Whether you organise a day trip or a long haul holiday, it is often the people you deal with who can make the difference. Find out who the finalists for this year’s Excellence Award are.

Forming an important part of the annual Group Leisure & Travel Awards, this category was created to recognise an individual from the travel trade for their service to group travel organisers.

Excellence Award Logo

It’s about the people behind a successful group trip, those working with GTOs to make the process easy and with a memorable end result. 

The Excellence Award has been won by all types of people across the sector. Previous winners have included those working for tour operators, hotels and popular attractions. 


Your 2024 finalists are…

Marcia Clement, sales manager - groups & travel trade, RHS

From a GTO’s first engagement with the RHS, Marcia is on-hand to make sure that they are supported throughout the whole booking journey, from supplying marketing assets to being the friendly face that welcomes on the day of their visit.

She joined the team two years ago to work across the five RHS Gardens; Bridgewater, Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall, Rosemoor and RHS Garden Wisley the home of the Royal Horticultural Society, as well as to promote the garden charity’s world-class RHS Flower Shows & Festivals.


Marcia Clements from the RHS in front of a beautiful RHS garden

Marcia works across all five RHS gardens as well as their flower shows and festivals. 

She actively engages with GTOs at group shows and hosts numerous familiarisation visits to RHS Gardens to showcase the very best visits available. Marcia also supports groups with planning itineraries and offers recommendations depending on the group’s requirements to ensure they have a memorable visit. 

We asked Marcia what she loves about her role: 

“I love working with such a talented and passionate team, and where there is a shared vision of a world where gardening is embraced as a way of life. I love sharing the joy of gardens and gardening with groups, and at a place where we believe saving the world starts at our fingertips!

RHS Garden Wisley Flower Show

Source: RHS / Oliver Dixon

Marcia helps to promote the garden charity’s many flower shows & festivals to groups.

“Being able to work with our GTOs, their groups and the travel trade, and welcome them and share our RHS Gardens and history is a true pleasure. It is a gift as you see their faces and senses light up as they explore our gardens - learning, making memories, investing in their wellbeing, whatever the season or weather.

“Working for an attraction where no two days are ever the same and being able to work for an organisation where you can assist in change, make a difference and touch lives gives me huge job satisfaction.”

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. It has five main gardens and more than 200 partner gardens nationwide and overseas. It also organises a variety of flower shows and events every year. 


Charlotte Howle, travel trade & tourism officer, Chester Zoo

Charlotte facilitates all aspects of group travel at the attraction, including creating unique experiences and promoting the events programme. She does everything from creating packages and products, to answering enquiries, making provisional bookings, taking payments, creating booking confirmations, printing tickets and making arrival packs.

She also looks after marketing and promoting Chester Zoo specifically to GTOs and interacts with groups to get a better understanding of what they want from a visit. In addition she looks at the zoo’s processes to see how she can make them more group-friendly; this has included introducing a new arrival process which makes it easier for groups to get from the coach to the main gates. 

Charlotte Howle of Chester Zoo in front of some very bright flamingos

Charlotte is passionate about customer service, believing in providing a personalised service to all groups. 

Charlotte said: “I have generated growth from new online travel agencies and coach tour operators, as well as maintaining excellent relationships with existing partners and this saw Chester Zoo welcome more than 52,000 travel trade visitors through our gates in 2023.”

On what she loves about her role, Charlotte told us: 

“I love working at Chester Zoo, it’s such a wonderful place to work – I can see elephants from my office! I love knowing that I am providing customers with a great day out and I want them to remember it for all the right reasons, so I work hard to make sure their booking and arrival are as smooth as possible.

A little boy and his mum get up close to a sunda gharial reptile at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is home to a number of vulnerable species including the Sunda Gharial reptile, native to Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and Java.

“What makes Chester Zoo even more special is that we are a conservation charity, so we are providing people with an enjoyable day out at the same time as tackling climate change and helping to prevent extinction.

“I am really passionate about customer service and believe strongly in providing a personalised service, as no two groups are the same. I’ve ensured that all of our processes are adaptable so they can be tailored to suit the specific requirements of each group.”


Hayley Walker, sales support executive, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Once a group books a cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, it’s Hayley’s job to look after them until their cruise departs. This involves working closely with the GTOs to arrange events onboard its ships, including group drinks parties, group tours, private get togethers, special celebration events and dining plans. 

Hayley explained: “It is really important to get to know the GTOs well and understand what is important to them, so I can work out a suitable itinerary that best suits their requirements.”

In addition, Hayley attends cruise shows and conferences, meeting the group organisers in person and supports them with any marketing materials they require.

Hayley Walker from Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines with a scenic ship image behind here

Hayley is one of the finalists for The Excellence Award 2024.

Hayley told us what she loves most about working for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: 

“This year marks my 20th anniversary working for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and I couldn’t be more happier in the role I am currently in, working with our lovely GTOs, doing a job that I love!

“I am extremely passionate about our product and getting to know our GTOs over the years has been an absolute privilege. Not only because I understand how important it is to make sure my clients are treated as individuals, I have also built strong friendships with a lot of my clients that I will cherish forever.

A group of people on board a Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ship

Source: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Hayley enjoys going the extra mile for groups including organising special events and celebrations for them on board.

“I thoroughly enjoy organising and personalising events and strive to always go that extra mile, whether that is arranging a surprise anniversary cake with the GTO’s logo hand-piped onto it, or ensuring a keen ex-sailor gets a visit and tour of the Bridge to meet the captain onboard. It is so rewarding to receive such joyful photographs and feedback from groups that have made very fond memories onboard our ships.”


Flo Wallace, head of travel trade and business support, Visit Wiltshire/Great West Way®

Assisting GTOs, coach and tour operators, Flo gives them access to imagery, content and offers one-to-one support for itinerary planning. She told us: “It is all about the personal approach. I help groups create bespoke experiences designed to suit their needs and specific interests.”

Over the last ten years, Flo has managed and delivered a programme of travel trade activity for the Wiltshire Travel Trade group and in more recent years developed a Great West Way Travel Trade group engaging with more than 200 tourism businesses/destinations along the London – Bristol touring route.

She helps build relationships between tourism suppliers and group travel organisers, coach and tour operators and wholesale contractors. She also manages familiarisation trips. 

Flo Wallace of Visit Wiltshire and Great West Way in front of Stonehenge

Flo prides herself on creating bespoke experiences designed to suit the needs and interests of a variety of groups.

When asked what she loves most about her job, Flo said: “I love the variety. No two days are the same. It is really rewarding to be able to support GTOs and operators who are interested in visiting Wiltshire/Great West Way as they are such an important part of the visitor economy.

“I always look forward to attending the calendar of exhibitions and events because it is at these that I meet the lovely GTOs, coach and tour operators; I have known many of them for years.

Bowood House & Gardens

Source: Visit Wiltshire

Flo has developed a Great West Way Travel Trade group engaging with various destinations along the route including Bowood House.

“It is especially rewarding when you get people come over to say what a lovely time they have had on previous fam visits or when they visited Wiltshire/Great West with their groups and they all had an amazing day.

“I also really enjoy helping tourism businesses and destinations understand and target a new segment of the marketing mix and it’s even better when you know you’ve helped them generate additional visitors through the trade work we’ve done together, such as attending exhibitions like the Group Leisure & Travel Show.”


The winner of The Excellence Award will be announced at the 2024 Group Leisure & Travel Awards ceremony at the five-star Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London, on Thursday 27th June. 

For more information go to groupleisureandtravel.com/awards