The Association of Group Travel Organisers (AGTO) has appointed Wendy Hartley-Scarff as its new chief executive.
She will take up the position later this month. In her new role she will be responsible for developing the future strategy of AGTO, including membership, events and marketing communications.
In a career spanning over 25 years, she has held senior positions in the travel industry at Reed Travel Exhibitions (World Travel Market), Stena Line and National Car Rental. She also has extensive experience of dealing with trade associations and tourist boards and served on the board of the Institute of Travel & Tourism for 10 years.
She succeeds Mike Bugsgang who stood down from the role after a three-year term of office at the end of December 2017.
Commenting on the appointment, AGTO Director, David Steele, says: “I’m delighted we have secured the services of Wendy Hartley-Scarff, she brings with her a wealth of experience covering the inbound, outbound and domestic tourism markets. Her contacts within these sectors will be highly beneficial to the Association. She will be introduced to our members at the forthcoming AGM at the Excursions show in London on 27 January.”
Wendy Hartley-Scarff says: “The groups market makes a huge contribution to the UK’s tourism economy and offers great potential for expansion. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to join AGTO at such an exciting time in the organisation’s development.”
AGTO is a nationwide trade body that has been representing the interests of group organisers as well as those who provide services for group travel, for over 25 years. The Association has seven branches around the UK. There are more than 600 members comprising mainly group organisers but also suppliers to the groups market.
Accommodation Provider (independent hotels)
• Marine Hotel, Paignton
• Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton
• Away Resorts – Mill Rythe Holiday Village, Hayling Island
• The Metropole Hotel & Spa, Llandrindod Wells
• Hallmark Hotel Preston Leyland
Accommodation Provider (hotel groups)
• Best Western Hotels
• Hallmark Hotels
• Hilton Worldwide
• Marriott Hotels UK
Tour Wholesaler and Industry Supplier
• Action Tours
• Advantage Now
• Encore Tickets
• Greatdays Travel Group
• Groups Direct
• Hospitality Line
• ICT Group Travel
• Norman Allen Group Travel
• Bateaux London
• Newmarket Racecourses
• Planet Hollywood
• Poplars Garden Centre
• Waxy O’Connors
Theatre Production – readers’ choice award
• 42nd Street
• An American in Paris
• Kinky Boots
• Matilda The Musical
• School of Rock
Coach Holiday Programme
• Bakers Dolphin
• Eastons Holidays
• Gardiners NMC
• Kirbys Coaches
• Lucketts Travel
• Roberts Travel Group
• Shaws of Maxey
• Woods Travel, Bognor Regis
Coach Day Excursion Programme
• Bakers Dolphin
• Eastons Holidays
• Gardiners NMC
• Roberts Travel Group
• Shaws of Maxey
• Woods Travel, Bognor Regis
Coach Tourism Innovation of the Year
• Groups Direct – The Matinee Shows
• Harry Shaw City Cruiser – Social media
• Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton – ‘The Real Yorkshire Experience’
• Skills Group – Holiday brands
• Spot Travel Services – Business change
• Travel by Knight – Mini sleeper coach
Coach Tourism Professional of the Year
• Suzanne Evans – Boons Calibre Travel
• Team Devon – Devon4Groups
• Martin Slater – Greatdays Travel Group
• Joseph Rawlings – Groups Direct
• Adrian Smith, Melanie Cox, Alistair Scott – Gardiners NMC
• John Jacobs – Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Coach Tour Driver of the Year
• Michael Blowers – Bakers Dolphin
• Team Eastons 2017 – Eastons Holidays
• Jones Holiday Drivers – Alpine Travel
• Henry McCarrison – Glenton Holidays
• Shaun Raven – Alfa Travel
• Miriam Unsworth – self employed
Coach Tour Operator – Small Fleet (1-5 coaches)
• Acklams Coaches
• Dunwood Travel
• Hough’s of Lincolnshire
• IOW Tours
Coach Tour Operator – Medium Fleet (6-15 coaches)
• Bayliss Executive Travel
• Bluebird Coaches (Weymouth)
• Caradoc Coaches
• Eastons Holidays
• Roberts Travel Group
• Woods Travel
Coach Tour Operator – Large Fleet (more than 15 coaches)
• Bakers Dolphin
• Edwards Coaches
• Glenton Holidays
• Lucketts Travel
• Shearings Holidays
The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) held its annual Coaching Conference at Volvo’s Warwick HQ on 15 November.
‘Embracing the Digital World’ looked at how the industry can take advantage of digital technology. speakers covered a wide range of topics including the use of social media, crowd sourcing, digital compliance, data protection and parking in Westminster.
