Guided tours and making it personal at the National Gallery, with Katie Weller

In this Skip the Queue podcast episode I speak with Katie Weller, Travel Trade Sales Manager at The National Gallery.

Katie Weller has been appointed Travel Trade Sales Manager at the National Gallery. Joining the fascinating world of art, she is excited to be embarking on a new challenge. Having worked in the tourism, entertainment and leisure industry for over 18 years, her roles have ranged from working at James Villa Holidays as a Travel Advisor, Tour Guide at Shakespeare’s Globe to PA for the critically acclaimed band Westlife.

Starting her trade career at a top ten visitor attraction- Royal Museums Greenwich as Trade Sales Executive, she developed an award-winning product for the international education market and gained a wealth of knowledge about trade. Katie then went on to work as Trade Manager at the iconic Westminster Abbey and went on to open her own business as a successful sweet shop during the pandemic. She is now very excited to be developing and launching new products at the National Gallery.

“If you’re not necessarily an art buff, you can walk inside the Gallery, it can be quite overwhelming because you don’t really know where to start, what to look at.”

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • The process of developing new paid guided tours, making the gallery inclusive for all
  • How travel trade works for attractions

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.

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The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson 

Our guest, Katie Weller



Kelly Molson: Katie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. It’s lovely to meet you.

Katie Weller: Thank you so much. I’m really excited to be here.

Kelly Molson: Ah, me too. We’ve been chatting for a little while on LinkedIn, haven’t we? So I’m glad that we’ve got this booked in the diary now. So I’m going to ask you loads of questions. We’ve got something really exciting to talk about but first, icebreaker questions.

Katie Weller: Yes, go for it.

Kelly Molson: Okay. What sport would you compete in if you were in the Olympics?

Katie Weller: Oh gosh, that’s a hard one, isn’t it? I’m actually rubbish at sports. Oh gosh. What would I go for? I was always good at javelin. Is that a sport?

Kelly Molson: Yeah.

Katie Weller: Can I compete in that?

Kelly Molson: Absolutely.

Katie Weller: Let’s go for it. I’m going javelin.

Kelly Molson: All right. I like it. Take your anger out.

Katie Weller: Exactly.

Kelly Molson: All right. Last place that you went on holiday?

Katie Weller: Oh, we went to Mykonos in Greece.

Kelly Molson: Oh, lovely.

Katie Weller: Well, so it was supposed to be… So I’m getting married in a couple of months and so it was my hen do. And we managed to do the hen, but not the wedding. I was happy with that as long as I… 

Kelly Molson: This bit.

Katie Weller: Exactly. And do you know what? It was just so lovely to get on a plane and travel again. So yeah, we had a brilliant time. Spent way too much money, but yeah, absolutely fantastic.

Kelly Molson: Oh, lovely. What a treat. I’ll bet you had a whale of a time.

Katie Weller: Oh, we did.

Kelly Molson: We won’t ask because what goes on in hen stays on hen.

Katie Weller: Exactly. I think it’s for the best.

Kelly Molson: All right. If you could choose any two famous people to have dinner with, who would they be?

Katie Weller: Gosh. Leonardo DiCaprio, just because he’s always been my number one. I’d always have him at the table there. And the second one, who would I… Does it have to be someone alive?

Kelly Molson: No, it can be anyone you want.

Katie Weller: I would go for Van Gogh.

Kelly Molson: Wow.

Katie Weller: It would be a bit of a messy dinner party, but I think he would just be so amazing to talk with, try and get into his brain. Yeah, I’m going to go Van Gogh and Leo. What a party. Do you like an invite?

Kelly Molson: What a mix. Will there be cocktails?

Katie Weller: I think we’ll need it.

Kelly Molson: I’m there. All right. Katie, what is your unpopular opinion?

