How to plan a trip with a big group

Travelling in big groups with friends or family can result in the most amazing times of our lives, where the precious memories made will be remembered for years to come. However, if not planned meticulously, group travelling can be stressful.

Here are TMG’s top tips on how to plan a trip with a big group:

Have a leader (or two)

Appoint an individual to lead the planning of the trip. It makes travelling a lot easier if there is a go-to person who knows how the planning is progressing. If there is a lot of planning to do, different people can be in charge of different aspects of the trip. One person can be in charge of accommodation, one in charge of researching activities, another of meal planning, etc. The final decisions can still be made as a group, but this will ensure that everything gets organized in advance.

Agree on a budget

One of the most difficult aspects of planning a trip for a group is the budget. People have different ideas about how much they are willing to spend when travelling. Decide on a budget that suits everyone and adhere to it. Some activities could be optional so group members can decide whether they want to participate, but a budget for the necessities is crucial.

Consider Alternative Accommodation

Accommodation makes a huge difference to your travel experience. Hotels aren’t necessarily the best option when travelling as a big group. Renting a holiday house saves money and provides opportunities to cook together and socialize. Websites like Airbnb and Rentbyowner make it very easy to find homes to rent anywhere in the world.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Make reservations ahead of time. Transport and accommodation need to be arranged and booked as early as possible. Research the top things to do at your chosen destination and look out for group discounts.

Limit the amount of activities

It isn’t necessary to plan every moment of the holiday. Some of the best experiences may be decided impulsively during the trip, or just happen spontaneously.  Managing the itinerary for a large group, particularly one with children, is rather difficult and may lead to unnecessary tension. Limit big outings or activities to one per day.

Split up

It isn’t necessary for the whole group to be together all the time. If there are people who want to participate in different activities from the rest, split up according to interests.

Communicate

Communication is key when travelling as a big group. Make sure everyone is aware of the itinerary and all the details, pack clever and you are all set for your holiday adventure with the people you love!

 

Written by Katrien Nel

Welcome, Ilka

Not too long ago, Travelling Mystery Guest was just a dream to me. I can blissfully say that the journey is getting even more exciting and awe-inspiring by the day! Hence, I am over the moon and jumping for joy, because today I have the privilege of introducing you to Travelling Mystery Guest’s very first, officially appointed employee: Ilka Steyn!

Ilka Steyn

Ilka Steyn

Welcome, dear Ilka, to Travelling Mystery Guest. May your travels with TMG be both motivating and inspirational.
Ilka will be assisting TMG with some fine marketing tactics, some new, innovative ideas for our blog and she will also help out with our social media management facilities.
Her 5 favourite things to do are:
1. Cycling
2. Being creative, whether it be writing or crafts
3. Reading
4. Playing with and walking her dogs
5. Spending time with loved ones and friends
Her favourite wine is Beyerskloof’s Pinotage and her favourite restaurant: Papa’s at Duncan Yard, Pretoria.
Keep an eye out for her first blog post: 10 of the worst things to say to a customer

TMG Workshop Bootcamp

Travelling Mystery Guest now offers destinations the opportunity to pick  workshops that they would like to attend in the form of a TMG Workshop Bootcamp!

Destinations can choose 4 workshops to include in their customized Bootcamp and pay only for 3. Where TMG‘s workshops are normally R500.00 per person, destinations can now pay only R1500.00 for a combination of 4 workshops.

Remember that Travelling Mystery Guest comes to you to present the workshops at your destination.

Here is a list of the current workshops destinations can choose from:

List of TMG Workshops

List of TMG Workshops

*Travel costs outside of Gauteng excluded.

Contact Renate de Villiers today to book your customized workshop bootcamp with TMG: enquire@travellingmystery.co.za / 082 336 1562.

Business or pleasure?

Is your establishment’s target market mainly guests who visit on business or pleasure?

As a hospitality and tourism industry expert, you probably don’t need me to explain to you why it is necessary to know your target market. The problem is, we get so used to our target markets, that we sometimes forget that they are also people, and people change.

As our environment, whether it be our technological or our physical environment, undergoes certain evolvements, we tend to change with it eventually. Therefore, as an accommodation establishment, restaurant or venue, it is important to keep up with trends in the industry.

Here are three trends TMG noticed feature in certain sections of the hospitality and tourism industry that you as a professional in the industry probably need to consider:

Environmental Responsibility:

This is not only a trend, but also a necessity. It has come to TMG’s attention that many travellers prefer accommodation at establishments that prove to be environmentally responsible. Guests are even willing to give up certain levels of comfort for this.

