Do you know that feeling when you meet a complete stranger, and yet within a few minutes feel that you have known them for years and feel relaxed and comfortable in their company? Jan Lumley, Tour Manager for One Traveller, is just that kind of person.
So what are the qualities of a perfect Tour Manager? How about enthusiasm, warmth, charm and a relaxed and easy-going manner? Combined with extensive knowledge and many years of experience of course! Jan Lumley ticks all of these boxes and it’s easy to see why she is one of the most popular Tour Managers in the One Traveller team with many customers requesting her tours and following her around the world.
Formerly an advertising girl at Saatchi & Saatchi where she worked on the Reckitt & Colman account, Jan turned 50 at the start of the century and decided that there must be more to life than Dettol & Harpic. So she packed her bags and went to Italy, her favourite country, where she reinvented herself as a tour guide around Lake Garda.
A few years later in 2008, Ian Darkin started One Traveller, a specialist tour operator for single travellers aged 55+. He wanted to create a friendly programme of tours, and naturally he needed Tour Managers who would be his brand ambassadors and deliver those tours to his exacting high standards.
He didn’t have to look for long, and Jan happily joined the team a couple of years later, initially based around Lake Garda, where she prided herself on finding the hidden treasures of the region, continually surprising and delighting her guests, even the ones who thought they knew the area well. She then spread her wings as the Italian portfolio grew, and her winter itineraries took her much further afield to Asia as One Traveller developed its range of tours across the world.
Jan soon found herself visiting the kind of places she had only ever dreamed of seeing, and she happily recalls a very special moment which was her first flight over the Himalayas and visiting Khatmandu as well as the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Jan is now one of the most experienced Tour Managers in the One Traveller team, and that experience shines through as she explains how she manages each tour, always working out the range of walking abilities in the group right at the start, and then adapting the pace accordingly ensuring that slower walkers do not get left behind, and the faster ones do not feel that they are having to wait. This is a fine art and involves Jan unobtrusively sweeping up the rear on occasions, as well as a clever use of audio guides to keep all of the group informed, whatever their pace.
Another secret is knowing when to talk, and when to stop talking, when to tell a joke, and when to be serious, when to give lots of information and when that risks becoming a history lesson that sends everyone to sleep!
One Traveller use larger coaches which means that most people can have two seats if they want to spend some independent time and are not obliged to share, although others enjoy this. What’s more, guests stay in double rooms for sole occupancy without any single supplements in quality four and five-star hotels. All excursions, most meals, drinks and a host of extra touches are included.
How about tours for those customers for whom mobility is becoming a little more limited? Whilst you need to be able to step on and off the coach, Jan knows how to manage the excursions which are easy and flat, such as Verona, and the ones which are a little harder on the legs, such as Venice. Although of course there’s always the option to relax by taking a gondola!
Jan says that there’s a difference between the types of people who take longhaul tours with One Traveller, who tend to be more adventurous explorers, and those who take tours closer to home and enjoy the companionship and familiarity of the group.
She tells stories of lifelong friendships that have been forged, including two ladies who befriended one another on their first solo tour, and now continue to travel with One Traveller, booking independently but meeting up and spending the tour together.
It’s a real “Friendship Club” says Jan warmly, and she counts many friends of her own amongst her clients. Travelling alone has never been so sociable! It’s no wonder that 80% of One Travellers clients return time and again.
These days Jan spends part of the year in Kent to have more time with her grandchildren, but she still guides tours and enjoys the pleasures and unexpected moments that give her work such variety and pleasure.
When I think of my own grandmother who seemed to spend most of her time sitting in an armchair and did not even have a passport, I can only reflect on how times have changed in the last 50 years. Jan is certainly one cool grandmother and I hope her grandchildren know how lucky they are.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends One Traveller.