Katie Weller: Oh, do you know what? I’ve really been thinking about this and I didn’t think it was an unpopular opinion, but it clearly is and I’ve got a lot of passion about it. Crocs should stay in hospitals. I can’t even look at them. They’re just the most ugliest shoes. How last year they were like trending number one? Why people put them on their feet? It really upsets me. You will never, ever see me in Crocs, ever.

Kelly Molson: Wow. That is a massive passion.

Katie Weller: Can you feel my anger? This is why I want to do javelin.

Kelly Molson: Now, listen, I’m just going to say, I should probably hook you up with Michelle from Eureka The National Children’s Museum, because she was very passionate about wearing Crocs with socks at work.

Katie Weller: She wants to do that?

Kelly Molson: No, she does do that. Yeah, no, she does.

Katie Weller: Each to their own, but not for me.

Kelly Molson: All right. Okay.

Katie Weller: Fantastic quote.

Kelly Molson: They are. Let’s see what our listeners feel about that. I think there might be a few people that agree with you on that one.

Katie Weller: Yeah, I think since lockdown a lot of people went in that direction. But yeah, not for me. Sorry, guys.

Kelly Molson: Those things. Okay. Love it. Katie, tell me a little bit about your background before we get onto what we’re going to talk about today.

Katie Weller: Yes, really I’ve been in arts and tourism for about a 20 years, which makes me feel really old now. So I started off as just a theatre steward, so working in the local theatres, and I loved it. How cool to be able to get paid and just watch shows? And back then I thought I was going to be an actor. And obviously life changes, you realise you need to get paid. So I didn’t end up going down that route, but I always had a passion for it.

So in terms of getting involved in sort of travel trade, that was a bit later on. I was a PA for a very famous boy band, Westlife, if you’ve heard of them. So I’ve had lots of random jobs as well. But yeah, it was the Globe Theater. So I was a tour guide there for quite a few years and absolutely loved it. And that’s really where I started sort of finding out about travel trade.

We attended a few shows and then from there I started at Royal Museums Greenwich, and that’s where I really started my career, built up all of my contacts and really got to learn about travel trade and just loved it. It’s such a niche thing. And a lot of people don’t understand what travel trade is and how it works.

Kelly Molson: Well, actually, for the benefit of our listeners that might not know, can you explain what that actually means?

Katie Weller: Yeah, definitely. So you will actually find in a lot of attractions, they have a travel trade and groups department. So travel trade works on a business to business basis. So we would push our product through third party platforms. So I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention names on here?

Kelly Molson: Yeah, go for it.

Katie Weller: Like Virgin Experience Days or Viatour or Golden Tours. I’m not pulling out favourites at all here, but it just means that you are pushing out your reach to new markets, new audiences that you wouldn’t necessarily get in otherwise. You pay them a commission and in return they push out your marketing, they’ll do campaigns for you and they just drive in different people. So yeah, most attractions have a travel trade team, but a lot of people just don’t really understand what it is. But it’s a huge income driver to attractions.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, great explanation.

Katie Weller: I hope that makes sense.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, it made perfect sense. And I also really appreciate that you thought we were a little bit like the BBC there and you couldn’t mention other brands on it.

Katie Weller: I know. I know. Well, just in case. I’m going to get other partners ringing me now like, “Why didn’t you mention me?” Sorry.

Kelly Molson: All right. So this is really exciting. So we had a little chat on LinkedIn quite a while ago actually now, isn’t it? We were chatting. But National Gallery, where you are now, is launching paid for guided tours which are geared towards kind of tourist, domestic and international.

Katie Weller: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelly Molson: This is really exciting because the National Gallery is a free gallery. So you don’t need to pay to go into this. So this is quite a new thing that they’re launching. How did this idea come about?

Katie Weller: So it’s a bit of a long story. With the National Gallery, yes, it’s always been free of charge. However, it can be for, not just for an international customer, for a domestic one as well, if you’re not necessarily an art buff, you can walk inside the Gallery, it can be quite overwhelming because you don’t really know where to start, what to look at. So we know there is a demand for tours because they’re coming in anyway. So they’re coming in.

