambassador offers a range of benefits for groups including discounts, group cocktail parties and optional group dining requests. To find out more head to

Find out more

Gwen Wright, the Arts Society, Cranleigh

It all started many years ago for Gwen when she first began arranging group trips as a science teacher. Then, when she retired more than 20 years ago, she took up the visits secretary role with her local Arts Society club. 

Since then, she has taken her members all around the world including to Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Italy and Austria, as well as many destinations in the UK such as Yorkshire, Northumberland and Liverpool. 

GTO of the Year 2024 finalist Gwen Wright with her group on holiday

For Gwen, it’s all about people enjoying themselves and learning about our incredible world. 

Gwen tries to find places that are “less well trodden” and looks at accommodating the interests of the group by arranging fascinating talks and guided tours.

She told us: “I love to know that people are enjoying themselves in many ways, such as experiencing and learning about our world - it’s a big world to explore. 

“Without a doubt, the planning and anticipation of trips brings joy, but equally the hindsight does too. Giving people a break and also being comfortable with going away with like-minded folk is important.”

Gwen also prides herself on being a good listener and being responsive to all, particularly being mindful of those travelling alone. 


A big thank you to the judging panel for this year’s GTO of the Year® Award:

  • Mary Gotts, GOTT 2 TRAVEL, 2023 GTO of the Year®. 
  • Daniel Pocock, sales development team leader at Potters Resorts and winner of the 2023 Excellence Award. 
  • Alan Rennie, business development manager - groups, Ambassador Cruise Line. 
  • Keeley Rodgers, editor of Group Leisure & Travel, and Rob Yandell, publisher of Group Leisure & Travel, completed the 2024 judging panel. 

Congratulations to all the 2024 finalists.

The Group Travel Organiser of the Year Award® is presented annually as part of the Group Leisure & Travel Awards.

The 2024 ceremony will take place on Thursday 27th June at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London. 

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