Chief Executive Mike Bugsgang reports on the Association of Group Travel Organisers’ latest activities.

The Association of Group Travel Organisers (AGTO) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a sell-out Showcase Weekend at Dunston Hall Hotel in Norwich.
Some 150 delegates, representing group organisers and associate members, attended from all around the UK for a series of business sessions, networking and familiarisation trips.
Delegates heard that the newly
launched Ambassador recruitment scheme, aimed at boosting GTO membership,has started extremely well.
Also that 2016 has been a ‘landmark year’ for the Association, with Silver Anniversary celebrations
and a rebranding exercise, which saw a change of name from GTOA to AGTO together with a smart new identity. To ensure that the views of the group travel sector were considered in discussions with government and legislators, AGTO had joined the Tourism Alliance.

During one of the business sessions, guest speaker Pete Waters, Executive Director of Visit East Anglia, highlighted some of the multi-million pound investments that had been made into the region’s local attractions. He said that new upgraded road links to the county had made Norfolk’s countryside even easier for visitors to get to. All positive developments that he hoped would attract more group business to the region in the future.
As part of the weekend, Visit East Anglia arranged familiarisation trips for delegates to the surrounding area, themed ‘Norwich and Suffolk’.

These included a walking tour of the city, with visits to Norwich Cathedral, Banham Zoo and Melford Hall; and ‘Deep History Coast’.
This trip included a visit to Cromer Pier and Sandringham. Another trip was ‘Great Yarmouth and The Broads’ – touring Wroxham Barns, Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach and concluding with a paddle steamer trip on the Norfolk Broads. Local East Anglia producers and suppliers were also given the opportunity to showcase their wares during the weekend. Transportation for the familiarisation visits was provided by Norfolk based Eastons Coaches.

In another business session, group tour organisers were given some easy, low-cost tips about how
to market themselves more effectively by Jason Triandafyllou, Partner at marketing agency Designate.
Jason urged them to be creative with their itineraries, to know their market, and to make the most of
free opportunities available to them via social media channels, which he described as ‘networking on steroids’.

After the business sessions, 38 AGTO Associate members took part in the Showcase where GTO delegates had an opportunity to visit
their stands to discuss future business opportunities.
Associate members reported that the Showcase proved to be highly productive and were impressed with the interest shown by group organisers.

To conclude the weekend delegates attended a special dinner to celebrate AGTO’s 25th anniversary.
Some of AGTO’s Directors cut a celebration cake to mark the event and there was a prize draw with vouchers
for group holidays donated by HF Holidays and Just for Groups.

Diners were treated to some West End entertainment, provided by headline sponsors Made tourism marketing.
Emma Hatton, fresh from starring as Elphaba in Wicked and Oliver Tompsett who played Sky Masterson in Guys and
Dolls at the Phoenix Theatre, performed a stirring repertoire of
songs from West End musicals, including Wicked and Les Miserables.

We had a tremendous reception in Norwich and had an opportunity to sample first hand the best that the region has to offer.
I am confident that our positive experiences will lead to a surge in group tourism to the region in the future.
Everybody was delighted with the weekend overall and we are indebted to headline sponsormade tourism marketing
and our other sponsors for helping to make the event such a success. The Showcase once again demonstrated
AGTO’s pre-eminent role as a focal point for networking and business development in the group travel sector.
Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to GTW readers from everyone at AGTO.

l AGTO AGM, Excursions Show, Alexandra Palace, London, 28 January 2017.

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