So other tour companies are charging the customers and they’re coming in and doing tours. So the issue with that… It’s great because there’s a demand there and we know people want to be educated and that’s what we want to do. We want to educate them on our amazing collection.

However, sometimes with that, it means that we haven’t really got any quality control over what’s being said. A lot of people think they’re buying an official National Gallery tour and it’s not. So we get customers coming through to us. So for us, how it all came about really is my head of department, Claire, she looks after events and our catering team as well. And next year we’re closing our Sainsbury Wing.

So the entrance is actually going to be the Portico Terrace, so the beautiful steps going up, only because we are just completely redeveloping that side of the Gallery. And it means that we lose a lot of our daytime space. So we would normally get a lot of income coming through from daytime hire, that’s going to be lost. So she thought, “Do you know what? Let’s bring in travel trade.”

We actually worked together at Royal Museums Greenwich so she was head of events there. And she just saw the benefit that travel trade had and she knew there’s a demand for tours. So she just decided, “Let’s get up and running.” So it wasn’t really anything off the back of COVID. It was always there as a plan because we knew we had those closures coming up.

Kelly Molson: That’s interesting. Yeah, because that was going to be one of my questions, actually, was this something that came out of COVID? Because obviously being a free museum during that time, it’s really difficult. You’ve got additional challenges that some of the paid institutes might not have had in terms of raising funding and keeping the building and the paintings safe and looked after. So yeah, it’s really interesting that hasn’t come from that, which is a good thing.

Katie Weller: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: I guess an element of it has been about customer feedback, right? Like you said, there is a demand for it because people are already booking tours elsewhere.

Katie Weller: Well, yeah, and they’re paying anything between 10 pounds… You’ll be amazed at what has been pushed down there. PDFs, where customers pay 10 pounds for a PDF and walk around. So that’s what I mean about the quality. You think we want to mirror a high quality tour in line with the National Gallery, but some people are paying up to 400 pounds for a tour that’s happening during the day.

So we want to make sure that it’s a fair price but we are delivering a top quality experience as well. I think people… Yes, we are free of charge, but the British Museum, they do the same thing. So you do have paid for tours as well. And I’m such a tourist. When I go abroad, I always pay for a tour because I think it’s the best way. You’ve got an hour, for example. The international market, they’re very tight on time. They’ve got one hour, what’s the best way to do it? Actually, not everyone wants to do the free thing where you walk for… People want to have a better understanding of where they are.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, that’s interesting that you mentioned the time thing, isn’t it? Because if you’ve just got that restriction you would want someone to show you the best of the best, “I’m coming to this gallery. What is the best thing that I need to see while here? What’s the thing that I can’t leave without seeing?” And actually, if you are kind of left to your own devices, you might not find it. You might not know where it is and your time is then gone.

Katie Weller: Exactly. So I just think, with the guided tours, we are really going to ensure that it is a highlights tour. You could go on a tour with a curator or you could have a bespoke experience. Most of these tourists, they just want to get a sense of the Gallery. They want to hear brilliant stories that you just can’t pick out of a book or, “Let’s talk about the fun stuff.” I said to the Blue Badge Guides, I was like, “Sex, drugs, rock and roll.” I was like, “That’s what they want to hear.” I was like, “Maybe not too extreme.

It is the National Gallery, but let’s tell them just brilliant stories and they’ll leave and …” And when you go on tours, do you remember the dates? Not really. You remember the amazing stories that they tell you. So yeah, the guides have been brilliant at putting this all together and we’ve sort of left them to their own devices because their knowledge far exceeds mine. So yeah, really, really looking forward to pushing them out.

Kelly Molson: It’s really the stories thing is something that keeps coming up and up again, again, again on the podcast too. We just spoke to Kelly Wessell from London Zoo and she was kind of talking about the visitor experience and engaging people back, like their team, back to the zoo, getting them to fall back in love with the zoo. And she was saying that it is the stories that they know that makes people’s experience better on the day. And it’s only the stories that the team know, like little things about, I don’t know, the giraffe house and how that was constructed. And it’s those stories that make the visit more memorable for people. And that’s what people are looking for, isn’t it? To make that more kind of personalised and more special.

