The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) has given a clear message to the Mayor of London that the early implementation of the Euro 6 emission standard in the existing central London Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) in 2019, combined with the introduction of an expanded LEZ in 2020, will seriously impact on coach and group tourism in the capital.
On 8 April 2019, central London changes from being an LEZ and becomes an ULEZ, an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone. This will require the Euro 6 emission standard for coaches and buses. A daily charge of £100 will be levied against any coaches and buses that aren’t compliant.
From 26 October 2020 the existing London-wide (LEZ), an area roughly the area inside the M25, will require coaches and buses to be Euro 6 to avoid daily charges of £300.
The coach and bus industry is concerned that the time scales do not allow time for coach and bus operators with older vehicles to either replace or retrofit engines in order to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Facing this insurmountable challenge, many operators are understood to be considering increasing their prices to allow for the daily charges for non-compliant vehicles. These increases will have to be passed on to the customer. While operators believe that many customers will pay the extra charge, there is concern that overall, passenger numbers may drop, affecting both operators and the London visitor economy.
Commenting on the announcement, Simon Posner, CPT chief executive, says: “CPT has been engaged with transport for London (TfL) and industry partners for many years on a number of air quality and congestion reducing initiatives for London. A delegation of industry representatives, led by CPT, expressed their concerns in a meeting with the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, who clearly understood the industry’s position and acknowledged that any expansion to the ULEZ would present many operators with an insurmountable problem.
“CPT remains convinced that the expansion of ULEZ, in addition to the early introduction of the scheme in the central area, will have a serious impact on day-to-day coach operations as well as a detrimental impact on London’s tourism economy. While we continue to support the Mayor’s plans to improve London’s air quality, penalising visiting coaches which are part of the solution and not the problem is not the way to go about it.
“Buses and coaches are key to reducing pollution, alleviating congestion and providing quicker journey times in the capital, and it is extremely disappointing that this announcement fails to recognise the role that these important modes have to play. CPT and the coach industry plans to meet with the incoming Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, in order to help find a workable solution for London, its tourism economy and visiting coaches.”
From 25 October 2021 the ULEZ is due to be extended to cover all of London inside the North and South Circular Roads.
A report commissioned by CPT found that London’s economy benefited around £186m from coach tourism.
A new travel trade initiative introduced by Visit Southport to attract more groups to the town is being hailed a success, with interest up around 15% year-on-year.
‘Southport Pick ‘n’ Mix’ was launched at the British Tourism & Travel Show in March. Developed jointly with coach tourism consultancy Stuart Render Tourism, the initiative offers a range of inspiring ideas for a bespoke 4-night itinerary for groups. It gives group travel organisers and coach tour operators the opportunity to combine the town’s many attractions with visits to attractions in the surrounding area.
Steve Christian, destination development manager with Visit Southport says that the initiative has been one of the most successful trade campaigns in recent years.
“In 2017 Southport went through a re-branding exercise, introducing a new strapline ‘Different Every Time’. When we were looking for ideas for a trade campaign to support the new branding, we came up with ‘Southport Pick ‘n’ Mix’. We launched it at the British Tourism & Travel Show where, I’m delighted to say, it seems to have captured the attention of GTOs and coach tour operators in a way we haven’t seen for many years.
“The level of interest has far exceeded our expectations. Supported by our trade media advertising and PR activity the flow of enquiries coming into our trade team is around 15% up year-on-year. What we’re hearing is that while most GTOs and coach operators know about Southport, they hadn’t really given much thought about coming to visit. They’re telling us that not only does the ‘Pick ‘n’ Mix product stand out, but it also makes it so much easier to understand what the group offer is.”
The ‘Southport ‘Pick ‘n’ Mix’ attractions and destinations that groups can visit in the surrounding area include WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre near Ormskirk, the National Trust’s Formby Beach, Samlesbury Hall near Preston, The World of Glass in St Helens, Ena Mill and The Courtyard, Tarleton, and a full day out in Liverpool.
The launch of ‘Southport Pick ‘n’ Mix’ follows on from the introduction of the ‘Southport Welcome’, an initiative launched at the end of 2016 to remind coach operators tour planners why the seaside destination is coach and group friendly.
New Lanark Mill Hotel, situated at the heart of New Lanark Mills World Heritage Site in Scotland, has received a 4-star grading from VisitScotland.
The accolade comes at the same time as the hotel is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
A two-year investment programme of around £350,000 has seen all 38 bedrooms refurbished to a modern, contemporary style. All the bedrooms look out onto the River Clyde or the surrounding conservation area. The hotel features a heated indoor swimming pool, gym, sauna and steam room, the Mill One restaurant, a bar and spacious lounges.
The move from a 3-star to a 4-star rating doesn’t affect existing group rates, which remain unchanged.
The hotel building was originally one of the four mills that made up New Lanark Village, the 18th century cotton mill village set alongside the River Clyde, now less than one hour from Glasgow and Edinburgh. By the 1990s, ‘Mill No. 1’ was in an advance working state of disrepair. The New Lanark Trust made the welcome decision to restore the building and turn it into a hotel. After many years of painstaking work the hotel opened in May 1998.
Commenting on the 4-star rating, John Stirrat, the hotel’s general manager, says: “Over the last two years we’ve invested heavily in the hotel, so I’m absolutely delighted that VisitScotland has awarded us its prestigious 4-star rating. This isn’t just about the building of course, but testament to all the staff who work here. In January this year we launched ‘Spinning a New Yarn’, a new travel trade campaign to raise awareness of what we have to offer groups. That has encouraged more group travel organisers and coach tour operators to take a closer look at what we have to offer. Our new 4-star rating looks set to make the hotel even more attractive to groups wanting to experience the delight of waking up in a World Heritage Site.”
