A client manager at Success Tours, Jackie Cook talks to us about tailoring group trips and how to get the best value.  

Jackie Cook, Success Tours

Getting to know the groups, and their requirements, is key in Jackie’s role at Success. 

Jackie, congratulations again on being a finalist for the 2023 Excellence Award, how did it feel?

It was really heartwarming. I was touched, particularly when I read the comments that people had said about me. It meant a lot.

What is it you love about working with groups?

I like the whole journey of working with groups. It starts with listening to the group organiser about what they want and their group and their members and then trying my hardest to get their trip spot on.

I really enjoy all the research that goes into each experience and never knowing what the next person is going to ask for - all the groups are so different. 

What’s the biggest challenge?

For 2023 it has been dealing with airline cancellations. We had a group of 40 in Italy in May who were due to fly home on the Friday and we received an email from the airline saying ‘we’re sorry your flight has been cancelled but don’t worry we’ve booked you another flight 24 hours later.’ It was all hands-on-deck trying to find a hotel that would take the group in Italy on a Friday night in peak time. But we did it! 

Jackie Cook of Success Tours on the Anacapri chair lift in Italy

Jackie Cook enjoying the views on the Anacapri chair lift in Italy.

Single supplements are also a huge challenge. We try to be realistic with clients and have built up relationships with key hotels to try and get as many single rooms as possible. Hotels are getting more used to it now and some that will negotiate which is good.

What does a good day look like to you?

I love receiving the tour feedback calls and hearing what the group enjoyed about their trip. I also enjoy getting out and meeting as many of the groups as I can in person. In September my colleague Lisa and I went to meet three groups in Ireland who were all arriving on their holiday on the same day. It was really lovely to be there in person and special to meet people I’d been talking to over the phone in the run up to the trip.

Success Tours' Jackie Cook's dog Bertie at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Bertie goes everywhere with Jackie, here he is at The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.

A big part of your role is tailoring the trips to each group, what’s involved with that? 

You get to know the groups who like to pack a lot in and those who like to have a coffee stop in the morning and afternoon. We have initial conversations with new clients to get the feel of their group. You can do a tour to North Yorkshire and a museum group or an arts society would like certain attractions whereas a social group would like to see different places.

We ask each group what their ‘must includes’ are and then we look at other things on the itinerary to give suggestions so everything is discussed and tailored to suit them and their members. And it depends how the GTO approaches it too; some will say that’s where we want to go and they leave us to build the itinerary whereas others know exactly what they want to do and when. 

What advice do you give to GTOs to get the best value from their trips?

A big thing is being flexible. If groups can look at different dates, they’re more likely to get the best deals. Booking early is key too. We can finalise the details further down the line, but we need to secure the hotels etc. as soon as possible. 

We also look at things like adding National Trust properties to a UK itinerary because a lot of members have membership.

Shetland Isles

Jackie has her first tour going off to Shetland Islands in 2024 - she loves organising trips to different destinations. 

What are you excited about in 2024?

I’ve got my first tour going off to Shetland in the summer. I’ve done a lot of research and put the trip together which was really interesting. I love finding and working on trips to more unusual destinations. We’ve got some cruises too in 2024 and trips all over the place, I just love the variety. 

Success Tours is a group tour operator offering a range of tours by both coach and air to destinations throughout the UK, Europe and long-haul.

Congratulations to the other finalists of the 2023 Excellence Award who were: Faye Brant-Key at the National Memorial Arboretum, Sophie Dart, Nimax Theatres and Daniel Pocock, Potters Resorts (the winner). The Excellence Award is part of the Group Leisure & Travel Awards.

You can find out more about it and read about the other finalists at groupleisureandtravel.com/excellence