Katie Weller: Well, that’s it, it’s about personalisation. And it does make them feel special because they probably think they might be the only person that’s been told that. And also the Blue Badge Guides, we’ve said to them, “It’s flexible. If you want to tell a different story on a different tour, that’s absolutely fine.” Obviously, they keep to a bit of a structure, but if they’ve got something cool to tell, go for it.

Kelly Molson: So the tours, so how have they been developed? You decided, “We need a tour.” How do you work out what are the highlights that people need to see on this tour?

Katie Weller: Yeah, so really, it’s been six months in the making. I don’t know why I gave myself this, but I was like, “April, that’s the go.” I think it’s beginning of financial year. You go, “Yeah, that’s fine.” But obviously, it’s quite hard to push out something new especially in a Gallery as well. So everything can be a bit slower, I guess, and it has to be approved at so many different levels. But really, starting off with the tours, initially, we’d love to have kept it in house, but of course the resource isn’t available at the moment.

So we decided, “All right, second best thing is to use the Blue Badge Guides.” They’ve just got such a wealth of knowledge and they’re accredited. Tourists trusts them. They know what a Blue Badge Guide is. And the joy of having the Blue Badge Guides is that there is such a large pool of them. They can speak in different languages so that means that we can offer multi-language tours as well if you’re a private group.

And they guide inside the Gallery anyway so they know the space very well. And they were so excited at this opportunity. I think we went to a show, it was a trade show on the Strand and it was just a happy accident. I bumped into a lovely Blue Badge Guide called Sarah. And she said, “Oh, you’re from the National Gallery?” I said, “Oh, well actually I’m looking for some Blue Badge Guides.” She was like, “Right, that’s it. I’m your main contact going forward.”

And Sarah Reynolds, her name is, and she’s been brilliant at… I just gave her a brief and I just said, “Storytelling.” I know I keep going back to this, but I was like, “You need to tell great stories. I don’t want the tourists to be drowned in facts. Let’s make it fun for them.” In terms of highlights, it’s a difficult one but it is up to the guide. Obviously, we’ve got some of the most famous paintings in the world. So we’ve got Van Gogh Sunflowers. We’ve got the Turner. We can’t guarantee on any given day that they will necessarily see those pieces of art.

So we don’t promise that they’re going to see those paintings because the paintings move around quite a lot. We might have room closures, depending on what’s going on. So the tour is very flexible, so we really do leave it up to them. But as I say, for us, it really is about bringing the Gallery to life and just telling the best stories they can, but yeah, without going into too much depth. It can make people feel unwelcome and a bit out of their comfort zone if you start going into so much detail.

Kelly Molson: So this was one of my questions, actually, about accessibility. So I think when we chatted and what you’ve mentioned at the start of this chat is that the National Gallery, it can seem a bit daunting for people if they’re not art buffs or they maybe feel that it’s not the place for them.

Katie Weller: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: So yeah, part of what you’ve described, in terms of accessibility, different languages and things like that, how do you make people feel that these are inclusive for them, that it is for me or for Joe down the road?

Katie Weller: Yeah, I think this is going to be a really interesting year in terms of learning as we go. There’s going to be a lot of test and trial. Actually, only last week we had some EDI training, so equality, diversity, inclusivity training that was put on by the Gallery and it really opened my eyes up. It’s such a big beast, doesn’t it? And there’s so many things to tackle.

So I think it’s really important when you push out a product, you’ve got to keep developing it. You can’t just leave it. It’s not done. It’s not done with, so we really need to listen to our customer feedback, “How can we make them more inclusive?” So I don’t know. I think that would just be a thing as we go and we will have to develop and change it. But we are aware that people have that view of us and we are actually going to be celebrating NG 200 soon and we want to change our customer welcome and we want to make it more friendly.

