Up Close & Personal; Mark Smith


Mark Smith is Director of Leisure and Travel Trade Sales at Best Western Hotels GB

Best group trip you have been on?

Anywhere involving watching Tottenham abroad! Preferably in the sun, there have been many over the last few years. Madrid, Lisbon, Numerous trips to Germany, Prague, many interesting trips behind the old ‘iron curtain’ in Poland etc. The best one recently was the Champions League season. 20 of us went to Milan, where there was great food and sun. The fact that we won put the icing on the cake!

The trip to Madrid would have been better (as apart from the beer/ football the sun was out) but the fact that we lost 4-0 put a bit of a dampener on it. During my days working for Thomas Cook I arranged many trips out to watch Italian football (which I always had to accompany) to many of the major Italian cities.

Outside of sport a trip to Canada in March to see Toronto was superb, the highlight seeing the American side of the falls being frozen solid. I have been lucky enough to have visited many countries though my favourite type of holiday will always be a cruise (I have done over 15 of those!)

And the worst?

Probably my first ever family group holiday to the Isle of Man. Awful weather, poor accommodation and the fact that everywhere was closed. To make matters worse the big entertainment complex on the island burnt down the night before we got there. Possibly the most comical was a trip out to Leverkusen (football again) where 16 of us went out and only two returned. Yes I was one of the two that got back, the others (after I had checked them in at Frankfurt airport) decided to go for one more drink and missed the call for the flight. They arrived at the gate as the plane was taking off!

Favourite UK destination for a group?

Having just spent a weekend away with a group of friends in Liverpool, I must say how impressed I was with how much to do there was. Bars, nightlife, history and very friendly people. As for regions to visit I don’t think you can beat Somerset (gods own county!) Loads of things to see and do for all ages, and I know its clichéd but anyone visiting must partake in a glass of scrumpy and visit Cheddar to have some authentic cheddar cheese, and whilst you are there enjoy a visit to the most wonderful place to spend a day – the home of Somerset CCC in Taunton. The sun, a glass of whatever tipple takes your fancy and of course a great day’s sport!

On a personal note I don’t think you can beat a group day out to the races (especially if the weather is good). Particular favourites include York, Goodwood and Cheltenham. Always book the decent tickets. The ladies love the chance to dress up, and the men love a good excuse to socialise!

What makes a good group trip?

The accommodation is very important (but then I would say that) and the people you travel with can also make or break the trip. A good knowledgeable guide also comes in handy, especially if abroad – someone who can speak the local dialect. Pre-planning is also important and if anything needs booking in advance, then make sure it gets done and don’t leave it until you get there.

What do you always pack?

My iPod (and don’t forget the charger!) a copy of the local paper to see if there are any interesting gigs to go to during my stay and of course a decent insurance policy, something I was very grateful for on a recent trip to Moscow where my luggage had been lost for nearly a week. A decent book (can’t be doing with a kindle) always comes in handy and of course a rough guide to where the best pubs are!

And what do you always leave out?

Mobile Phone and laptop. If they are not there, I wont be tempted to use them.

What was your favourite trip last year?

A trip with a group of 20 lads to Rome (football again). This time the result was favourable. That or a family trip on board Independence of the Seas for a 15 day cruise around the western Mediterranean. You can’t beat a good cruise.

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