The popular annual conference and awards organised by Dunwood Travel took place at Warner’s Studley Castle in Warwickshire, between 3rd and 5th January with around 350 guests attending.

Phil Westwood (left) and Colin Duncan celebrate the 30 year anniversary of Dunwood Travel

Phil Westwood (left) and Colin Duncan celebrate the 30 year anniversary of Dunwood Travel.

Leading GTOs mingled with suppliers to Dunwood Travel as well as the Dunwood team, enjoying the stunning surroundings and facilities of Studley Castle which dates back to 1833, when it was first built by Sir Francis Holyoke to a medieval design. Now right up to date in 2024, it is a flagship property in the Warner catalogue which has been sympathetically modernised and expanded, offering a range of excellent facilities for adults only, including a spa and indoor pool.

The event kicked off with registration during the first afternoon which was followed by dinner, a welcome address by directors Phil Westwood and Colin Duncan, and then entertainment and fun to get the feet tapping.

Thursday morning featured the conference with guest speakers that supply or support Dunwood, including Warner Leisure Hotels, Potters Resorts, Constantinou Bros, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, AGTO, Marsham Court Hotel, Brend Hotels, Hotel Rendezvous and The Ruskin Hotel & Suites.

In addition, Graham Yandell MBE of Group Leisure & Travel magazine gave a short address praising the great work of GTOs and describing them as the “unsung heroes of the travel industry”. Mr Yandell also praised the success of Dunwood Travel on its landmark anniversary and its outstanding commitment to GTOs and the group travel sector in general.

Dunwood group

Conference attendees heard how business for Dunwood was 50% up on its 2019 performance. 

Phil Westwood outlined the history of the company and reported on the solid financial base of the business and the lengths Dunwood go to in protecting deposits and money paid by GTOs for trips. In addition to its bonding, Dunwood operate a separate trust account and do not use any deposits or payments in its day account. A fund of £2 million is in the trust account so GTOs have the additional security of knowing deposits are safe. During lockdown Dunwood actually refunded £1.3 million deposits to those GTOs who requested refunds – all part of the company’s policy in serving its customers correctly.

Before the Covid pandemic, 2019 had been the company’s record year but Phil Westwood subsequently revealed that in 2023 the business was 50% up on the 2019 performance – a remarkable achievement by any standard - and he thanked everyone for their outstanding support and faith in the Dunwood company. Colin Duncan also outlined some of the Dunwood programme and highlights for 2024, plus many exclusive packages, prices, and details of facilities and benefits available.

The striking drive up to Warner Leisure's Studley Castle in Warwickshire

Studley Castle, the venue for the Dunwood Conference & Awards, is one of the newest additions to the Warner collection with Grade II listed status and 180 years of history.

A mini exhibition followed the morning conference when partners met many guests who were interested in venues and services. This was followed by a relaxing afternoon when GTOs could explore the property and grounds of Studley Castle and mingle with friends and contacts.

The evening dinner event was billed as a Glitz & Glamour occasion and so it proved. Dinner was followed by special awards presented to GTO customers of Dunwood Travel and there was great emphasis on the Dunwood coach drivers who were attending and who are clearly very popular with GTOs. Drivers were described by Phil Westwood as the backbone of the business, who also stated that they are the ‘absolute best’. The Dunwood team was brought on stage as were the drivers to say a few words each about the company and their job / length of service.

Sharon Yandell in front of a Christmas tree at Studley Castle for the Dunwood Conference

Group Leisure & Travel Show organiser, Sharon Yandell at Studley Castle for the Dunwood Conference.

Colin Duncan’s retirement

After the awards had been made in ten categories, Phil Westwood handed the microphone to Colin Duncan who announced that he was stepping back from the day to day business and retiring to spend more time with his family. During an emotional speech, he described his great friendship with Phil Westwood over a 37 year period, and his love of the group travel business. He also said that he would still be around for certain events and everyone agreed that Colin will, as usual, be a very welcome addition to next year’s conference in January 2025.

Departure of all guests on the final morning followed a first class breakfast and many fond farewells. Undoubtedly the view of the Dunwood team and the GTOs attending was that the conference and awards had been another outstanding success and a great way to welcome in the New Year.

The 2024 Dunwood Travel Awards were presented as follows:

  • Warners Leisure Hotels: Linda King
  • Potters Resorts, Five Lakes & Hopton on Sea: Sid Danvers
  • TLH Resort Hotels: Sue King
  • UK Hotels: Chris Fry
  • Overseas inc Ireland / Channel Islands: Angela Cartwright & Valerie Marianni
  • Small Group: Pat Eden
  • New Group: Janine Ward
  • Overall Business 2023: Marian Cherry
  • Bill Yeomans Award: Bob & Pat Plimmer
  • Driver of the Year: the award went to all Dunwood drivers for outstanding work

For more information about Dunwood Travel click here.