And that’s the whole part with the Sainsbury Wing at the moment, it’s not very friendly. It’s not a friendly welcome. So we’re going to get rid of the big black gates and we’re going to make it more open. It’s going to feel a lot more airy in there, whereas at the moment it can be, like you say, a bit daunting, I think, for customers. We want the Gallery to be for everyone. So that’s really important.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I think that is really important at the moment, because we need to get more people back to seeing these incredible spaces that we have and the incredible artwork that you have. People kind of need to see themselves there to be able to do that, don’t they?

Katie Weller: Yeah, of course. So we’ve got a lot of people coming on lunch breaks as well. So if they work around here, people do just come in on their lunch break, which is lovely.

Kelly Molson: That is really nice. That’s something that I spoke with Jon Young, from BVA BDRC, which I might have just said wrong because I always say that wrong. But he was saying how he loves that flexibility of just being able to pop somewhere after work because he’s in London and I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s really nice.” I’m not in London so there isn’t really anywhere that you just pop to. And I’m like, “How lovely would that be, just to be on your lunch break and go, ‘I’m just going to go and look at Van Gogh on my lunch break?'”

Katie Weller: Exactly. Why not? Or Mondays with Monet?

Kelly Molson: I love that. Is that a thing? That needs to be a thing.

Katie Weller: Do you like it? Yeah, I might do that tour on a Monday, Monday with Monet. I think it’s something… I read an article about this. I think that was yesterday, actually. And they were saying people aren’t traveling into London as much, maybe two to three times a week, because there’s that hybrid way of working which we do at the Gallery as well.

And when people are in London, actually, they want to make more of their time while they’re here. So I think people are starting to do that. And actually, “What can I do? I’m in London. I’ve paid to come I’m in. What else can I do when I’m here?” So yeah, I think there’s going to be a bit of a change there. But yeah, always welcome. Anyone who’s around the National Gallery, come in on your lunch break, come on a tour.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I really love that. Yeah, do the tour. Monet Mondays, like that.

Katie Weller: Do you reckon I’ve got something going there?

Kelly Molson: Ticked a massive box there.

Katie Weller: Probably right.

Kelly Molson: You mentioned the Blue Badge team that you’re working with.

Katie Weller: Yes.

Kelly Molson: And I know that you are leaving it up to them. But there must be some way that you kind of map out what they have to do, like where they take people around the Gallery. Do you have a loose plan of how you work it out or is it just like free reign to them to say, over to you, what do you think you should deliver to someone?

Katie Weller: Yeah, as I say, they’ve got a structure. However, because the Gallery, on any given day, we might have 10 rooms that are shut so it has to be flexible. They can’t have set routes. So that’s really important because also we are looking at pushing out not only the daytime tours but our exclusive tours as well when we can. So with that, we might have an event being set up.

So they might not be able to go in the room that they always go in. So it’s really important that they have that flexibility. But they’re brilliant at it. And also I’ve been on the tours obviously just to make sure that they are saying what we want to… Again, it’s just reviewing as we go along and really listening to the customer and their feedback and we can change as we go.

But I have full faith in the Blue Badge Guides because they’re just so fantastic at what they do. They’ve got a huge amount of passion for it. So I can’t imagine we’ll get many complaints from people saying they haven’t covered the highlights. Because they’ve got it, they know what they’re doing. It’s not in my place to tell them otherwise. But, yeah. But no, we will review as we move forward.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I love that process. It’s about iteration, isn’t it? So you’ll run them, you’ll run a feedback process and then find out what your customers are really thinking about it. And then I guess just kind of evolving those tours as you go along.

Katie Weller: Absolutely. And it’s so important to listen because what if, all of a sudden, well, once international tourism really starts to make a comeback, maybe we can start doing French tours on a Friday. I don’t know why I have to make this rhyme, French on Fridays.

Kelly Molson: But I like what you do there.

