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Meet Our Team

You’ll be working closely with our team before, during and after your tour, so it’s only fair that you get to meet them! Here are the enthusiastic and dedicated individuals that make up our Educational Trips team. 

Lucy Simpson

Lucy Simson

Job Title: Educational Tours Manager

What is your most memorable moment on tour? My most memorable moment was seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. They were dancing across the sky in swirls and shades of green and purple. I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights so it was a dream come true.

Which destination would you most like to visit and why? I would love to visit Russia as I am fascinated by the history and architecture and have always wanted to visit the Winter Palace.

Laura Arufe-Perez

Laura Arufe Perez

Job Title: Educational Sales Manager
Joined Rayburn Tours: August 2004
Describe yourself in three words: “Organised, sociable and happy.”

“Despite the exotic surname, sadly, I’m Derby born and bred and have acquired the name by marriage! I have always had a passion for History from a very young age, and after studying History at both GCSE and ‘A’ Level, I then studied for my degree in Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Liverpool covering a wide range of subjects from Egyptology, Roman and Greek Archaeology, Politics and Classical Literature to Ancient Religion and Science. Despite my fear of flying, I love to travel abroad as often as I can to experience different cultures and to try the local cuisine. My favourite destination in the world so far has to be Rio de Janeiro; standing at the foot of the Christ the Redeemer Statue overlooking the city beneath is something I’ll never forget.”

Favourite destination from the Rayburn Tours portfolio: “This is a tough one, and I’ll have to go for my two favourite destinations which are Rome – so many amazing buildings and archaeological sites in one place, not to mention the fabulous shops and delicious food on offer and Berlin – an amazing cosmopolitan city with hundreds of years of History all around, it never fails to impress.”

Best travel tip: “Pack your suitcase then immediately take half of the clothes out again – you will still have enough clothes, trust me!”

Meg Zanker

Meg Zanker

Job Title: Educational Operations Manager
Joined Rayburn Tours: July 2013
Describe yourself in three words: “Caring, easy-going and unique.”

What I’ve done: “Studied French, German and Spanish at university (strange I know!), spent a year abroad, project managed the building of my own home and done some work on it myself – I am an expert now at waxing woodwork and since graduating 6 years ago I’ve worked in the school travel industry.”

Likes: films (bit of an addict really), travelling but also coming home, reading to escape and relax, baking and going to the theatre.

Random facts: I always take Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad with me when I travel, my first pet was a chicken called Daisy and my surname in German means “quarreller” but I am neither German nor a quarreller (unless provoked).

Catherine Rule

Catherine Rule

Job Title: Geography Tours Development Manager
Joined Rayburn Tours: May 2014
Describe yourself in three words: “Walking on sunshine.”

Having been a geography teacher for the last 17 years, the opportunity to focus on the part of the job I loved the most – enthusing young minds about geography out in the field – was too good to pass up. What better way to inspire the future generation of geographers than to share the wonders of the world around them and the experience of exciting and memorable destinations. This is when the theory learnt in the class room suddenly comes alive and makes sense. So here I am the new girl on the Rayburn Educational Tours team.

Having family scattered all across the globe has enabled me to travel extensively and visit many unforgettable destinations. I just need to tick Antarctica off the list to complete visits to all the continents but I’m having trouble persuading any family members to relocate. My favourite travel destination to date has to be Chile. The diversity of the landscape, from desert in the north to glaciers in the south, is truly remarkable and being immersed in the South American culture was captivating.

When I’m not travelling I love to follow my other passion which is Everton FC (Did you know there’s a team from Chile called Everton?) This is not always a pleasurable experience but it’s never dull.

Tracey Maresca

Tracey Nichols

Job Title: Product Manager
Joined Rayburn Tours: October 2005
Describe yourself in three words: “Driven, thoughtful and generous.”

“I’m Tracey or mamma Maresca as I’m known here in our department. I started out working in the travel industry as soon as I left school back at the beginning of the 80’s working as a rep in Sorrento when big hair and shoulder pads were all the rage (I’ve heard they may soon be making a come back). After working in Italy for 15 years I returned here to the UK completely Italianised and had to get used to not having an afternoon siesta (still miss those) and remembering the importance of driving in an orderly fashion (some may say I still have to master this). Our department is always buzzing and I really enjoy the constant challenges that working in the Ops team brings.”