I’m indebted to trade magazine Bus & Coach Buyer for permission to reproduce part of a full report by Chris Peat that gives a useful and informative update on the issues facing coach operators across the country. To see the full report, go to www.busandcoachbuyer.com
First speaker of the day was CPT President, Ian Luckett, who said the biggest challenge the industry is facing is that of air quality. Unfortunately, he believes the public has a negative view of the industry. “Sometimes we don’t help ourselves. All it takes is for the driver to idle and it wrecks the image. Generally, the public sees it [the coach] as a dirty, polluting beast.”
This, he believes, is certainly not the case and he notes how much the industry has invested in clean and new vehicles, even without the ULEZ necessitating it. He noted that at Lucketts, it is trialling the Irizar i4H hybrid coach, saying he believes these vehicles may become commonplace in its fleet. “Hybrid is an option we have got to look at. Other solutions are not open to us, not until better battery technology is available.”
The CPT has worked hard, he claims, to turn the industry’s negative image around and make it known as part of the solution to cleaning the nation’s air. The government is starting to “get it”, he said. “The CPT has made that happen by getting its voice heard. We have spoken to MPs about the huge strides we have made in fleets and the huge investments we have made. The gauntlet has been thrown down to local authorities: what plans do they have to tackle air quality at the local level?”
When it comes to engaging with councils, he said: “We must not wait for local authorities to come to us; we need to make the first move. Our CPT managers, that are here today, they are key to getting the message across. If you have a meeting with a local authority, take your local managers with you. They will be delighted to go. It always staggers me how little politicians know about the subject [of air quality]. We need to make sure bus and coach is front and centre of local authority plans.
“We need to persuade the local authorities to do something about congestion and then our service can be the contender for the car.”
“There are some who say the industry is in its twilight years. But I think we have just come into puberty; exciting things are going to happen.” He warned operators to keep up with developments though. “If you’re not careful, you will be the Nokia of this world.”
On the conference’s theme of digital developments, he noted the BBC website turned 20 recently and said that in 1997 there were fewer than 8m people online in the country. There are now 60m. “The digital world has evolved and there’s nothing to suggest it will slow down. As an industry, we have to embrace the digital world. It’s up to us to tell suppliers what we and our customers want.”
Friend or foe?
A picture of Donald Trump’s inauguration was shown at the start of CPT’s Director of Policy Development, Steven Salmon’s, presentation. He then showed another image of what was going on behind this photo, revealing a massed crowd. Steven said there were some crowd-sourced coaches that brought some of those people to the event, saying 750 vehicles were involved. These were organised by Rally, the US crowd-sourced transport provider. Steve said: “This turns our model on its head. We put supply out there and hope we can sell it.” He likened these online platforms to VAMOOZ, developed by the UK’s Transdev Blazefield.
Steven continued: “If we whizz across the Atlantic and head to Germany, we have FlixBus. They are best known for regular services. They are very interested in the whole coach market though. They have 42 software developers to bring together people who want to have a coach to those who want to supply it. It is ambitious and they are putting a fantastic amount of resources behind it.”
In the UK, there is Zeelo, described as pop-up coach travel for the crowd. Steven said it was started by looking at the university term-time market, linking people up from their homes to their university halls of residence. They then turned towards the world of sporting events and Zeelo now offers passes for transport to regular home games of select teams, creating regular customers. “However, they have fallen for the temptation of misrepresentation,” Steven claimed. The website claims it has a fleet of 20,000 executive coaches at its disposal. “I guess all of you are contracted to provide travel for them,” quipped Steven.
Arriva Click was his next example, based in Sittingbourne, providing travel around Kent Science Park. He described it as drawing bus-loads of people together in real time. The pricing sits between the local bus and the taxi, he said. “Industrial espionage”, to find out how many people are boarding these vehicles, is hard because of the vehicles’ tinted windows. However, he said that if people have not found out about the app for booking this transport, the service is largely invisible. Similar to Click is Slide in Bristol, a shared ride to work service. “Although I do wish they would come out with a different slogan – Better than bus.” Inevitably, Uber was mentioned. He said that in his discussions with the company, they find it harder to get drivers than they do customers.
So, are these newly emerging online platforms a friend or a foe? “It depends where you are. You could well see some disruption in the market where you are established, you have a brand, your brand has value and your people are going to come back to you because you give them the right experience, the right price. But clearly the platforms, or some of them, are trying to make that offer in terms of positioning, quality, price, which will flow right through to the delivery and then you as a customer will get what they want and come back to the platform. If you were an Uber passenger in London, you wouldn’t dream of going back to find the driver again, you would go back to the platform. This is the kind of idea people are thinking about. But you might find a platform is easier for you to engage with than engaging directly with customers, so you might now find you can get into markets you have not been able to. Ultimately, there is nothing to stop you starting a platform yourself.”
