Readers' Lives: Barbara Cray

Readers' Lives: Barbara Cray

Managing Director, Hyde Barker Travel, Southwell, Notts

Southwell Travel Show, run by Hyde Barker Travel, has become a regular fixture in locals’ diaries. Now in its fifth year, the consumer event attracted 400 people on January 23, double the number that attended last year

Q: Why is your show worth all the effort you put in?
A: Every year the show has got bigger. Last year we got 200 to 250 people. Our fifth show, this year, was better than ever with 400 people through the door. We had 24 operators this year compared with 20 last year. Next year we will have to use another room or venue. People were queuing up to get in. At the last minute you always get worried it’s going to snow or that they’ll dig up the road, which they did one year. It’s the most successful event we hold and drives business for the rest of the year. We have people who come to us in November to book a long-haul trip after coming to the show in January; it’s a slow-burn for some people. What was interesting this year was the number of bookings; we got five confirmed paid-for bookings this year and last year we only had one or two. About 70% of the people who come to the show are existing customers but some haven’t booked for a while. Some people travel 30 miles to get to us.

Q: How does the show work?
A:
It is held at the Saracens Head Hotel, a central location, but not far from our agency. Each operator has a stand and we have our own desk where we hand out newsletters. Operators put our agency labels on their brochures and make it very obvious to book through us and not direct. We also put signs up on the street directing people from the hotel to our agency where some of the operators do presentations. Last year was the first time we had operator presentations, and this year we were squeezing groups of 20 people in. At the show we have a raffle for charity, which enables us to capture email addresses.

Q: What other events do you hold during the year?
A: We run an event once a month. We did two evening meal events last year with tour operators – we sold 40 tickets for one but we could have sold 80. We are doing afternoon tea soon in one of the villages and selling tickets for that, with the proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Society. We’ll have a talk from Gemma Lazenby (Classic Collection) on some of the different places you can go to. We are trying not to do a hard-sell. We have never done an event where we don’t get a booking.

Q: How do you promote the events?
A:
We do lots of advertising in the local press and put a big banner up about the show in the shop window. We also had the town crier walking around town ringing the bell and telling people about it. I have increased the amount of ads we do in parish magazines. I have got about 30 to 35 little magazines I work with in the surrounding villages. It helps Hyde Barker Travel has been going for 68 years and has a good reputation. We also send out e-shots.

Q: How does it work owning a tour operation, Silver Fern Holidays, as well?
A: My husband started selling walking holidays to New Zealand in 1990 and the business developed from there. One of the reasons we bought the agency was to sell our New Zealand products through it. We are now starting to sell through other agents.


Barbara’s tips: How to run a travel show

Tip 1: Plan ahead to find the right venue.

Tip 2: Advertise locally. Work with parish magazines and far in advance.

Tip 3: Choose operators to do presentations and tailor the talks to different topics.

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