Catherine Stephenson

Catherine Stephenson

Job Title: Tour Co-ordinator
Joined Rayburn Tours: July 2006
Describe yourself in three words: “Friendly, conscientious and thoughtful.“

“Hi I’m Catherine and I work as an Educational School Tour Co-ordinator operating school trips across Europe. I particularly enjoy organising the History Trips as I have an avid interest in 20th Century history which began at secondary school. I was fascinated by the Second World War modules which I studied for GCSE, these included the ‘Weimar Republic’ and ‘The Rise of the Nazi Party’. I also enjoyed learning languages at school and decided to study a dual honours degree in German and European Studies at Keele University. I spent 10 months in Lüneburg in northern Germany as part of my course and had an amazing year making friends with international students from all over the world. It’s great to now use my degree to help organise many History Trips to Berlin, Krakow and the WWI Battlefields for school groups, as well as many German Language, Geography, and Business Studies Trips. I have been away as a courier on seven tours, five of these have been to Germany where I have been able to provide language support. I have also been on many observer/inspection trips across Europe – the opportunity to travel is definitely my favourite part of the job!“”

What has been your best touring moment? “My favourite courier tour moment would have to be when an entire school group clapped and thanked me at the airport after a really enjoyable tour to Berlin. I had operated and couriered the trip and it was so great to know that all my hard work was appreciated. It was also so useful to witness how this tour works in practice.“

Jackie Fowell

Jackie Fowell

Job Title: Tour Consultant
Joined Rayburn Tours: July 2002
Describe yourself in three words: “Travel geek, ok that’s two!! Travel geek guru.”

“Travel is a passion and I am never happier than jetting off to one of the 4 corners of the world. One of the most amazing places ‘so far’ was Patagonia and sailing down the Beagle Channel with the knowledge that a mere 2000 miles separated me and the Antarctic. If only I had more time I would have loved to have continued!! The following year I flew to Narvik above the Arctic Circle to join a whale watching trip, that’s south and north done, tick. I am now working my way around the globe, Europe, North and South Africa, China (oops missed the bits in the middle)! When I cannot travel, the next best thing is to help other people experience the magic of our planet and nothing excites me more than selling one of Rayburn Tours amazing education trips; even better when I get the chance to travel with the groups.”

Favourite destination from the RT education portfolio: Iceland and Morocco, the contrast is astounding and couldn’t be further across the scale from each other but both equally bring education to life and show the extremes humans can live in

Best travel moment: On the final day of safari in Kruger National park I came face to face with 2 lions and their cub who just happened to be crossing the dirt track we were on and also saw an elusive leopard laying in a tree all on the same day!

Scott Cather

Scott Cather

Job Title: Tour Consultant
Time with Rayburn Tours: August 2013
Describe yourself in three words: “Enthusiastic, motivated and humorous.”

“I have a French wife and we have a young daughter who we are raising bilingual (I speak only English to her and my wife speaks only French). I enjoy travelling and meeting new people and joined Rayburn Tours after a prospective application having worked for more than 10 years in a similar role within the travel industry. My interests are pretty ‘blokey’, such as cars, bikes, and planes. I enjoy listening to music; mainly 70s and 80s rock but nothing very recent (much to the dismay of my wife!). I also enjoy nothing more than relaxing with a quiet pint in a countryside pub on a sunny afternoon!”

Best travel experience: ”Some of the most enjoyable experiences have been some of the most simple. For example, watching the lights sparkling on the Eiffel Tower, watching the sun go down over the Alhambra in Granada or exploring the Forum and Colosseum in Rome and feeling like I’m stepping back in time.”

Deborah Blount

Deborah Blount

Job Title: Sales Administrator

What is your most memorable moment on tour? My most memorable moment on tour was when I accompanied one of our school geography groups on tour to Leysin, Switzerland. We walked along the Loetschental Valley towards the glacier’s snout and the scenery all along was stunning and totally different to anything I had ever seen before. Later on we visited the beautiful Saillon Thermal Baths which was a perfect end to a fabulous day!

Name one thing you want to tick off your travel bucket list. I really want to visit Montenegro. I have been to Croatia and Slovenia and loved those two countries. I have heard that Montenegro is just as beautiful (if not more so) and so hopefully it won’t be too long until I get myself there!

Ian Lowbridge

Ian Lowbridge

Job Title: Tour Co-ordinator

Which destination would you most like to visit and why? South West USA. So many opportunities to see amazing sites such as the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. I would also love to see Las Vegas!

