AGTO – helping GTOs bounce back better
Lockdown has probably had everyone thinking back to happier days, perhaps childhood when all we seemed to need was a good story and all seemed well with the world. Not that we knew too much about the world. In an era long before the internet, we learnt about the world by watching the team from the BBC’s Blue Peter head off on their annual expedition. Perhaps we glanced through holiday brochures. If we were very fortunate, we would find ourselves sitting in the family car as our parents headed over the Channel to exotic Calais, and beyond.
Today, everything and anything a GTO needs to know about planning a trip is available at the click of a mouse, or a tap on our phones or tablets. But that only tells part of the story.
Wendy Hartley-Scarff, chief executive of the Association of Group Travel Organisers, explains.
“Talking with AGTO members I find myself learning more and more about the group travel industry,” she says. “I understand the bigger picture, but the finer points of organising a trip, and some of the pitfalls faced by GTOs would normally pass me by. So I really enjoy hearing more about all of this from our members.
During lockdown many GTOs have found it beneficial to engage in online chats or watching destination webinars. From the comfort of their own home, GTOs have been able to discover more about many of the UK’s popular destinations, and some less well known. Visitor attractions have taken GTOs on behind-the-scenes tours, without the GTO having to leave home. There have been opportunities to listen to the experiences of other group travel organisers. The social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and elsewhere, have been awash with photos of smiling people enjoying themselves on trips taken before the pandemic hit.
But now that lockdown is easing, and day trips are starting up again, what will that mean to the online experience? Will GTOs want to continue to meet online, or will they, as I suspect, want to go back to how it was, meeting up with their groups and friends?
In my opinion, the sheer convenience of online activity will mean that sitting in front of a laptop, PC, tablet or phone is likely to continue. But only so far.
Before lockdown, AGTO played a key role, as the UK’s largest independent, professional membership organisation supporting and representing the interests of individuals who organise travel for groups, in providing GTOs both with a wide range of information and opportunities to get together.
During lockdown the AGTO website (agto.co.uk) has been updated. Today, members can find out about unique offers available from Associate (supplier) members. There are fam trips to sign up to, as well as legal help and other guidance to help make the job of organising a group trip easier.
The AGTO Magazine, which we normally publish four times a year, not only carries features about places to visit and things to do, but also carries first-hand reports from members of our regional branches. It’s all about spreading the word for the benefit of the whole group travel sector. It’s a really great way for members to find out what worked, and what didn’t, information that may come in very handy when planning a day out.
As travel starts to reopen again, GTOs will be looking for inspiration and ideas, and AGTO will be there for you. I encourage you to go to our website, and see how together, we can all bounce back better.”