Katie Weller: Yeah, I know. I’ve just realised. So if there’s a demand for it, let’s go for it. So yeah, that’s really an important part of the process for me, just reviewing that feedback on a really regular basis. And next week, we’re doing staff tours. So I think it’s really important. We are driving out this new product, actually let the staff be part of it. What do they think? What’s their feedback? It’s just as important.

Kelly Molson: That is a really, really relevant point actually, because if they don’t know what to expect and they can’t answer questions about them either, can they? They don’t know what the tour actually holds for them.

Katie Weller: Yeah, and working in a big place like the National Gallery, communication is key. And we’ve actually put together some operational processes in place. We’ve got some PDFs so if they’ve got frequently asked questions from customers, they’ve got something there in front of them. If not, they can obviously come through to me. But that communication element we’ve really tried to lay the groundwork now so there’s not so many issues when the tours do kick off.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, you mentioned lates. So you mentioned like evening, after hours or when when the Gallery is not open events, which is really exciting. I think that that is such a treat to go somewhere when it’s closed, isn’t it? That you are like, “Oh, nobody’s in here. This is exciting.” And I know that those lates have worked really well for other organisations as well.

So prior to the pandemic we worked with Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, and they ran a series of lates for adults. And they were incredible. They were so much fun because obviously it’s a children’s museum so all of the galleries are geared towards children and they’re fun and entertainment. But really, the adults just want to get in there and have a bit of a go.

Katie Weller: Oh yeah. Well, didn’t they do that with their dinosaur sleepovers, that they did it for adults?

Kelly Molson: Absolutely. Yes, at the Natural History Museum.

Katie Weller: At the Natural History Museum. Yeah.

Kelly Molson: And then yoga. They did yoga sessions at the Natural Museum. And I just think that’s such a massive opportunity, isn’t it? So what might that be that you’re going to instill?

Katie Weller: So with that, we’ve had so much excitement. So every time I say, “Oh, the out of hours tours…” Since coming out of the pandemic, people, they want new experiences and they want to do things which are Instagrammable if you like. “Look at me. I’m in an empty National Gallery.” It might not be empty. We’re probably setting up for events and there’s curators walking around and conservation, but that’s all part of the experience.

Also for me, we’re in central London. There’s that beautiful hour between six and seven where a lot of the attractions have closed. People are milling about because they’re waiting to go to dinner or they’re waiting to go to the theatre. Actually. let’s plot some tours in and use that time where they can come in and have an absolutely fantastic experience.

People are willing to pay a higher price point because it’s more exclusive. So I have no doubt that they will do very well. Our partners are so keen to get those up on sale. And yeah, I can’t wait. And we will develop other products as we go, but initially we’ll just be pushing out the daytime tours followed by the out of hours.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, that’s a great time as well, what you said, isn’t it? Six to seven, because it is a bit of a dead time while, like you said, you’re waiting between stuff or maybe waiting for the later train home so it’s not busy.

Katie Weller: Exactly. And we’re right in the middle of London so it’s like all these people wandering about, “Come in, come in.” But again, we’re going to make sure that it really is about that quality experience. So we’ll only have 25 people on that tour which makes it a bit more special as well.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I love that level of exclusivity. It does make it feel like a real treat, doesn’t it?

Katie Weller: Definitely.

Kelly Molson: All right. So let’s talk about the benefits. What is this going to bring to the Gallery? Because it’s obviously going to bring in revenue, but it’s going to hopefully bring in a new audience.

Katie Weller: Well, that’s it, isn’t it? It’s bringing in those new markets, those new audiences, which we wouldn’t necessarily be able to target otherwise or it would be really, really expensive for us to do so. So that’s why we use trade because that maximises our marketing budget as well. So it will be really interesting to sort of review who is coming in and we’ll capture all of this data as and when bookings come through. And yeah, we’ll just go from there. But I can’t remember what your question was now because I’ve just gone off.

