We recently caught up with one of our tour managers, Veronica, to find out a bit more about her life on the road with Newmarket Holidays. Veronica has been with us for many years and currently works on our London Theatre breaks.
1. How long have you been a Newmarket Holidays’ Tour Manager?
Gosh, I couldn’t be precise. I worked in the Customer Liaison Department for many years before I finally made the move to ‘go on the road’. For a while I just did little weekend tours and combined tour managing with my office job before I eventually made the decision to move entirely over to tour managing, and that was 12 years ago. I’ve certainly been with Newmarket Holidays a long time – around 25 years at least!
2. What is it about the job that you love?
The variety, and of course the customers. You meet such a diversity of people and even if I do the same tour week after week, it’s always different.
3. What makes a great tour manager?
Well, there’s a question! You have to enjoy it. If you do, it’s infectious and I like to think that my passengers enjoy it too. Not forgetting the coach drivers… a skillful, friendly coach driver makes a very important contribution to the success of any tour. The tour manager and driver are the team that bring together the final product after hours of work put in by those in the office. In addition, one most important little word speaks volumes – preparation, preparation, preparation!
4. Is there anything in particular that you like to offer customers?
I love history so I enjoy researching new tours. My favourite commentary stories are ‘people stories’ – historical or topical characters or organisations that have an interesting or heroic background and are associated with the places that we visit. I think passengers enjoy short but factual stories. Also, a small thing I like to do is remember the names of passengers travelling alone and have a brief chat with them, particularly on the first day of a tour.
5. What piece of kit would you not leave the home without?
Maps, particularly for passengers who are unfamiliar with our capital city. Some people find London quite daunting and wouldn’t venture a great distance alone. It’s one thing to explain to passengers where an attraction is located but it makes more sense to give them a decent map and mark things for them. Also I always carry a notepad for bus numbers, phone numbers and any other bits of information they may need. I find that people prefer to have something in writing to refer to.
6. What’s your favourite show in London and why?
Mamma Mia and Billy Elliot were both memorable, cheerful and lively. You came out at the end feeling happy. Also – long-finished I know – but Shrek was super. I saw it when Amanda Holden played the princess. She was brilliant.
7. Without giving away names or details, do any funny/touching moments with customers stick out in your memory?
Not a West End tour but in Antwerp. Passengers had free time in the city and I’d walked with them to the Grote Markt in the centre having told them of some places they might like to visit. When passengers came back to the coach, a lovely middle-aged couple were smiling broadly. The lady was proudly showing off a beautiful solitaire diamond ring that must have far exceeded the cost of their holiday. They’d been to the Diamond Quarter and there’d been an impromptu engagement. The coach erupted with cheers and applause!
8. When Newmarket guests are at their show, how do you fill the time?
Guests often ask me this question. Oxford Street and St Christopher’s Place seem to have a magnetic pull on me. I spend far too long and far too much money in these places! Occasionally, something special will be taking place like the ‘Poppies’ at the Tower of London. Sometimes I’ll meet a friend or another tour manager and have a leisurely meal with them. The time passes really quickly.
9. Have you ever rescued a victory from the jaws of defeat?
I can’t really think of anything memorable but guests do sometimes get disorientated and naturally worry that they won’t find the coach, we’ll leave without them and that they’ll be stranded in a strange city. However, they are all provided with a basic West End map with my mobile number on it. I sometimes have passengers who’ve gone astray but, thus far, have always been able to locate them.
10. What restaurants or bars would you recommend for a pre-theatre dinner?
When it comes to pre-theatre restaurants and bars, the West End is full of them. However, Sarastro’s in Drury Lane is certainly unusual. It’s ornate and has some cosy, intimate corners for dining. It has a ‘cheeky’ theme and suffice to say the toilets, whilst immaculately clean, are a topic of much conversation! Rules in Maiden Lane is famed for its association with Edward VII and Lily Langtree. It offers good service, a very decent menu and makes a super ‘special event’ venue but you have to pre-book. I would suggest that theatre-goers take an early meal. There are so many restaurants to choose from but they may be very crowded on a Saturday evening. Some diners get to the restaurant early, spend a long time at the table and don’t leave until shortly before their show is due to start. For me though, it’s likely to be a basic ‘Pret’ or a Chinese buffet!