Name one thing you want to tick off your travel bucket list. Australia and New Zealand – I’ve always been fascinated by both the culture and landscape. To go to Sydney Opera House would be amazing!

Jenny Barker

Jenny Barker

Job Title: Sales Administrator

Which destination would you most like to visit and why? Granada, Spain – to uncover the Moorish history and visit the beautiful architecture of the Alhambra; a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Name one thing you want to tick off your travel bucket list. Take the tram through the hilly streets of Lisbon, Portugal, to admire the vibrant mix of colourful and tiled buildings.

Mike Hendey

Mike Hendey

Job Title: Tour Consultant

What is your most memorable moment on tour? I think it has to be making the mistake of, whilst on a ski trip in New Hampshire, allowing students to visit the thrift store on my behalf. Arriving at the end of trip fancy dress party sporting an ‘elegant’ frock, straw sun hat, complete with clutch bag and even a bra, raised a few eyebrows. I did win the quiz though so I definitely had the last laugh…

What do you enjoy the most about your job? I think the reality of creating lasting memories for students. Most are at an age where the experiences they have will play a big role in forming who they go on to be. Seeing the smiles on their faces whilst on tour brings home just how important the work we put in before they leave really is.

Natalia Krzeslowska

Natalia Krzeslowska

Job Title: Tour Co-ordinator

Which destination would you most like to visit and why? I would love to go to Iceland – there really is no place like it in the world. Amazing scenery and breath taking views. I was always interested in geographical processes; it would be great to be able to see, touch and feel them in real life. Much better than reading about in a school book.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is receiving positive feedback from groups returning from tours that have been coordinated by me. When you then go on to see these groups returning to book with us again and requesting to have the same tour coordinator because they loved the experience, itinerary and service so much – I know then that I’m in the right job!

Sarah Wigelsworth

Sarah Wigelsworth

Job Title: Tour Consultant

What is your most memorable moment on tour? My first visit to Iceland in -12 degrees, knee high in snow – I found it amazing and have never seen that much snow before! When the sun shone it was definitely a Winter Wonderland and there were so many extraordinary places to see. I have an Icelandic group that I listen to and when I hear it,it brings back all the great memories of my trip there…

What do you enjoy the most about your job? Meeting customers needs and expectations and hearing how excited they are about going on tour.

I often imagine going on the tour myself, imagining all the different places and how fantastic they are. Hearing back from the party leaders about how great their tour was and that they will look to book with us again. I feel lucky to enjoy these rewards on a daily basis."

Silvia Avvertenza

Silvia Avvertenza

Job Title: Tour Co-ordinator

What is your most memorable moment on tour? My most memorable moment on tour was visiting the village of Douar Oulad Elgern in Morocco. Meeting the villagers and having the opportunity to share a day with them, seeing the students helping with the daily activities, from charcoal and brick making for the boys to cooking and helping with the children for the girls. An experience no text book can teach and that touched all of us on a deeper, personal level.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is hearing the feedback of the groups once back home. Knowing that we are not only operating tours, but are actively creating memories for the groups, giving them a great experience of learning outside the classroom. The thought that our hard work “behind the scenes” makes all of this possible is very rewarding and heart-warming!

Vanessa Reynolds

Vanessa Reynolds

Job Title: Tour Co-ordinator

Name one thing you want to tick off your travel bucket list. The Grand Canyon has to be at the top of my list; it’s a place that has always fascinated me. I would love to fly over in a helicopter so I am able to take in the sheer volume of the area and view it from another dimension.

Which destination would you most like to visit and why? The South West USA – here are the places that are still left on my bucket list! Having been lucky enough to have visited a few of the wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon still intrigues me greatly. To look across the expanse of the Canyon to experience its tranquillity and then venture on to the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas – a most incredible combination.

Farai

Farai Khumalo

Job Title: Tour Consultant

What is your most memorable moment on tour? Having been to Iceland, I can say that everyone should be offered the opportunity at least once in their lifetime to visit this beautiful country. I enjoyed seeing how the power of nature has affected so many who live in Iceland, such as the vast expanse of water and how the locals convert it to hydro electric power. Having a swim in the Secret Lagoon was like having a bath outside – seeing the wonder of nature! And I really recommend the super jeep drive, a great way to get off the beaten track. Now Iceland is one I can tick off my bucket list!

Which destination would you most like to visit and why? I would love to visit Morocco because it’s off the beaten path and has so much to offer.


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