Social media is like marmite, according to Richard Grey, MD of Greys of Ely, either you like it or loath it. He started by asking the audience what social media is. The answer: computer-mediated technologies that help create and share information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. He turned the audience’s attention to the Conversation Prism 5.0, a diagram detailing social media platforms and their relevance to certain areas (a Google search will reveal this). He noted there is no coaching specific social media site on there. “It would be quite nice if we got Sn-ap or something sitting on there.”
When it comes to social media, often the question people ask is: “Is it relevant to my business? Will I be able to reach a target market with social media and digital marketing? What you’ve got to remember is we are now doing business in times when the audience, your customers and their children, are constantly glued to the internet, especially social media channels. Yesterday the coffee machine in the office broke, I fixed it using YouTube. The trend poses a great opportunity for operators to reach out to their audiences quickly and effectively.”
In the days of the Yellow Pages, Richard said you could spend thousands on advertising and not know if it was reaching your target audience. Social media ensures better aiming of marketing efforts, he claimed. “Today you can profile your customer down to the village they live in. You can start to see if the money you are spending is worthwhile.”
Social media is readily accessible for this marketing, he claims, “This is not for the likes of Nike or Coca Cola of this world, it can be for any size business.”
However, has it replaced normal communication with passengers and staff? “No, I don’t think it has, it’s just a different environment we’re working in. We wouldn’t not answer a phone call or an email, so why fear replying to a Facebook comment? You should be involved. Irrespective of your opinion, people will have a view of your business and they will be talking about it on social media.”
At Greys of Ely, Richard has a closed Facebook group for its staff, allowing communication between them, which is on top of notice boards and letters. It asks its drivers to send pictures in when they are on tour, which gives the company content it can use for its own marketing. It also tells them exactly the number of people that have seen internal communications. “It works well, it’s a good way of communicating with staff.”
Social media is also changing the language we use too, Richard said. He gave the example of his 11-year-old daughter who already uses such abbreviations as BRB, TTYL and the like.
So which social media platform should an operator use? Facebook is perhaps the most well-known. Richard suggested operators ensure they use a business account when using this, stopping any personal posts getting mixed up with professional ones. The same applies with Twitter. LinkedIn is the professionals’ social media account and unlike the previously mentioned ones, Richard said the best tactic to use with this is to accept everyone, even if you do not know them. Accepting as many people as possible helps get your message out to a wider audience. There is also an option of having a company account.
YouTube, the video sharing website, can also be a good platform for operators, with Richard posting promotional videos on the site and then reposting them on other social media platforms. “Visual content is important. We have a light-hearted mix on there. Our voice on it is smart, but quite comical, maybe silly.”
Greys had a deal of interest online for its ‘Mr T on a coach’ YouTube video (https://goo.gl/Luj77i). “The week after its launch, we picked up a contract for a large technology company from Cambridge. One of their senior people leaned over and asked the driver, ‘So, is Mr T onboard?’” One promotional video it produced used special effects to show Richard throwing Greys’ livery on one of the coaches. Another was made on May the 4th (Star Wars day) and saw an epic space battle unfold in the skies above the operator’s depot. Which one cost the least? The Star Wars one; it was created using an app freely available on the internet. “It doesn’t need to be mega bucks.”
Richard uses Google Analytics to figure out the best time to post on social media, aligning his posts when most people are active on these platforms and therefore getting the maximum amount of views. So for example, LinkedIn views tend to be most prevalent first thing in the morning or later in the day after work has finished. Of course, giving customers a platform to communicate also opens the possibility for people to post negative comments, which can then be seen by other customers. “When this happens, my wholehearted advice is to get the conversation offline. Don’t tell people they are wrong on social media. Or, just concede a bit.”
Richard gave an example of social media perhaps not working in his favour. It was during a trip to a sports event in Manchester which he was providing several vehicles to transport people for. Of the 24 coaches making the journey, one broke down, and happened to have BBC Cambridgeshire’s sports reporter onboard. He was on Twitter, announcing his coach to the game had broken down to his multitude of followers. “Things quickly snowballed,” resulting in Richard receiving a phone call from the broadcasting company. Luckily, CPT’s media response service helped him out, but the result is that Richard now seems to be the ‘go to’ person for coach industry insight for BBC Cambridgeshire.
He asked the audience if they had a social media policy. Even if the company does not use social media, it may be that staff do and Richard suggested documentation is put in place to explain to them the power of these online platforms and how employees should conduct themselves on them.