Kelly Molson: It was about what is it going to bring the Gallery? But I think one of the things that you just mentioned there is about using trade again. And I think this is quite important to highlight. Because one of the questions that I was going to ask you was where’s the price point for these and how do you buy them? Are they available to buy? Can we go and get a tour now? But you’re actually going to sell them through a third party.

Katie Weller: Yeah, so I guess it’s a little bit different here because at the National Gallery, there’s no products to necessarily push out. Or there is, but through commercial, like the exhibitions, but we don’t touch those. Or they are using us, I guess, as a bit of a trial to see how it goes with the tours, push them out to trade, iron out any problems. And it would make sense for them to sell it B2C, business to client, eventually. So that will probably happen.

But initially, if you want to book a ticket it would be through those trade platforms, like I said before, Golden Tours or Expedia or any of those platforms. Because I guess it really is probably geared more towards the international market, but it is domestic as well. And something really important to remember, pre pandemic, the Gallery, 80% were international tourists, 20% were domestic. Obviously, there’s been a bit of a change during the pandemic, but it’s really important that we don’t forget about our international audience.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, definitely. And I guess it’s a good way to trial it working as well, isn’t it, rather than committing? So if you think about the process of where attractions have been able to reopen after the pandemic but it has to be buy a ticket in advance, times ticketing as well. That’s a big financial commitment to make in terms of your digital processes. Someone’s got to manage that process, get it all up and running. This gives you a way of operating like that but without those digital financial commitments until you know that it’s working.

Katie Weller: Absolutely. And it makes it nice and easy for the team who will then push it out because everything’s done for them. They can just go, “Okay, that process has worked well, that hasn’t.” And they will review it and I’m positive they will push out the tours. When I say to people that we’re doing tours they are, “Has the National Gallery not got tours anyway?” And they do.

Sometimes they put on random free tours, but it’s not necessarily advertised, “It’s this time every day.” So it is sort of as and when people will come in, “I’ll join this tour.” So we just want to put structured tours in place like most other places do, like the British Museum. We did a lot of benchmarking for the price points. I know you mentioned about those. We do have to be careful because we are free of charge. But that’s why we did a benchmarking exercise and things might change.

We might push these out and actually those out of hours tours, they might go up in price. They’re 35 pounds for the out of hours, which I think is fair. And I think we don’t want to outsell… Is that the right word, outsell? Because you think some people, if we go into corporate, they’ve got a lot of money to spend. But actually your general tourist, you don’t want to push it out so that it’s not attainable. Does that make sense?

Kelly Molson: Yeah, it can’t be unaffordable to people, especially to a new demographic that you’re hoping to bring to Gallery and that going back to what we said about making it accessible for more people and for all. You don’t want to kind of out price yourself. But then also, on the flip side, it is a very exclusive tour. 25 people on a tour, that’s very small. That’s really kind of exclusive, isn’t it, for an out of hours? So yeah, you’ve got to try and get that balance right to what that’s going to look like.

Katie Weller: And again, it’s all test and trial, isn’t it? And I think if they’re really in demand, we can push it up a bit, then fantastic. Great. But yeah, again, it’s just a matter of reviewing it and seeing what happens. But I’m hoping for lots of sold out tours.

Kelly Molson: I have no doubt there will be. But we’re recording this. This is the end of March we’re recording it. It’s the 30th March today. When do the tours go on sale?

Katie Weller: So actually one of our partners went live yesterday.

Kelly Molson: Oh wow.

Katie Weller: So you’ll see, over the next couple of weeks, ticketing will go live. It’s been a bit challenging because there’s been so many loopholes to go through. And there were no contracts in place so I’ve been working very closely with legal and with finance. And putting these processes in place, it’s things that you don’t think about when you’re developing a product. And we’ve just had to make sure that we’ve got that right ahead of going live. And we had to put in a system that would fully support travel trade as well for our ticketing and making sure that we can connect live with partners. So there’s been lots of stuff going on in the background. But the tours start April 12th.

Kelly Molson: Oh, amazing. Literally, a couple of weeks.

