Happy New Year to all. With the announcement of the vaccine, and many of my members already receiving theirs, things can only get better for travel in 2021. Certainly my members think so for, as I write, they are sending in deposits for a tour to Puglia in September through Success Tours. The numbers are well down on the 100 that originally booked over two separate tours but some of the problem is not health or fear of travelling, but all the other rescheduled holidays and cruises from 2020. Everyone is longing for something to look forward to and miss the bi-monthly socials when up to 200 of our 460 strong membership meet, and the companionship of friends and fellow members on our day trips and holidays. Ken is missing his railway and historic transport meetings and his involvement in Leicester’s Tram Depot, especially on public open days.
We have six holidays booked for 2021 through Norman Allen Group Travel, Success Tours and Dunwood’s Coaches. All three tour operators have been very supportive throughout 2020 and we are hoping that all the tours can go ahead.
Ken and Pauline out and about before lockdown
Our January 18th 2021 break at Warner’s Littlecote House did have to be cancelled and I found this out just before Christmas. Stuart Parker contacted me between Christmas and New Year to confirm Warner’s closure, allowing me to contact my members before 4th January when Dunwood’s office had been due to open. Everyone wanted their monies refunded, but were open to a new booking in November 2021. Despite Stuart working from home, he secured a booking at Thorseby Hall for November and a full refund was not only authorised but back in the Club’s bank account by 6th January. It is not surprising that every single person asked me to take a deposit for the new booking before refunding the remainder. Excellent service.
We are due to go to Cornwall at the end of April and to Northern Ireland at the end of May beginning of June. Both are 2020 reschedulings and we are all on tenterhooks hoping that we can go. What is very encouraging to see in writing, from both the tour operators concerned with these bookings, is their commitment to making sure that all government guidelines re COVID and social distancing that are in force when we travel both in the UK and abroad are strictly adhered to. This may unfortunately mean that numbers per holiday will have to be reduced. Norman Allen’s have also upgraded COVID19 cover to their policies at no extra charge when rescheduling and transferring an existing NAGT policy, and all new polices have COVID cover as standard.
Later in the year, in July we are hoping to do a tour of County Durham. This was a replacement for a cancelled Welsh tour, which it wasn’t possible to reschedule, and is proving very popular. A tour of Essex in August is in the balance at present, as some venues in the itinerary cannot be confirmed, as groups are not yet allowed to book. October sees another rescheduled tour, this time to Bath but we were able to tweak the itinerary and include a one-way trip on the Kennet Canal. We had quite a few extra bookings on all these tours when the new dates were announced.
IF the April and May tours have to be cancelled I don’t know whether there will be the will to reschedule yet again; 2022 is already looking full although a gap in April 2022 has opened up as a cruise to the Greek Islands and Corinth Canal with Fred.Olsen’s has had to be put back to March 2023. We have an Isle of Man trip contracted in early May 2022 just awaiting re-costing when the Island re-opens to visitors. Our two tours of the Imagna Valley, Italy, which were cancelled in June 2020 are already looking good to go in June 2022 with members putting their names down against a preferred date. It could be that we will get the full 100 people booking again. For July or August we are awaiting news re a German City break for which we had already scheduled a presentation by the Tour Operator, but sadly didn’t get to the booking stage. Then in September a hotel has been contracted in Scotland with a basic itinerary agreed with the tour operator ready to fine tune in due course.
There hasn’t been the appetite to book - and then have to cancel - day trips for 2021, except where we have been able to reschedule concerts and theatre trips towards the end of the year. We did book a socially-distanced Sonning Mill Theatre trip to hear a concert version of the Doris Day Story with Sally Hughes, the MD, singing all our favourite songs from her career in films. But it wasn’t to be. Now we are just hoping that our May trip to Macclesfield Silk Museum and Paradise Mill will go ahead. We have deliberately kept the number to 30 and the popular rescheduled Rodmarton Manor has been split over two visits of 30 instead of one full 53 seat coach.
Our final day trip of 2021 will be a Christmas lunch at Heythrop Park Hotel near Chipping Norton with Dunwoods. Nearly 160 members booked for 2021 and we have increased that to 170 since rescheduling. You will notice that the word rescheduling is used rather a lot as I am sure it is with your own groups’ outings. Once we are out of the pandemic I may make a resolution never to use that word again.
I have seen that some groups have been out and about during 2020. My members, whilst wishing they could do the same, were less enthusiastic when it came to booking anything and the inputting of all the refunds to member’s bank accounts isn’t top of my list for a fun few days either. I am longing to get to the time where I can confidently start booking day trips again. My screen saver has pictures from all the holidays and outings we have done over the last 10 years scrolling in no particular order. The nostalgia they evoke is tangible. I am sharing a few of those photographs with you, some of which may remind you of holidays you yourself may have taken with your group.
I hope that by the time you read this article the glimmer of light has become a large beacon at the end of the tunnel and we are all able to do more than just dream of travel.