Following a lunch break, the next speaker was Steve Fox from the Traffic Commissioner’s Office. In November 2016, there was a relaunch of the way the Office works with operators online. The new web-based system was designed to make it quicker and more convenient for new and existing vehicle operators to apply for and make changes to their operator licence. One of the advantages of this is that data the Office holds on operators can be changed in seconds, according to Steve. This is advantageous for not only operators, but the Office because prior to this, a lot of information held was out of date. “This data goes to DVSA’s enforcement team, so it is critically important the data is current and up to date. Data that is often wrong is something like a phone number. If that’s wrong, then it gets them wondering what else is wrong.”
Since the launch of the ability to apply and make changes to licenses online, there have been 40,000 licence changes made in this way and 200,000 vehicle alterations made digitally. He noted changes and applications are made using Verify, an identity verification system, which makes input from the operator legally binding. However, this is not proving as popular as hoped because it is aimed towards citizens rather than businesses, but this is changing, according to Steve.
The system has reduced the application time for licences from nine to seven weeks, Steve claimed. It has achieved less than seven weeks on average in the last six months. The goal is to achieve four weeks.
The new digital system also features Companies House reporting, matching operator’s data held there with the office’s own forms. This is especially helpful when a business changes its trading stance, with the change often being registered at Companies House, but not as often at the Traffic Commissioners’ Office. It is also alerted of any more changes to an operation’s information.
The website has also been given a user feedback link. “We are keen on understanding what users like and what we need to improve. Our team looks at this once a week to see what didn’t work and what customers want to see. It informs decision making.”
User feedback is high, Steve reports, giving the figure of 81% satisfaction in July 2017. The majority find it easy to use, according to its own research. “We hope it does what it says, which is to help make it easy to become compliant.”
Steve said: “There will come a point where we will switch off all paper correspondence. It’s about two years away. The Traffic Commissioner’s objective is to have total digital compatibility by April 2019.”
One way the office’s digital systems are to be developed is by looking at its data and document retention work. “We are going to start deleting data. We hold onto it longer than we should.” This is in line with the upcoming Right to be Forgotten, one of the key principles in data protection law.
David Morris of DRM Bus asked about bus service registrations. “You need to do something on them and no messing.” Steve replied saying digital bus registrations are on the Office’s road map to deliver, but said they are a complex piece of work.
Coach parking in London is always an alluring topic and Kieran Fitsall of Westminster City Council showed how it is moving towards the digital age. One of the biggest challenges he faces is how does he fit in the 600,000 vehicles that visit the eight-mile square area daily? Another challenge is air quality. The primary aim is getting drivers to make the journey as easily and quickly as possible. “We don’t want them driving round looking for parking.”
Kieran said: “If people choose not to use their car but use passenger transport, then we have achieved our goal. We do generate income but from people parking illegally. The aim is not to issue people with parking tickets, but what we have tried to do is change the focus to be about providing a service for customers.”
Kieran said the way parking is charged has changed, with cash parking meters removed due to theft. Customer satisfaction with transactions with these cashless mahines is at 98-99%, according to Kieran. Coaches in the city generally require a voucher to allow parking. Smartphone parking apps have become commonly used. This has been opened up to different apps, with a variety now available.
Over 3,500 sensors have been installed in Westminster’s parking spaces, including some coach parking bays on the Embankment. These can talk to a device and notifies that the space has been taken, providing real time information of availability. This information is done per rank, rather than for individual bays. The data collected from this is being used to predict and show where parking becomes available.
He acknowledges that coach parking in London is an “absolute nightmare”, saying: “There is not enough coach parking in central London.” The organisation has been in talks with the CPT concerning this. “We are keen to understand any ongoing problems.”
Aside from parking, another issue Westminster council has addressed is vehicle idling and the affects that has. An action it has taken on this is the #dontbeidle, a social media campaign aimed at increasing knowledge of and cutting out this practice.
Looking further ahead in parking in its area, Westminster council has been interested in accessing parking data for an occasion when autonomous vehicles become commonplace and exploring how that information can be shared with car manufacturers.
Are you protecting data?
Giving some insight into what operators might need to consider in the wake of the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was Keith McNally, Operations Director at CPT. He said: “The GDPR might not be relevant if you have no customers, no CCTV or have photographic memory.” Coming into force on 25 May 2018, Keith described it as the biggest change to data protection in a generation. Should companies worry? To put it into perspective, he gave the example of TalkTalk, which was fined £400,000 for a cyber attack that accessed customer data. Under GDPR, the fine could be up to £59m. It is not just companies that will be affected, enforcement actions can be taken against charities and the police.
Taking care of this data protection is the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). “If someone makes a complaint to ICO, they will come after you. They might be perceived as nasty, but they are willing to help.”
Personal data needs protecting, which is considered anything about a natural person, not businesses. There are certain categories of data that are regarded as sensitive, such as employee records, beliefs, relationships, etc. “These need treating in a sensitive way.” Keith said some of the things businesses need to think about include: customer records, staff records, credit card details, CCTV, telematics and school bus passes.
