Roger Elsmere has worked in the travel industry since 1971, when he began Woods Executive Taxis. He now runs two companies: Woods Travel, which provides coach holidays, day excursions and private hire, and Woods Holidays, an ABTA-bonded travel agency. His proudest moment (to date) was when Woods Travel was awarded UK Coach Operator of the Year in 2013.
The best group trip you have ever been on?
It was with Victor Ubogu’s tour to Australia in June 2013. Prior to this there was also a trip to Hong Kong for the Rugby VIIs, but that’s another story. The trip to Australia was brilliantly organised and accompanied by Victor Ubogu and Mark Regan. I travelled with a long-time friend and between rugby matches we played hard at being good tourists. We were away for 21 days, had nine flights and saw rugby in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Between two of the matches there was a gap of six days, so we flew up to Cairns, did the Kuranda Railway and snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef. The rugby itself was brilliant and the atmosphere was amazing; the banter between the Brits and the Aussies was friendly and extremely funny. We were told that over 45,000 Brits travelled to Australia for the Lions Tour. At each of the stadiums we went to, the attendance figures that day were the highest they had ever had.
And the worst?
The worst was an educational visit to Hungary and although Budapest was fabulous, the tour guide we had obviously thought we were a bunch of vicars. It seemed like we visited 50 churches every single day.
What’s your favourite UK destination for a group day out?
Woods encompasses a travel agency, coach operation, holiday programme and a day excursion programme, so I am spoilt for choice really. London theatres, particularly the musicals, are selling better now than they ever have done, but for a real treat I really think our departure by coach to London Victoria to pick up the Orient Express for a journey of nearly three hours down to Folkestone is excellent. You are greeted with a glass of Champagne, enjoy a three course meal with wine en route with first class service, and after the journey the coach is waiting at Folkestone to bring the group back to our local area.
What makes a good group trip?
It never ceases to amaze me how diverse the requests are that we get from all sorts of groups. We always try to have a face to face meeting with the clients so that we fully understand what their expectations are and what they want to achieve. We are careful to ensure that the itinerary is clear and concise and the timings are important and planned in advance, to enable the tour to run smoothly. A number of our tours are coach tours of course, and a good driver will make the tour. If a courier or guide is also required, we make sure that the driver and guide have a good working relationship. And lastly, the actual participants on the tour can have a big impact on its success.
What do you always pack?
Well I travel a lot and more to the point is what do I not pack. I have an amazing gift of forgetting something every time I travel, but I always have my phone, a camera and a powerful monocular which are essential.
And what do you leave out?
I never really know until I get there and I usually pack too much.
What was your favourite trip last year?
Norway, it has to be, the fjords are just stunning. The experience of taking a coach load around the western fjords is so satisfying. The clients are amazed at the scenery and virtually everyone says that they knew it was going to be good, but it was better than they ever imagined.