The Violin Channel recently caught up with travel industry veteran, and China NCPA Orchestra 2017 US-tour travel agent, Ms Sherry Dou.
The iChina Journeys founder talks us through her mammoth experience of shepherding a touring ensemble of over 125 musicians and staff, almost 15,000 miles in and out of 7 airports and hotels.
What are the most challenging aspects of organizing a tour of this magnitude?
Taking an orchestra on tour is probably the most rewarding, yet challenging parts of my job. There are so many things to think of and so many balls to juggle. If I had to choose the top five most complicated tasks they would be, without a doubt:
1. Adhering and sticking to the budget—not only finding budget-sensitive hotels, but making sure they are also close to the concert halls (this is a MUST).
2. Negotiating special check in times for 120+ people and their instruments/equipment.
3. Keeping track and communicating all of the different check-in procedures, to make sure everything runs smoothly, effortlessly, and efficiently.
4. Coordination! This is probably the most important part of touring. Being able to communicate with and between 10 hotels and six vehicle companies and, not only keeping track of all of the changes, being flexible and nimble to make sure that no matter what is going on behind the scenes everything still runs smoothly and everyone is in the know.
5. Work Visas: getting them done on time is key!
What are some of the most gratifying aspects of your work?
There are many words that come to mind, but the three that stick out are: challenge, adventure and teamwork.
I love a challenge and taking 120+ people across an ocean and a country is definitely that, but it is truly a rewarding experience. Touring is like a giant and ever-changing puzzle, one that has a million pieces and really enlivens your sense of adventure--every day and sometime every hour is different and unexpected. I could not do what I do without a dedicated team behind me, this goes for my colleagues in the office as well as my counterparts in the orchestra. We really become a team on tour. It is truly special.
Are there any memorable anecdotes of the NCPAO tour so far?
As you can imagine, I have lots of stories, especially amusing ones, but here is one of the most recent:
--One of our composers fancies himself a very good cook and insisted on bringing his Wok with him on tour. It was a good thing, because I was treated to an INCREDIBLE home cooked dinner while I was on tour!
What keeps you up at night when organizing a tour of this scale?
We, at iChina Journeys, are dedicated to all of our clients, we promise them a unique and effortless experience; I feel we are a leader in the industry for delivering this on a consistent basis. Ensuring that we produce nothing less than this keeps me driven (and sometimes awake).
What are your favorite travel apps on your phone that you use for the tour? The most indispensable?
I have to admit, I am really reliant on technology to make my job go smoothly. I do use lots of different apps and they are always evolving, but for this China NCPA Orchestra tour I find myself using FlightAware & Google Maps constantly!