Kids entertainment:

Guests travelling for pleasure normally include families. Families often require some entertainment for children, which includes jungle gyms, swimming pools, and possible movie nights for when parents want to enjoy a romantic dinner. It is also important to remember that parents are well educated on this subject and therefore your establishment is automatically expected to provide them with service that will exceed their customer expectations. Think educational and try to include outside activities for kids. Take them on treasure hunts or short kids’ hiking trails. Use your environment and be creative.

Wi-Fi:

Businessmen are often on the road and with the fortunate evolvement of cell phones, computers and emails, many people unfortunately do the work of three or more by themselves these days. Wi-Fi has always been a luxury and not too long ago only top hotels and restaurants provided the service. Today, however, more and more hospitality and tourism establishments are adding this to their list of services and these establishments are the ones who become popular amongst business travellers especially very quickly. If business guests form part of your establishment’s target market and you do not provide your guests with Wi-Fi, you will need to revise your list of services.

For more tips and ideas on how to exceed your customers’ expectations, perhaps you should contact TMG and attend one of our workshops? Contact Renate on 082 336 1562 or enquire@travellingmystery.co.za for more information.

Become a MYSTERY GUEST with TMG

Don’t we all just love to talk about what this restaurant did wrong and what that hotel didn’t do? We tell this to friends and family, share it on every possible social media page, run to TripAdvisor and Hello Peter, yet nothing really gets done. You might get your money back or a chat with the general manager, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Now you have a chance to make a difference!

Become a mystery guest

Become a mystery guest

Travelling Mystery Guest invites you, the South African customer, to become a mystery guest with the company in order to gather more information about customer expectations in the hospitality and tourism industry. This, however, does not mean that you can just sit back and relax – the information you gather from your experience will be crucial to Travelling Mystery Guest’s findings which will be shared with the establishments visited in order to assist them on improving customer service.

In a nutshell the following will be expected of you:

  • Attend an in-depth training session on how to become a mystery guest for Travelling Mystery Guest (Pty) Ltd.
  • Sign an agreement with TMG, indicating that all information gathered is the property of the company.
  • Have permanent access to internet and social media.
  • Have your own transport and contact methods.
  • Have experience in the hospitality and tourism industry.

What’s in it for you?

  • A great new experience and the opportunity to explore your local environment.
  • Some insight on the hospitality and tourism industry’s challenges.
  • 10% commission on every establishment you visit.
  • 10% on every TMG workshop booked in response to your visit.
  • In-house training on customer service and the procedures to follow as a mystery guest for TMG.

What’s in it for Travelling Mystery Guest?

  • More accurate recordings of a customer’s journey at an establishment, assisting us in giving restaurants, guesthouses and hotels the best possible feedback on their customer service.
  • The opportunity to really make a difference in the industry.
  • Some great new friends.
  • An increased database.

Interested? Send your CV to Renate at enquire@travellingmystery.co.za.

 

Terms and Conditions:

Only South African citizens may apply.

You may only become a mystery guest if you have your own transport, contact methods and constant internet access.

The application process may include further interviews.

Your participation may be terminated with immediate effect should you not adhere to Travelling Mystery Guest’s operating procedures and standards.

You may not participate as a mystery guest for the company if you have not completed Travelling Mystery Guest’s training and signed an agreement with the company.

All documents, photos, databases and other information gathered in the process will belong to Travelling Mystery Guest and the reproduction or reuse thereof will be illegal.

Environmental Responsibility

With Earth Day on the way (22 April), environmental responsibility is the word on everyone’s lips. What are you doing for Earth Day this year?

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day 2014 (Photo by Renate de Villiers)

I’ve been noticing two very distinct behaviours with regards to this topic in the hospitality and tourism industry. It goes both ways. Some accommodation establishments have gone the extra mile to increase awareness about environmental responsibility. Many have created their own vegetable gardens and some have even gone to the length of “farming” on site by adding pigs to the establishment’s environmental cycle. As the kitchen throws out vegetable peels, the pigs eat the peels, they get fat, get slaughtered and eventually guests are served organic food. It’s all very clever.

On the other end, we find hospitality and tourism establishments that have not been educated on the subject of environmental responsibility, or those who are not interested in being educated. This is normally not necessarily due to ignorance, but rather due to the fact that they are scared of not being able to pull it off.

