Senior travel editor for The Independent and GLTS 2017 speaker Simon Calder tell us why there has never been a better time to travel and shares his own experiences of organising trips.
What Simon Calder doesn’t know about travelling isn’t worth knowing. With a career spanning more than two decades, the travel journalist and broadcaster has shared advice and experience on everything from hitch-hiking to coach travel and where’s hot for 2018.
Q. Tell us about your experiences of organising trips over the years.
A. Crawley, where I grew up, in the 70s wasn’t the most exciting place in the world. I discovered that the BBC would give free tickets for gigs if you could get a good-sized group so I began organising trips to studios in the West End. In those days there was no social media, you’d simply have to put up a notice to gain interest.
Q. What advice would you give to group travel organisers?
A. Well for a start, they have much more experience than I do. It’s about ensuring you have lots of dimensions covered, starting with the toilet facilities. People will always decide if it’s a good place based on the toilets.
Q. What do you see as the big challenges for groups?
A. Inspiring and enthusing people. The world has never been a safer place for travellers; it’s mostly to do with the roads, particularly abroad, which are so much safer than they ever were. It’s a great time to be a traveller but there are also too many excuses for people not to travel because people perceive a risk. There’s so much to see and enjoy in the UK and abroad and it’s about enthusing people, which is why shows such as the Group Leisure and Travel Show are so important.
Q. Travel industry is devoted to human happiness, one of your comments. Is that still a true today as it always has been?
A. We have a great need to travel. It delivers enormous benefits for the world and that’s sometimes just economic. Mostly, it’s just really good fun and you meet people and interact and that’s a very human thing to do. There’s no other industry where people are able to get such pleasure. Anticipation of a trip is important but experiencing it is the main attraction.
Q. What is your favourite way to travel?
A. I like cycling but if I go further then I like hitch-hiking. I’ve recently been hitching around the Azores which is very nice. You just meet people and a good way of understanding a place. In practical terms you just enjoy being driven around by a very nice person, self-selecting group of people and learning about them and where they live.
Q. Looking ahead to 2018, everyone’s talking about Brexit and its impact, what are your thoughts?
A. Brexit may still put people off travelling but it hasn’t happened yet. The main thing is that travel has never been better value. We are living at a time when we have the widest horizons of every generation and people have the freedom to go to places. The idea of being on a plane was extraordinary when I was younger. My first trip abroad was aged 14 on a coach trip going to Dieppe for the day, I thought it was the most exotic place I’d ever been. There’s so much uncertainty around Brexit and travel is uniquely vulnerable but I think it will survive.
Q. Finally, any destinations for 2018 that you think will be particularly popular for groups?
It’s a traditional favourite but a new way of getting there…Amsterdam on a train when the new rail link opens from London to Amsterdam. It’s also going to open up Rotterdam and people will realise that’s a great place to visit.
So plenty to be positive about in 2018 and as Simon told us, there has never been a better time to travel…
Next year’s Group Leisure & Travel Show will take place at Hall 19 of the NEC, Birmingham, on 11th October 2018. For information on how to get involved, contact Sharon Yandell at firstname.lastname@example.org