The GTOA Showcase was well attended by GTOA members. (Pictured) Showcase delegates at the opening session

The GTOA Showcase was well attended by GTOA members. (Pictured) Showcase delegates at the opening session

The GTOA Showcase Weekend was held at the Newcastle Marriott Gosforth Park (www.marriott.co.uk) and was well attended by 130 GTOA members, including group travel organisers and suppliers.

Set within 12-acres of parkland with Gosforth Racecourse adjacent, the Newcastle Marriott Gosforth Park is conveniently located just off the A1 and is a short drive from Newcastle City Centre.

The centre of Newcastle houses a number of attractions within walking distance of each other, including the iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge (aka the Blinking Eye), the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle Castle and the decorative Chinese Arch.

Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive at Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, opened the conference on September 18 at 1500hrs within one of Newcastle Marriott Gosforth Park’s adequate conference/business facilities – some of which can accommodate up to 700 delegates.

During her speech, Sarah highlighted the importance of group business to the region and outlined some of the new events and developments taking place in Newcastle Gateshead during 2016/17.

Mike Bugsgang (centre), Chief Executive of the GTOA, with a group outside English Heritage’s Warkworth Castle

Mike Bugsgang (centre), Chief Executive of the GTOA, with a group outside English Heritage’s Warkworth Castle

Chief Executive, Alex Jacobs, represented Northern Secrets – Destination Management (www.northernsecrets.co.uk), which specialises in tailor-made travel for private groups, group travel organisers and coach/tour operators visiting the North East.

The choice of familiarisation visits organised on September 19 included Bamburgh Castle, Woodhorn Colliery Museum, Alnwick Castle and Gardens, Beamish Museum, Hadrian’s Wall, Durham Cathedral, Warkworth Castle and a ship visit aboard Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ Boudicca on the morning of September 20.

GTW attended the familiarisation visit to Hadrian’s Wall, complete with an informative tour guide. Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, English Heritage now manages it, with Roman Emperor Hadrian initially instigating the build in 122AD. Stretching 73-miles, remnants of Hadrian’s Wall remain intact and can be followed on foot via the Hadrian’s Wall Path.

Our visit was combined with a trip to the Roman Vindolanda (www.vindolanda.com) and Chesters Roman Fort and Museum (www.english-heritage.org.uk/chestersromanfort), which housed an underground storeroom and beautifully preserved Roman bathhouse.

A delicious buffet dinner was served on September 19 with entertainment provided by The Charleston Charlies, which was arranged courtesy of headline sponsor, made. The Newcastle Kingsmen provided authentic Northumbrian entertainment during the more formal gala dinner on September 20, with a comedic display of North East folk dancing and pipe music.

Details of the GTOA Annual General Meeting – taking place at the Northampton Marriott Hotel from January 16-17, 2016 – were announced at the showcase. For more information visit www.gtoa.co.uk.

Stanley Travel provided transport over the course of the weekend. Stanley Travel coach is pictured in a designated coach bay outside the Newcastle Marriott Gosforth Park

Stanley Travel provided transport over the course of the weekend. Stanley Travel coach is pictured in a designated coach bay outside the Newcastle Marriott Gosforth Park

#CELEBRATING 25 YEARS

Mike Bugsgang, Chief Executive at the GTOA, commented on the results from a survey recently undertaken amongst members.

He said: “I am pleased to report that 50% of the GTOA membership completed the questionnaire and the results will help us to plot a strategic course for the Association moving forward.

“It was encouraging to see that 93% of respondents said they would recommend joining the GTOA to others. In answer to a question asking members’ reasons for joining the Association, being part of a professional body came out on top, closely followed by keeping up-to-date with industry issues. 88% of respondents felt that promoting the group travel sector should be the GTOA’s primary objective.”