Therefore, TMG has compiled a few tips for kicking off your guesthouse, hotel or restaurant’s environmentally responsible operating system:

  • Try to reduce the amount of printing in the office. Rather use PDF’s to send proof of payments, invoices and quotations to guests and suppliers.
  • Replace all light bulbs with energy saving bulbs – inside and outside.
  • Restaurants can create a very romantic feel at their tables by using the popular solar lights in mason jars these days.
  • Wedding venues can incorporate green wedding packages into their marketing strategy – I can promise you: more and more brides want to get married as green as possible (no pun intended).
  • Replace your old shower heads with new, water saving shower heads.(Try Eco Shower for more information).
  • Get tips and ideas from your guests. Put short questionnaires in the rooms or at their breakfast tables asking them for ideas on how to reduce your footprint on the environment. Also let them take part in your initiatives.
  • Use dishwashers (domestic for smaller establishments and industrial for hotels) to save water while washing dishes.
  • Put up notices in the rooms requesting guests to make sure that all taps are closed properly and ask them to leave their towels in the bath when they want them washed. This will prevent housekeeping from washing towels every day, reducing the amount of water utilised for washing.
  • Add recycling bins in the kitchen and train your staff on what goes into which bin. There is no use in adding the bins but the staff still throws glass bottles into the paper or the plastic bin. Training forms a very important part of the smooth running of any company, including the hospitality and tourism industries.

Have you started your journey in becoming friendlier to the environment yet? Share your experience and tips with us by commenting TMG’s blog posts.

For more tips and ideas for Earth Day, visit our Pinterest board: Ideas for #EarthDay2014.

Happy Earth Day to all!

Workshops for April

In addition to TMG’s current customer service workshops and the four social media sessions to attend, we also offer the next couple of workshops in April:

Create your own hotel wheel

We get creative in April and create our own hotel wheels. This is the process that keeps a hotel going – from security checks at the gate, reception, porters, room and restaurant service, through to guest feedback and departure. This process becomes quite intricate when you spend some time thinking about it – it might even end up looking more like the inside of a watch with all the different departments interlinking with each other. This is a great exercise to do with staff that needs to understand the inside of your business.

Create your guesthouse / hotel / restaurant’s own customized customer journey map

While the hotel wheel mainly focuses on the different departments of your business and how they interlink with each other, the customer journey map focuses on the customer’s journey through these different departments. The customer journey map teaches you more about your customers, including different target markets and their expectations, as well as your establishment’s shortcomings and what you should focus on to exceed customer expectations.

(Don’t forget that Travelling Mystery Guest specializes in customized customer journey evaluations. Contact Renate for a quote on enquire@travellingmystery.co.za / 082 336 1562).

Identify problem areas within the hospitality and tourism industry in South Africa

No industry is without problem areas – the same with the hospitality and tourism industries of South Africa. We look at some problem areas that TMG has encountered and identified and brainstorm about it. This session is mainly to see where the industry is lacking and what keeps it from exceeding its customers’ expectations. Come with an open mind, a pen and paper and let’s get to it.

Identify solutions to the problem areas in our hospitality and tourism industry

This is a follow up session to the one above. During this session we will brainstorm and discuss different solutions to the problems we’ve identified. From small things within your own organization to bigger things within the industry – we cover it all.

Book your workshop with Travelling Mystery Guest today – we come to you! Contact Renate on 082 336 1562 or enquire@travellingmystery.co.za. You can also follow her on Twitter (@TravellingMG and @RenateTravel) and Facebook: Travelling Mystery Guest. Also find TMG on LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.

For more workshops, have a look at our list of workshops here: TMG Slideshare

Things we tend to forget

Visiting guesthouses and hotels on a regular basis makes you realise how many things we tend to forget when preparing a room for a guest.

Things we tend to forget

Things we tend to forget (Photo taken at The Wardrobe Guesthouse, Pretoria) – http://thewardrobeguesthouse.co.za/

Owning an accommodation establishment does not necessarily make you an expert on what to put in the rooms; in fact, we tend to overlook a few things due to being so used to the establishment’s offerings. As we know by now – no customer is the same and no target market either. A business traveller might need a two point plug next to his bed as well as at his desk in the room. A family room might be more comfortable for leisure travellers when there is bubble bath for the kids or a pack of cards to play with in the room when the weather is not so pleasant. It is about going that extra mile that everyone speaks about.

Here are a few things TMG noticed many establishments tend to forget to add to their guest rooms. Take note and maybe consider adding this to your rooms for the next guests to increase customer satisfaction and to give them a better experience of your establishment. It might be small things, but isn’t it true that it’s the small things that count?

