Where the experts holiday: Ray Steward of Tauck Tours

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Ray Steward

Ray Steward

Given that the UK has thousands of tour operators, what prompted you to choose to join Tauck? And why are they setting up here?

What I liked about Tauck was the family feel. Arthur Tauck Jnr, who is in his eighties, still goes into the office on Thursdays, not to check sales figures, not to gee up staff but to look at the customer feedback. If that is positive – and it is – then he says that the sales figures will be good too. The emphasis is on customers. There are no add-ons for fuel surcharges, excursions, drinks and no-one will try to sell you anything else. What you pay for when you book is what you get. There are no discounts so no-one feels that they have a bargain over someone else. All passengers on that tour pay the same.  We appeal to families. It’s not uncommon to find three generations of the same family on our tours. It’s that family feel both within the company and with our customers. That’s what I like about Tauck and that’s why I joined.

The reason we are setting up over here is because we get about 4,500 Brits a year on our tours but many will not know that it is a Tauck Tour. It could be branded as something else. Given that one of our products are river cruises where there has been a strong demand from Brits it seemed good business sense to set up an office over here and sell under our own name.  On those river tours there are fewer passengers than some boats so that we can look after passengers better, there will be a land based employee who will be on the look-out for problems like falling river levels so that they can talk directly to the guide on the boat so that problems are resolved before they happen.

What do you like to do on holiday?

Piazza Mayor Terraza in  Madrid

Piazza Mayor Terraza in Madrid

Exploration is for me. Not by trekking where no person has gone before but by exploring those places that you visit. Madrid is full of sights to see but many just go and visit the hot tourist spots. Go down little alleys; stop at a street café and watch what the rest of the world is doing hilst you eat tapas and have a mojito. Take time to wander. Having said that though, one of the things I do want to do is to visit the national parks in the US. Tauck offers tours visiting some and I think I’ll be one of the holidaymakers on one of those trips.

I like the way that Tauck caters to that exploration. We have a tour of the Vatican but instead of it being with 200 other people and you are amongst the crowds possibly missing something, Tauck has tours when the tourists have gone. You see more, appreciate more and go home knowing that you have done something other holidaymakers haven’t done.

Where would you recommend people travel?  

France is so close to us that many people don’t appreciate just what is there to see and enjoy. We don’t give it a chance. So one thing I must do is to go back to southern France and see all those things I missed. Further afield, I suggest Chiang Mai in Thailand and definitely South America. It’s such a huge place that there is always more to see. And Peru and Patagonia are really popular with our customers so I must see more of them as well.

What destination do you really want to visit?

Yosemite Park and a valley view

Yosemite Park and a valley view

It has to be those national parks in America.  They’re bigger than any we have, there’s different wildlife, they have massive sequoias and I’m told it has a beauty all of its own.  When Arthur Tauck Jnr joined, he hired an aeroplane and flew of parts of the US deciding where he could take holidaymakers. When he landed his father threw him the keys of the company and handed it over to him. So Tauck Tours began when he explored and decided where he wanted to go. Passengers queued up to go to those places as well.

Do you know where your next holiday is?

I have no idea. It is such a busy year that when I grab some time, it might be the Canaries because there is always sun there or it could be France. I’ll just have to see what the year brings.

How do you research your holidays?

Like everyone else, I look at guide books, the internet and I read articles and watch programmes. But I’m lucky. Working for a tour operator means I can use our brochures as reference and talk to our guides and staff about what they recommend. But then our customers can do that as well.

The two Arthurs - senior and junior- being different

The two Arthurs – senior and junior- being different

How do you see the future?

With so many companies providing holidays, the companies that succeed will be those that are different otherwise the only thing that they can compete on is price. Tauck is different because it majors on customer service and making everyone feel special. But that only works if the holidays are special too. Like the tour of the Vatican that I mentioned earlier.


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