Group travel organisers get in touch about how they’re adapting and staying positive during this trying time.

“It’s going to be a busy year next year!”

Sue Shapland, who runs Exmoor Extroverts, had eight overseas holidays booked for 2020. “We’ve had to cancel our trip to the Loire, but that’s been rescheduled already for next year,” she said. Another of Sue’s rescheduled trips is a holiday to Cyprus, originally planned for March.

GTO of the Year® finalist 2019 Sue Shapland

She said: “Shauna Potts at Simply Groups has been just brilliant. She managed to get hold of the hotel in France and has booked it for next year.”

In regards to this positive experience, Sue’s advice to other organisers is: “If you can give your members a date when it’s going to happen, they’ll stay on board with you.”

Particularly challenging for Sue’s group in particular is the advice for over 70s, who are considered ‘vulnerable’ to Coronavirus. 

Sue said that she’s received “very positive feedback” from her members, who she has been notifying via email with any updates. “Email is a godsend,” she added.

For a round-up of Coronavirus information, advice and input from the travel trade, click here.

“Support the travel trade”

Bob Walker, who organises outings for Mancass in Manchester, said that he has just two trips that are currently affected by Coronavirus: a visit to the Halewood Jaguar Land Rover factory in April (the costs of which will be refunded), and a trip to Japan in May. “I’d say there’s a 99% chance we won’t be going,” Bob said, mentioning the EU ban on overseas travel for at least 30 days: “It’s a bit of a rock and a hard place at the moment.”

“You’ve just got to follow government advice, really,” Bob continued. “And be sensible.” With a trip within England planned for the end of June, Bob’s keeping positive about the summer. “Most people are staying positive, and even booking trips for next year.” Rather than shying away, Bob’s group members seem to be looking ahead, towards late 2020. “I think we’ve got to try and support the travel trade; because if they go, we won’t be doing anything.”

Bob Walker's group in Cuba

Bob Walker’s group have been to destinations all over the world including Cuba.

“Everyone’s trying to pull together”

Sue Povey, group organiser for Out and About with Sue, had a holiday planned to Northern Italy with Success Tours, who she says are “dealing with it in such a wonderful way, I’ve been so impressed. They’ve been bending over backwards to help everybody.”

Discussing the travel trade as whole, Sue said that “everyone’s under pressure” given the volume of enquiries that travel companies are likely facing. “I’ve been very lucky with Success Tours, and I wait patiently to hear from HF Holidays” - who Sue has booked a walking group holiday with - “but as a group organiser it’s also been quite stressful.”

“I feel as though I’m still learning about it”

The outbreak has had a notable impact on theatre trips - London’s West End theatres have now closed - which are popular among many groups. We heard from Marian Durbidge, who operates two travel groups: the Herts Theatre Club and Go Together Travel Club. With 25 dates already booked for theatre trips until October, Marian has been contacting individual theatres to see if they will offer refunds. 

Marian Durbidge

Marian Durbidge in Austria with her group members.

But when it comes to day trips, attractions that have closed have nonetheless offered support. Marian said: “I phoned the National Trust; we were going to Wimpole Estate this month, and the staff told us not to worry about it”, adding that they will be rebooking their trip to the site.

She also mentioned a positive experience with Burleigh House in Lincolnshire: “They said, ‘we’ve been here for 500 years, we’re going to be here for another 500, so we’ll see you later in the year’.”

With regard to the travel trade as a whole, Marian added, “we want them to be positive; we want them to be working with us,” given the difficulties being faced by both travel companies and groups themselves.

“I’m thinking it will dip in summer; I’m hoping things will pick up again then, around June or July.”

Have you been impressed with the level of service your tour operator has offered?

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