Data protection is not just about ensuring computers and tablets with information are secure, but any structural set of data, including paper files. You should already be compliant with the Data Protection Act (DPA) and must be registered with the ICO, claimed Keith.
A privacy notice is needed, which covers what you use the data for. Consent must be kept in mind. “Everyone is familiar with boxes on websites that are pre-ticked. There has to be a positive opt in; you have to say you want their information. They also have the right to withdraw that consent.”
There is also the ‘right to be forgotten’, which gives them the justification to have any details of theirs deleted where there is no compelling need for them to be kept. The right to data portability comes into play too, which allows customers to obtain and reuse their personal data for their own purposes across different services. For instance, they can have data on transactions transferred from one to another operator. They will also have the right to object to profiling. Under GDPR, if there has been a breach of personal information, then it must be reported within 72 hours.
To start with, Keith suggests reviewing what data you have and where it came from. He said: “If you have data you are not using, get rid of it. Think about what companies you work with that might have your data: booking systems, CCTV companies, credit control. If they have access to data you control, you need to talk to them about their role.”
Under the new rules, people will have the right to a Subject Access Request (SAR), giving them access to data on themselves, including CCTV footage. Under current rules, you would have the right to charge them £10, which will no longer be the case. You also currently have 40 days to comply, which will fall to 30. You must consider redactions too. If there are other people in the CCTV footage, then how do you show the person requesting the footage and not someone else?
Keith said: “You need to look at the lawful basis of what you do with data. Have they given you consent?”
Keith suggested identifying what gaps you have and what you need to do now, check the guidance from ICO and get some advice in time for the May 2018 deadline. More information from www.ico.org.uk
A scheme that encourages UK destinations, visitor attractions and tourism suppliers to become ‘coach friendly’ has welcomed its 51st member.
Organised and managed by the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT), ‘Coach Friendly’ status recognises and rewards a commitment to understanding the requirements of coaches and their passengers, while also providing first-class facilities, access and information for drivers.
The scheme, first introduced in 2003 to focus on towns, cities and villages, has now recognised 28 UK destinations. The scheme was extended in 2016 to include visitor attractions. Blair Castle and Scone Palace in Scotland, and the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, were awarded the prestigious status this month.
Destinations and attractions wishing to apply for the status should contact the CPT. The CPT’s regional offices will then visit the destination or visitor attraction to carry out an audit of existing facilities for coaches and groups and, where necessary, make recommendations. It is understood that a number of destinations and visitor attractions are currently going through the process, with announcements due shortly.
For more information, go to www.coachfriendly.co.uk
Since the scheme was expanded in 2016 to include visitor attractions, the following attractions have been awarded the status:
London and South East England
– ArcelorMittal Orbit, London
– Chatham Historic Dockyard, Kent
– Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway, Hampshire
– National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art, Newmarket, Suffolk
– Woburn Abbey & Gardens, Bedfordshire
– Boundary Mill Stores, Grantham, Lincolnshire
– Boundary Mill Stores, Walsall
– National Memorial Arboretum, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire
– Sabrina Boat, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
– West Midland Safari & Leisure Park, Worcestershire
North East England
– Boundary Mill Stores, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear
– Boundary Mill Stores, Colne, Lancashire
North West England
– Oswaldtwistle Mills Shopping Village & Garden Centre, Accrington, Lancashire
– Blair Castle, Perthshire
– Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop, Dumfries and Galloway
– Scone Palace, Perth
South West England
– The Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset
– The Merchant’s House, Marlborough, Wiltshire
– Stourhead (National Trust), Wiltshire
– Wells Cathedral, Somerset
– Parc Slip Nature Reserve, Bridgend
– Talyllyn Railway, Gwynedd
– Boundary Mill Stores, Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Continuum Attractions, the York-based attractions group, has bought GreenWood Forest Park, a family activity centre based in North Wales.
The acquisition, which was completed in July, sees the attractions group move into the outdoor family attractions sector for the first time.
The company says it bought GreenWood Forest Park, which is located at Y Felinheli, midway between Bangor and Caernarvon, “because it is a successful and award-winning family adventure park business and a wonderful opportunity for Continuum to expand into the family, outdoor attraction market”.
Commenting on the acquisition, Juliana Delaney, chief executive of Continuum Attractions says: “We are thrilled to have added GreenWood Forest Park to the Continuum Attractions family. North Wales is a place very dear to my heart. I have relatives living nearby and have been visiting the area since I was two years-old. It is a region that has a fantastic future for tourism. The park is already such a great day out for guests with a passionate team dedicated to providing the very best experience for everyone.”
The former owners of the park, Steve and Andrea Bristow, who set up the business 25 years ago, made the decision to retire to enjoy more time to travel and spend with family. It is understood that they sold to Continuum Attractions because they wanted the project to be put into safe hands.