  • Two point plugs in the rooms for a hairdryer (if there is none provided in the room), cell phone chargers, laptops, etc.
  • Information files in the rooms, providing information on local attractions, restaurants, coffee shops and shopping facilities.
  • It is always great to have a minibar in the room – just remember to stock it before the guests arrive and be sure to explain the payment procedures to them. This service is a preferred service by TMG for business travellers, as they are the ones who might work late in the evenings.
  • Have a look at the lighting in the rooms. This is a big issue, especially for business travellers, at many South African establishments. Be sure that there is ample lighting at the desk area and next to the bed for working and reading purposes, as well as at the mirror areas where ladies might want to do their make-up.
  • Make sure about the correct height for the desk and chair where your guests visiting for business might want to work during the evening. You don’t want to tire them – in fact, you’d like them to feel comfortable and at home, right?
  • Also have a look at the position of all electric sockets in the rooms. The places guests would like to have electric sockets are mainly beside the bed and at the desk area, as well as close to a mirror.
  • Speaking of mirrors – remember that women (and many men too) need a mirror at a comfortable height for blow drying their hair, checking their outfits and doing their makeup. Should there only be mirrors in the bathroom, be sure that the area is secure for an electric socket for things like hairdryers and shavers. This is not the ideal, though. Rather add another mirror in the room itself.

Any more things you’ve noticed guesthouses or hotels tend to forget? Share your views and tips with Travelling Mystery Guest by leaving a comment.

What to look forward to this month

In essence, I’d say there is a lot to look forward to in addition to Travelling Mystery Guest’s workshops… like thunder storms in Jozi, Valentine’s Day, weekend camping (without the thunder storms) and much more. Still, Travelling Mystery Guest also has a lot for you to look forward to, including very exciting workshops on the following topics:

Workshops

Workshops (Picture from Google Images)

And THAT’s why the customer is in charge!

We sometimes tend to think we can sit back and let South Africa do its own marketing with it having won nature’s lottery and all. Unfortunately, with customers becoming more and more educated due to more engagement and involvement via social media, we cannot expect business to fall on our laps. We need to engage with, listen to and learn from our customers. They have the ball in their hands and we need to work on a strategy to ensure that we catch the ball every time. Yes, the customer is in charge. We just need to learn to manage it.

Exceed your customer’s expectations without too much effort

With time mostly not being on our side and the economy being on the down side, it is difficult to see how we can exceed our customers’ expectations without some effort. Travelling Mystery Guest gives hospitality and tourism professionals a few tips on how to identify certain ways in which you can keep customers happy. We need to fall back to the most basic of basics: humanity. We need to remind ourselves that a customer is also just a normal human being and with a little bit of understanding we can keep customers happier than happy. Talk to them like you understand, listen to them like you want to understand and walk towards them as if you are the only one who can help them.

I look forward to all of the above, as well as what you have to say about Travelling Mystery Guest’s workshops. I look forward to experiencing true South African hospitality this month and gaining more insight on customer service and exceeding expectations.

Book your on-site workshop now by contacting Travelling Mystery Guest on 079 110 5674 or enquire@travellingmystery.co.za. Follow TMG on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and stay up to date with the latest happenings.

WORKSHOPS FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY IN 2014

Exceed your customer’s expectations

28 December 2013. Johannesburg. The New Year is upon us and every tourism and hospitality establishment has its own plans for 2014. Whether you are planning on increasing sales or offering more products to your guests, it all comes down to one thing: Customer Service.

Travelling Mystery Guest, a hospitality and tourism consultancy company offering workshops, customer journey evaluations and PR opportunities, will be kicking off the New Year with exciting workshops focusing on South African hospitality, customer service and social media within the travel industry. Guesthouses, B&B’s, lodges, hotel groups, restaurants and even self catering facilities will be able to learn more about the importance of linking social media with customer service and the changes in the average traveller’s purchasing habits.

Workshops will be presented by the company’s founder, Renate de Villiers, and January’s venue is none other than the lovely Africlassic River Lodge in Rivonia. A special thanks to Jan and Magdel van Sandwyk, sponsors of the venue in return for workshop attendance and a customer journey evaluation.

January Workshops

January Workshops

Workshops for January and February:

Johannesburg:

23 January 2014                And THAT’s why the customer is in charge!

30 January 2014                Exceeding your customer’s expectations without too much effort

6 February 2014                Creating and sharing compelling content

7 February 2014                “Face” the “book” of social marketing

13 February 2014              “Tweet” your heart out!

14 February 2014              Google+ and LinkedIn for your small business

Pretoria:

20 February 2014              Creating and sharing compelling content

21 February 2014              “Face” the “book” of social marketing

27 February 2014              “Tweet” your heart out!

28 February 2014              Google+ and LinkedIn for your small business

Travelling Mystery Guest is looking for a venue in Pretoria that might be interested in a trade exchange. For more information, please contact us!

For bookings and more information, contact Renate de Villiers on enquire@travellingmystery.co.za or 079 110 5674. Workshop topics and content information will also be readily available on the TMG blog. ▪▪