Here's something we've neglected to blog about, repeatedly, following the very British attitude of 'not tooting your own trumpet' (although we did cover it on other social media). Earlier in 2020, Peter Sommer Travels received the AITO (the UK's Specialist Travel Association) Tour Operator of the Year Silver Award for 2019. In what is obviously a difficult year for any specialised travel operator, this made us very happy and also very proud. On the occasion of the fifth AITO award for Peter Sommer Travels, permit us to briefly toot that trumpet only for the second time on this blog.
The AITO Awards were introduced four years ago, in 2016 - so the first set was for 2015. Since that year, AITO has been maintaining its very own review system, and the awards are based entirely on that: on reviews by the clients of AITO's member companies, more exactly by guests who have travelled with the respective company during the year concerned. This is why we value the AITO Awards so highly: they are a direct reflection of what our guests think about their Peter Sommer Travels experience in the preceding year. For us, that is the most important metric of them all.
Looking at the first five years of the AITO Awards system, we are thrilled to realise that we are not just the only operator to have won the Gold Award twice, for 2015 and 2017, but also the only one to be in the top two every year since the awards were introduced, having won Silver for 2016, 2018 and (jointly) for 2019. (Toot!)
Beyond tooting, for the most recent award, we owe a debt of gratitude to our many guests during the 2019 travel season (which was a record-breaking one for us in many regards). You know who you are! Thank you for making the effort to review our tours, and thank you for having enjoyed them!
Our gratitude doesn't stop there. We see our ongoing success in the AITO Award scheme as a reflection of the sustained effort that goes into all tours and cruises with Peter Sommer Travels, an effort that entails many dedicated people, all of whom deserve their trumpet toot:
- Our office staff, who communicate with our guests before they take a trip, helping them to choose and advising them on so many practicalities. These people, whom most of our guests talk to but never meet, are vital to what we do, culminating on the days of arrival and departure, days when Peter Sommer Travels' phones and computers in Monmouth are red-hot from so many calls and mails, coordinating that everyone gets to their gulet or their hotel, to meet their fellow travellers and guides, so they can settle into their travel experience. We should mention the organisation of our private charters and tailor-made land tours here as well - a big job that only works when done to perfection!
- Our academic guides and our experts in six countries, who spend so much time and effort preparing their narratives, and then delivering them, modifying them, offering our guests unique and hands-on insights into the regions we travel, from bringing the archaeological monuments and sites to life, via explaining local history and lore, to sharing the pleasures of an area's culinary traditions. They also look after our guests' specific needs and interests every day during a tour and they conduct the on-the-ground logistics of one exciting day after another. While on tour, they're as close to a 24/7 job as it gets, and they define the very experience of our escorted tours.
- The many further people in six countries that help us create these experiences: specialised archaeologists or historians at certain sites, wonderful chefs and dedicated service staff at the restaurants we so carefully select, and likewise at the hotels we choose, our authoritative captains and intrepid crews on the gulet cruises, our hard-working bus drivers on land tours, and many more. They all have their part to play...
- Last but certainly not least, the staff at our trusted partner offices in the countries we travel. All of them highly professional, they help us make our vision of a trip become reality on the ground. We know that we're not the easiest of clients, because our demands are always for the highest quality and the best service, and our itineraries are often a little out of the ordinary, using small hotels, visiting off-the-beaten-track sites, demanding flexible timings and so on. Our local partners are central in preparing the ground and making the logistics work.
Thank you to all of you. We hope to work with you soon again, to continue proving that the result of our efforts is much more than the sum of its parts!
And if you come across this post as a potential traveller, the award reflects what we strive to do on any Peter Sommer Travels trip, namely to make the most effort we can, so as to to create the best possible travel experience, helped by the most talented people at each step!
Quoting from our post about the 2017 AITO Award: Our aim is simply to make our tours the best-prepared trips of their kind available, in all six countries we currently cover, by land or by sea. Our tours are usually the result of years of painstaking research and hands-on preparation, leaving no stone unturned to offer the best and most fascinating aspects of an area and never cutting corners on the quality of the experiences we offer, from archaeological site tours via meals to accommodation. It doesn't stop there: once our tours are up and running, our tour experts and guides go out of their way to present a riveting and accessible narrative of a region, to share their passion for history and culture with our guests, and to look after the needs of our groups at all times.
Join us in 2021!