Katie Weller: And then I decided to get married a few months… I don’t know why I did this to myself.

Kelly Molson: When is the wedding?

Katie Weller: June, June the 6th. I keep forgetting the date. So obviously, I’m the whole team at the moment. I am travel trade so I’ve already given Claire, my head of department, the heads up, “I hope you’re available because I might need a bit of help.” But we’ll build and we’ll expand as we get into next year and what have you.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, definitely. And listen, hopefully, you’ll only get married once.

Katie Weller: Exactly. Well, let’s hope for the best. We got through the pandemic, so…

Kelly Molson: Oh, Katie, thank you so much for coming on. It’s been a real pleasure to talk to you today. I love the passion and enthusiasm that you’ve got for this.

Katie Weller: It’s been lovely. Oh, thank you.

Kelly Molson: I’m looking forward to coming and visiting as well.

Katie Weller: Yes.

Kelly Molson: But before we go, I always ask our guests to recommend a book. So something that they love. It can be a personal choice, it can be a work related book. But yeah, just something that you’d like to share with our listeners.

Katie Weller: So this book, you do have to take it with a pinch of salt. But it is such a good talking point. Let me know if you’ve read it. It’s called the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

Kelly Molson: I have not read this.

Katie Weller: You have to read this. So basically, in a nutshell, without spoiling too much, the Five Love Languages… So basically, he’s looking at couples and he says that everyone’s got a different love language. So the five of them, I’ve written them down so I don’t forget, words of affirmation. So you might prefer it if your partner is, “Oh, you look lovely today. I love you,” that might be your love language. Physical touch, so you might like it if your partner is very touchy, feely. Acts of service, so if they mow the lawn or do the washing up. I know for a lot of all people they’re like-

Kelly Molson: All of these things.

Katie Weller: Yeah, you’d like every one, but they do say you normally have two. Quality time, so going out on day trips, going to the beach and stuff like that. Or receiving gifts, so that might… And they say it fills your love tank. It is a bit cheesy. It fills your love tank. So you normally have one or two that are your most prominent ones. For me, mine is quality time. I love experiencing. That’s why I’m in this industry. Experiences and doing things. But my best friend, hers is acts of service. Or if he does the washing up she is so happy. Her love tank is full to the brim.

Kelly Molson: That is really funny.

Katie Weller: Isn’t it?

Kelly Molson: I’ve never heard of this before. I’m going to read this. This is really interesting. Mine would definitely be the time one as well. I think that it’s so important. So you find this out about yourself and I guess then that sets you on your path of, “We need to make time for these things in our relationship?”

Katie Weller: Well, what’s really interesting about it is usually you reflect your love language on someone else because you think that’s what they want. And this is where communication breakdown comes from. I think the couples that he’s talking about, they’re in bad times. And so it’s like, “How could you actually communicate? He’s cleaned up for you, but actually you are not very touchies because it’s not your love language. But if he’d gone on a day trip with you, that might not mean much to him, but to you, “wow.” So it’s more about understanding what each other’s love language is. So actually you might have to do things in a different way to what you would want. Do you know what? It’s good for a pub chat.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, absolutely. This is a book to read.

Katie Weller: Oh, you can read it in a day as well. Yeah.

Kelly Molson: Love it. I’m going to pop out and buy a copy of this. Oh, but listeners, if you want to win a copy of this, head over to our Twitter account and retweet this episode announcement with the words, “I want Katie’s book,” and you will be in the chance of finding out your own love language. I feel like this podcast has gone a whole different way.

Katie Weller: Well, I know. I know. I can’t wait for you to read it. You have to come to the Gallery and we’ll go for a lovely coffee and have a chat.

Kelly Molson: I think that would be a treat, Katie. I’m going to do that. Thank you. Thanks so much for coming on today.

Katie Weller: Oh, you’re so welcome.

Kelly Molson: Good luck with the tour launch.

Katie Weller: Thank you so much. Thank you, Kelly.

Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at hello@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.


Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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