Kevin Smith, Continuum Attractions’ group attractions director, says: “We are delighted to have added GreenWood Forest Park to our portfolio of outstanding UK visitor attractions. Continuum Attractions has been keen to expand into outdoor, family experiences and GreenWood will offer a fantastic opportunity for us to do so.
“The park’s focus on sustainability is also really important across our business. North Wales is a fantastic place to visit and has important cultural traditions such as the use of the Welsh language. We are absolutely committed to continuing this tradition and the bi-lingual heritage of GreenWood Forest Park.”
GreenWood Forest Park is a TripAdvisor UK Top 10 Attraction and a North Wales Tourist Board Green and Innovation Award-winner.
York-based Continuum Attractions owns, operates and manages eight other attractions across the UK: The Real Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh; The Canterbury Tales, Canterbury; Oxford Castle Unlocked, Oxford; York’s Chocolate Story, York; Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth; The Emmerdale Studio Tour, Leeds; The Emmerdale Village Tour, near Leeds; and The Royal Mint Experience, Cardiff (management contract).
The popularity of the UK’s gardens and zoos continues to rise. Figures released by VisitEngland show that the two staples of traditional coach touring saw the most significant growth in visitors to attractions last year.
VisitEngland’s Annual Attractions Survey, which gathered information from more than 1,500 English attractions, found that outdoor attractions performed particularly well in 2016, with gardens and zoos showing growth of 8%. Historic houses and castles reported a 7% increase in visitor numbers, while country parks saw a 4% increase.
Coastal and rural attractions experienced strong growth of 4% and 5% respectively, reflecting the results of VisitEngland’s Great Britain Tourism Survey.
Commenting on the figures, Tourism Minister John Glen says: “We have an amazing range of world-class attractions in England that draw in millions of visitors every year. Whether it is our unique historic buildings, internationally important museums or stunning gardens, there is a huge amount to see and do. Ensuring that all parts of the country benefit from our tourism industry is a key government priority so it is fantastic to see such growth across the regions.”
Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitEngland, says: “There are so many outstanding attractions offering year-round experiences throughout the country and it is great see that Brits enjoyed 2016’s ‘Year of the English Garden’. Attractions are a much loved and valuable part of the tourism landscape, adding colour and variety to the visitor experience and encouraging people to get out and explore, driving the value of tourism across the regions.”
The British Museum was the most visited free attraction in England in 2016, for the ninth consecutive year, with nearly 6.5 million visitors. It was closely followed by the National Gallery which had more than 6.2 million visitors.
The Tower of London topped the list of paid-for attractions for the eighth year running, with 2.7 million visitors. Chester Zoo experienced its highest ever ranking, in second place, with nearly 1.9 million visitors.
Visits to England’s attractions rose by 2% in 2016, with attractions reporting revenues up by 7%.
VisitEngland’s latest figures show that, for the first four months of 2017, domestic holidaymakers took a record 11.4 million holiday trips in England.
If you’re considering entering the British Coach Tourism Awards 2018, here’s our look at what’s new, what’s different – and what’s gone
The good news:
Awards now embrace more suppliers
New awards for group dining experience and West End shows
Awards for accommodation, and for sea, canal and river operators separated out to reflect the differences between larger and smaller suppliers
More time to enter.
The not so good news:
‘Coach Tour Operator Brochure’ award discontinued
Number of coach tour operator-specific awards drops to just six
Tour wholesalers lose their bespoke category.
The news in detail:
Details of the British Coach Tourism Awards 2018 (BCTA) have been announced. The total number of awards increases from 18 to 20, the highest number of individual awards in the event’s 13-year history. However, the award for ‘Coach Tour Operator Brochure’ award has been discontinued, reducing the number of coach tour operator-specific awards to six.
There are two new awards. ‘Dining Experience’, open to restaurants, cafés and other meal stops and dining options that cater for groups, and ‘Theatre Production’. Readers of Group Tourism & Travel magazine are being asked to nominate their favourite West End stage show of 2017. The shortlist will then be voted on by readers.
The award for ‘Accommodation Provider’, which last year saw major hotel groups compete with small independent hotels, has been split with separate awards for hotel groups and independent hotels.
The combined award for ‘Sea, Canal and Inland Riverboat Carriers’, introduced in 2017, has also been split with separate awards for ‘Cross-Sea Carrier’ and ‘River and Inland Cruise Operator’.
The long established ‘Tour Wholesaler’ award has changed to become ‘Tour Wholesaler and Industry Supplier’. This allows entries from ticket suppliers, whose dedicated category was abolished last year. It’s also a positive move as it embraces many other suppliers, notably those from the insurance, legal, printing and hospitality sectors who, until now, haven’t had a suitable category to enter.
