This article is intended to help you organise successful group travel; whether you are new to group travel organisation or are simply looking to improve on your experiences. It is aimed at a variety of people in mind. You may be an allocated tour committee member, Social secretary, Club president; or you may be a manager having been asked to organise a corporate trip. You may also be a best man organising a stag ‘do’ or simply organising a holiday for a large group of friends.
Where to Start
If you have not organised group travel before you are probably thinking where do I start? If you have organised group travel before and it did not go so smoothly you should be asking – where should I have started last time?
The first thing you need to decide is who will be responsible for what, make sure those roles are clearly defined, and that the individuals understand their responsibilities. The number of people who need to be involved in organising group travel will vary depending on your group and destination. For small and informal groups you may decide that you will take responsibility for all the tasks. For large and more formal groups it is often best to assign tasks to multiple people.
You should consider:
- Who will be responsible for collecting money?
- For sports or performing arts groups – who will organise kit and clothing
- Who will sell the tour to your group and convince them to go.
- Who will organise your group – make sure they all have up-to-date passports, organise rooming lists, and carry out any other administration that needs to be done.
- Fundraising- if required
Once you have decided on these responsibilities you need to come up with some general ideas of where your group should go and what they should do. In some cases this will be easy as other factors will have already pre-determined this. If you are a sports group and are organising a trip for a sports tournament, your destination and main activity will have already been set. In this situation you should consider what other activities you may also want to do in order that you get the most enjoyment out of your trip.
In many cases brainstorming will be a much more involved process. If you are a music group wishing to go on tour then the options are almost endless with regards to destinations, concerts and itineraries.
You will probably need to do some research into ideas for your group and the brainstorming process could take several weeks. Why not get some ideas from the experts! There are a number of professional group travel organisers out there such as MyGroupTour who will be full of ideas and have probably done something similar before. Contacting a professional group organiser will not cost you anything and will enable you to pick their brains. MyGroupTour and a number of others also provide a large collection of pre-built itineraries on their web sites. You may be able to take one of these directly or adapt it to meet your needs. You can also do research in to destinations on the web by using web sites such as ‘Trip Adviser’ or ‘In Europe‘ to help get some ideas. If you are travelling in Britain then use http://www.visitbritain.co.uk. This is a great web site with lots of useful information. As well as destination and itineraries you will need to think about approximate date of travel, likely numbers, accommodation type, and extra excursions that you might want to do.
A group’s budget is very important. If you create an over priced trip or holiday then no one from your group will be able to come. Equally if you set the budget so low, then you will end up in accommodation that no one wants to stay in, which again may put them off coming.
You need to agree a price range that you think your group can afford and create your trip based on that. If you want to go on a week’s tour to Europe but realise that your group can only realistically afford £100 each then you will need to consider fundraising or making an adjustment to your tour in terms of time length, destination or itinerary.
Remember any group can afford a tour it just takes the right amount of planning, creativity and preparation. Some members may have a particularly difficult economic background. You may want to consider subsidising these members from the clubs funds and fundraising. Some people may also be prepared to pay more in order to reduce the cost to others. You should also take into consideration free places for yourself. In most group bookings you should be able to get a free hotel bed for every 25 members in the group although coach prices are not normally affected.
Getting your group together
The first step is in persuading people to go on your group trip. There are three main factors that decide this. Does the trip appeal to them, is it at a price they can afford and how charismatic are you at selling them the idea! If you can get these three things right then you should have no problem in getting most of your group to go on the trip.
Administrating group travel can be quite time consuming and challenging. You can find your self having to ring people multiple times because they are not in. Chasing people up who have not done something you asked them to do, dealing with people who have dropped out or adding new members on to the tour who now want to come. You must be prepared for a complex and time consuming operation if you want to do everything your self. You can significantly ease the burden by using a professional group organiser. They can help to deal with these problems on your behalf. Depending on which company you go with and what you have agreed with them. If you want them to do everything then you should expect to pay a little extra. But this would free you up to do other tasks that might other wise be more costly to you by ignoring them. One solution that will be available to you from late summer 2008 is the website from MyGroupTour. They will be providing a series of online facilities to help you with collecting money, organising your trip and getting quotes from suppliers.
Raising finance and fundraising
Ok, if your group is going on a stag do then no one is going to give charitably to support your drunken antics! If you’re a corporation organising group travel, then the only way you are going to get some one else to pay for it will be if you offer commercial benefits to them.
With most groups though there is a multitude of ways to raise finance for your group travel. You can organise generic events, fun days or organise something based on what your group does. General events and fun days could include: – sponsored marathon/competition, Car washing at a local supermarket or School, Coffee morning for you local retirement home, put on a disco, create a night out, or organise an Easter egg hunt. The list is really only limited by your imagination. Also you should try organising something that relates to what your group does. If you are an orchestra then organise concerts for your local community. You can quite quickly raise the money you need for your trip; all it takes is a little enthusiasm and it can be lots of fun.
The thing people are most reluctant to do is part with their money. At the early stages it is important that you collect a deposit from every group member who has confirmed they are coming on the trip. With out this there is no commitment or incentive for them not to drop out at the last second and this could be embarrassing. By doing this, your trip will become far more manageable. You should make your members aware that the final amount due may be liable to change slightly if group members drop out or new ones join. A coach booked at £400 divided by 30 people is going to cost more per person than dividing the cost between 40 people. You will normally find that quotes are given in price bands as group travel operators will be aware the people may drop out or you may get additional travellers. You must also make people aware of cancellation cut off dates. Normally if you cancel with a hotel within 30 days prior to departure you will be liable to pay the full amount.
Law and the package travel directive
There have been changes in the Law relatively recently that you need to be aware of. If a consumer purchases more than one travel component, it is considered a package. As such, you must place this money into a trust account and cannot access the money until your group members have travelled. This applies to all non regular group travel organisers. However the definition of what is non regular is not clearly defined and has not been tested in court yet. To avoid the risk of breaking the law on this matter it can be easier to use a professional group travel organiser who already has systems in place to deal with the travel package directive. To find out more you can go to this guide that has been compiled by the government. http://nds.coi.gov.uk/imagelibrary/downloadMedia.asp?MediaDetailsID=231125
If you do use a professional group travel organiser you should look to see that they are a member GTOA (Group Travel Organisers Association) or the ETOA (European Tour Operators Association) if you plan on making a European trip.
As a group travel organiser or initiator for your group you will be viewed as responsible for everything that happens to your group members. Unfortunately from time to time things won’t go quite as planned. You must there for ensure you and your group members are protected against such instances. This is especially true with school and youth groups. Often travel insurance is not that expensive and it can be a legal requirement in many situations.