When I last wrote we had nearly forty members with deposits and booking forms ready to send to Success Tours for Puglia this September. Unfortunately it was not to be. Some gut instinct, which I ignore at my peril, stopped me sending in the forms straight away. When Jo Blair phoned a couple of days before we were due to pay the non refundable deposit that would have secured the flight seats and guaranteed the cost, I discovered we were both of the same opinion. Noises being made by government and the rising number of COVID19 cases in Europe at the time convinced us we would be best looking at a Plan B and contracting the hotel for September 2022 with, hopefully, similar dates. Luckily all those booked agreed. Bookings won’t start until July/August this year for next September but everyone has already asked to be given first refusal, with a two week window to book before the details go out to the membership as a whole.
Deer in the Rockies on a previous adventure for Pauline and Ken
The next day Andy from Norman Allen Group Travel contacted me regarding our Northern Ireland trip at the end of May/ beginning of June. He had already put in place our Plan B, contacting the hotel a couple of months earlier for me. Like Jo, his opinion was that this year’s tour was unlikely to be able to go ahead. Plan B is for July 2022 and whilst we lost about ten people due to the proximity of the start of the school summer holidays – we just get home before they start – we have picked up a couple of bookings from people who couldn’t make the previous date. Numbers are though slightly below the original minimum number that the tour was costed on, but we have plenty of time to resell.
Our April Cornwall 2021 trip is now in 2022 and a couple of weeks earlier. Such is the reputation of Brend Bros. Hotels that, whilst we lost one or two from the original booking, they have all been resold. There was a very small increase in price by the hotel but no objections by anyone.
We are still hoping that our July and August trips to County Durham and Essex will go ahead, even if we have to tweak the itineraries slightly, but with so much disappointment month after month we aren’t raising our hopes too high.
Our June day trip to Sonning Mill Dining Theatre to see ‘Busman’s Honeymoon’ has been deferred again, this time to next year. I was told that the Mill were putting on an ABBA concert instead on our date, and that it would be compliant with all the socially distanced ruling in the restaurant and theatre. 32 of the group decided they still wanted a day out and hopes are high for those lucky few. Nearly everybody has again rescheduled for the play, especially as Brian Blessed is directing.
The Macclesfield Silk Museum and Paradise Silk Mill day trip date was just inside the May 17th ‘road map’ date. I had hoped, as we had kept numbers down, to be able to reschedule fairly soon afterwards. What I hadn’t taken into account is that, having been closed for a year, the place has to be thoroughly cleaned, and the looms checked, to make sure they work before they can open. We also heard that our trip to see ‘Pretty Woman’ in London is on its third change of date and this time the production has moved to The Savoy Theatre. Groups are being booked in from 6th September. With so many rearranged concert and theatre bookings it looks as if October to December will be very full. September itself seems to have a high percentage of the group either on rescheduled cruises or taking short self-catering breaks in the UK. I am very hopeful that our two day trips in July to Rodmarton Manor near Tetbury will go ahead, although I have deliberately kept the numbers per booking low enough to be able to easily comply with any social distancing rules.
On a much more positive note, in March 2020 we had agreed new dates for the two cancelled June 2020 Imagna Valley, Italy tours for June 2022. Everyone had been given credit notes by the company, which needed to be allocated by 31st March 2021. Some people had put theirs towards our Cornwall trip, others had hoped to put them toward this years Puglia trip. Only a small number – there were 102 people booked in total for 2020 – decided for various reasons to wait for the refunds. I had let everyone know the new dates straight away, and enough people had expressed their intention to go, that at the end of February I was confident of a decent number of bookings. Easyjet announced their flights from Luton to Milan very early. They were such good times there became somewhat of a rush to get the forms back quickly so we could secure the seats. Our other alternatives would have been from Gatwick or Heathrow and were likely to necessitate pre-flight overnights at an airport hotel. This would have been at an extra cost of approximately £60 per person. With Success Tours’ staff working from home I had to scan in over 50 forms, plus credit notes, to email to Success before they could book the flights. But we did it, and we have thirty-one people on each of two tours booked. 2022 is looking full now so I do hope we can go to Durham and Essex this year as there is no space to fit them in next year and I really don’t want to start looking at 2023 just yet.
One thing I have been doing for many years is getting the Tour Operator to book the hotel and dates I want for a particular tour anything up to two years in advance. Once that is done there is then plenty of time to do more research. 15 to 18 months out the Tour Operator and I start the planning. The dates, along with when booking will commence are shown in our newsletters. No costs are given at that point. Those members of the group who really want to go put their names on an ‘interest’ list. This helps with room allocation breakdown – especially rooms with walk-in showers or upgraded rooms where available, e.g. sea view or superior rooms. Everyone on that list gets advance notice and a two-week period to book, as with Puglia next year. It makes the sales process so much easier and, conversely, if there is very little interest I can pull the tour before it gets too far and many man-hours wasted in the planning.
I am going to leave you with some more photos of my favourite places and hope that all your booked tours for 2021 and 2022 can go ahead and we can get back to visiting fantastic places in the UK, if not abroad, soon. Rekindling of friendships formed over the past years whilst travelling together is what my group are desperate to restart, along with our bi-monthly socials.