The ‘Accessibility Award’, introduced in 2017 has been discontinued.
The judges for the 2018 awards have also been announced. They are:
Jess Chapman (Chair of Judges), Editor of Group Tourism & Travel magazine
Antony Amos, Head of Business Development and Membership with UKinbound
Chris Wales, Chief Executive, Coach Tourism Association
Mark King, Chairman of the British Guild of Tourist Guides
Steve Whiteway, former MD of Epsom Coaches.
The closing date for entries is 17 November 2017. The gala dinner and presentation evening will take place on the first night of the British Tourism & Travel Show on 21 March at the National Motorcycle Museum near the NEC.
In announcing the details of the British Coach Tourism Awards 2018, organiser Diversified Communications UK has demonstrated that it has listened to some of the concerns raised by industry suppliers after the 2017 awards.
Splitting the ‘Accommodation Provider’ award into two, and restoring the pre-2017 differentiation between hotel groups and independent hotels will be welcomed by both sectors.
There’s a similar situation in the sea, canal and river sector. The pre-2017 categories have been reinstated, meaning that smaller operators of sightseeing and cruise boats no longer have to compete with the major cross-sea operators.
Among the other award categories, the long-established award for ‘Tour Wholesaler’ has gone. In recent years there was a tendency for the winner to always come from one of the big three: Albatross Travel, Greatdays Travel Group and Norman Allen Group Travel. But it was a friendly (ish) rivalry and there will be some who will miss the annual skirmish.
These same tour wholesalers will, should they choose to enter for the 2018 awards, find themselves battling against other industry suppliers for the new award for ‘Tour Wholesaler and Industry Supplier’. Those ‘industry suppliers’ will include ticket suppliers, whose specific award category was abolished last year. The good news is that other industry suppliers, including those providing insurance, legal, operational and print services, will be able to enter for the first time.
However, the biggest surprise of these 2018 awards is the disappearance of the popular and long-established ‘Coach Tour Operator Brochure’ award. In recent years, the category has regularly generated the most entries of any single award. It’s not hard to see why. Every coach tour operator thinks their brochure is the best, although the generally high quality of coach tour brochures today makes it almost impossible for the judges to choose a winner.
However, the importance of the category wasn’t so much about the brochures themselves, but about the way the category gave coach tour operators a relatively quick and easy way to get involved. A look through the shortlist from recent years shows a real mix of names, some well known, some not so. With the category gone, so the opportunity for operators to take part has been reduced. What this also means is that the total number of coach tour operator-specific awards drops to just six out of a total of 20.
There are already several well-established awards schemes for the wider groups sector and the supplier side. The BCTA is the only awards scheme that gives coach tour operators a specific outlet for their achievements. Coach tour operators play an important and vital role in this industry. For 2019 it would be good to see that role being recognised further.
Having said all that, if you’re involved in coach tourism, these ARE the awards that matter. Check out the website to see which awards you can enter for. Good luck.
Here’s the full list of award categories for the British Coach Tourism Awards 2018 (in alphabetical order):
Leicestershire Promotions, the tourist board for Leicestershire, has partnered with Greatdays Travel Group to encourage more groups to visit Leicester and Leicestershire.
Group travel tour operator Greatdays will work with Leicestershire Promotions to develop new group itineraries based on key local tourism offers. These include history and heritage with King Richard III, and traditional food and drink focusing on Melton Mowbray, the UK’s ‘Rural Capital of Food’.
These itineraries will be promoted through Greatdays’ networks of group travel organisers, coach tour operators and tour planners.
Greatdays will also develop special interest tours for associations and groups such as car clubs.
Paul Beaumont, Greatdays Travel Group executive director, says: “Leicestershire offers a wide choice of group-friendly visitor attractions and is already a popular destination for groups.
“This new partnership with Leicestershire Promotions will enable us to offer new itineraries for tours and day trips that will appeal to group travel organisers, coach tour operators and tour planners.”
Martin Peters, Leicestershire Promotions chief executive, says: “This partnership is a new way for a recognised group travel wholesaler to work directly with a destination to promote the particular highlights of their offer to the groups market.
“The worldwide interest in King Richard III, together with the county’s reputation for its food and drink, offer a unique combination that already appeals to tour planners. Working together with Greatdays will give us a new opportunity to raise the profile of the destination even further, encouraging more people to spend a few days discovering what we have to offer.”
The new partnership has been developed with support from coach tourism consultancy Stuart Render Tourism.
The Group Travel Awards 2017, organised by GTO magazine, were held in central London on Friday 2 June.
Here’s the list of winners and runners-up. For full details about the awards scheme, go to www.grouptravelawards.com
Best UK Destination for Groups
Winner: London Runner Up: Isle of Wight
Best Event for Groups
Winner: The Thursford Christmas Spectacular Runner Up: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Bath Christmas Market
BBC Good Food Shows
RHS Hampton Court Flower Shows
The Royal International Air Tattoo, Fairford
Best Canal or Riverboat Operator for Groups
Winner: City Cruises, London Runner Up: French Brothers, Windsor
Dudley Canal Trust
Princess River Cruises, Nottingham
Sabrina Boat, Shrewsbury
Salter’s Steamers, Oxford
Thames Rivercruise, Reading
The River Cruise Line
Best Sea Crossing Operator for Groups
Winner: Eurotunnel Runner Up: P&O Ferries
Wightlink, Isle of Wight Ferries
Winner: Virgin Trains Runner Up: CrossCountry
South West Trains
Best Group Dining Experience
Winner: Planet Hollywood, London Runner Up: Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Brick Lane Music Hall, London
Hard Rock Café, London
Rainforest Café, London
The Strand Palace, London
Best Company or Venue Offering Guided Tours
Winner: City & Village Tours Runner Up: Groups Direct
Angels Costumes – The Tour, London
Big Bus Tours, London
Emmerdale Village Tour
Jaguar Land Rover Factory Tours
The Houses of Parliament, London
Best Information Product for Groups (website or printed)
Winner: English Heritage Group Visits Guide 2016/17 Runner Up: www.greatdays.co.uk
The National Trust Groups Guide 2016
Best West End Production for Groups
Winner: The Lion King Runner Up: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Half a Sixpence
Motown The Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Best Best Group Ticketing Agency
Winner: Group Line Runner Up: Encore
Delfont Mackintosh Theatres
The Ticket Factory
Most Group-Friendly Hotel Chain or Group
Winner: Daish’s Hotel Group Runner Up: Warner Leisure Hotels
Best Western Hotels & Resorts
De Vere Hotels
Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts
TLH Leisure Resort
Best Individual Hotel for Groups
Winner: St Kilda Hotel, Llandudno Runner Up: Knights Hill Hotel & Spa, Kings Lynn (Best Western/Abacus Hotels)
Preston Sands Hotel, Paignton
Queens Hotel, Blackpool (Leisureplex)
The Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton
The Russel Hotel, Weymouth (Daish’s Hotel Group)
Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire (Warner Leisure Hotels)
Best Holiday Park for Groups
Winner: Mill Rythe Holiday Village, Hayling Island (Away Resorts) Runner Up: Potters Resort, Norfolk
Butlins, Bognor Regis
Norton Grange, Isle of Wight (Warner Leisure Hotels)
Seacroft Holiday Village, Norfolk (Richardsons)
Best University Accommodation for Groups
Winner: University of Kent, Canterbury Runner Up: York Conferences at The University of York
St Aidan’s College at Durham University
University of Portsmouth
Best Group Tour Operator
Winner:IOW Tours, Isle of Wight Runner Up: Airedale Tours, West Yorkshire
David Urquhart Travel, East Kilbride
Greatdays Travel Group, Cheshire
InterChoice Holidays, Wolverhampton
Just for Groups! Norwich
Success Tours, Wiltshire
Tailored Travel, London
Best European Attraction for Groups
Winner: Disneyland Paris, France Runner Up: Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland
Eiffel Tower, France
Guinness Storehouse, Ireland
Ice Cave Langjökull, Iceland
Keukenhof Gardens, Holland
The Claude Monet Foundation, France
Best European Destination for Groups
Winner:Ireland Runner Up: Belgium
Best Animal or Sea Life Attraction for Groups
Winner: West Midland Safari & Leisure Park, Worcestershire Runner Up: ZSL London Zoo
Chester Zoo, Cheshire
Howletts Wild Animal Park, Kent
Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, Wiltshire
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
The National SEA LIFE Centre, Birmingham
Best Historical House and/or Garden for Groups
Winner: Chatsworth House, Derbyshire Runner Up: Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Buckingham Palace, London
Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
Eltham Palace, London
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Savill Garden, Windsor
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
Best Family Day Out
Winner:Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter Runner Up: Drayton Manor Theme Park, Staffordshire
Cadbury World, Birmingham
Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Surrey
Legoland Windsor Resort
Longleat’s Festival of Light, Wiltshire
The London Bridge Experience
Best Attraction for Group Visits
Winner:Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes Runner Up: Coca-Cola London Eye
Beamish Open Air Museum, County Durham
Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Hampshire
Buckingham Palace, London
Eden Project, Cornwall
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London
The View from The Shard, London
Outstanding Contribution to Group Travel by an Individual
The Little Treasures of Britain Award
The Peto Garden, Iford Manor, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
The Development of Incoming Group Visitors to the UK