New Lanark Mills World Heritage Site is set in a beautiful location alongside the picturesque River Clyde and the nearby ‘Falls of Clyde’ waterfalls. Visitors can discover Scotland’s hidden past and see how villagers lived, learned and worked with recreated millworkers’ houses, historic working machinery and the ‘Annie McLeod Experience’, a ‘dark ride’ that tells the story of a child millworker. The Mill Shop offers an extensive range of contemporary gifts, souvenirs, Scottish produce and the New Lanark Wool & Textiles range.
Coach tourism consultancy Stuart Render Tourism has launched a new press release-writing service for small and medium-sized coach operators.
The new service aims to offer professional support for those coach operators that want to raise their profile in the local and regional media but who don’t necessarily have the time or knowledge to carry out that activity for themselves.
As part of the new service, operators will also be given professional advice and guidance on generating more positive PR stories to help enhance their reputation in their local communities.
The introduction of the new service builds on work carried out by the consultancy with destinations, visitor attractions and tourism suppliers to attract more coaches and groups.
“Talking with coach operators I’ve found that when it comes to shouting about their good news, they can find that writing a press release, or coming up with ideas that will generate positive PR, presents a real challenge,” says Stuart Render. “Whether it’s talking about a new coach, staff successes, the latest tour programme or a new product, this new service offers a low-cost solution that will enable operators to promote their successes and maximise positive PR opportunities.”
For more information, call Stuart on 07760 172773, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
After a journey that started in 1982 under the title Coach Monthly, trade publication Group Tourism & Travel Magazine has reached its final destination.
In a statement issued on 6 April, publisher Diversified Communications UK announced that the monthly magazine had published its last issue (April 2018).
Diversified has also closed the magazine’s website together with its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Carsten Holm, managing director of Diversified Communications UK, says: “Like any business, we are alive to the market trends and have to adjust our portfolio as the market continues to evolve. This decision allows us to put even more focus and effort into our other successful brands and developing new ones for the sector.
“The British Coach Tourism Awards, the Coach Drivers’ Club, our online offerings, and the highly successful Coach Tourism Yearbook will also continue to benefit from ongoing investment. Other exciting ideas are also in the pipeline. Diversified maintains trade-mark ownership of Coach Monthly and Group Tourism & Travel and is considering opportunities for the future of these well-loved brands.
“We are very grateful to all our readers and customers for their continued support and we look forward to continuing to serve this important sector through our market-leading products.”
The final decision to close the magazine appears to have been made after the April issue had gone to press. The magazine carries details of features that were due to appear in the May issue including a look at the wartime legacy in Wallonia (southern Belgium) and northern France.
The closure comes at the same time as the departure of editor Jessamy Hudson whose baby is due in May. Samantha Noble, tourism sales manager, and Tim Farr, tourism sales executive are also understood to have left the company.
The news of the closure of Group Tourism & Travel Magazine was a surprise, but perhaps not unexpected. The change of title in March 2017, from Coach Monthly to Group Tourism & Travel Magazine, was a positive move by Diversified Communications to align the magazine more closely with its flagship British Tourism & Travel Show and with the wider groups market.
Coach Monthly, which began life in 1982 as the membership magazine for the Coach Drivers’ Club, and then developed into a stand-alone magazine in 2005, always stood out from the other trade magazines circulating in the group and coach tourism sector. The name of the magazine often generated comment for its quirkiness, but at its heart was a focus on the specific needs of coach tour operators, delivering a one-stop source of news and features aimed at helping them to understand what was happening in their industry as well as giving them inspiration and information to help them put together tours and excursions.
As editor of Coach Monthly from March 2010 to February 2016, I feel a degree of sadness about the closure of the magazine. During my tenure my mission was to make Coach Monthly something special, a magazine aimed at helping coach tour operators and the supplier side understand more about each other’s challenges, products and services.
But times were changing. Trade magazines depend on advertising support, and owners Diversified Communications recognised that widening the focus of the magazine to appeal to group travel organisers would help attract additional advertising. The change of name to Group Tourism & Travel Magazine in March 2017 reinforced this move. But of course, the result was to see GT&T, as the magazine became known, fighting for the same pot of available advertising revenue as the other long-established group magazines. As Carsten Holm so rightly points out, like any business, Diversified is alive to market trends and has to adjust its portfolio as the market continues to evolve.
However, it’s also important to note Carsten’s comment that this allows the company to put even more focus and effort into its other successful brands and developing new ones for the sector.
The coach tourism community, and coach tour operators in particular, value products that reflect their specific interests and requirements. Group Tourism & Travel Magazine may well have reached its final destination, but in an industry renowned for its innovation, and for refreshing, reinventing and reinvigorating its products, something tells me that it won’t be too long before we see something new hitting the streets.
Over the years, Group Tourism & Travel Magazine and Coach Monthly have taken us on some memorable journeys. Here’s to the next adventure!
The organiser of the British Tourism & Travel Show 2018 has announced that visitor numbers were up by 10% compared to 2017.
Diversifed Communications says that the event, which took place at the NEC in Birmingham on 21 and 22 March, welcomed 2,866 attendees. The official show catalogue indicated the number of exhibiting companies to be around 250. The company says the final number was more than 270.
“The show was a fantastic success,” says David Maguire, event director. “The buzz on site was electric this year, with an array of pop up entertainment performances surprising visitors, coupled with over 270 exhibiting companies. Big names joined us in the Keynote Theatre including national treasure Angela Rippon. Visitor numbers reached a record high and we can’t wait to get to work on the next edition taking place on 20-21 March 2019 at the NEC, Birmingham.
Comments about the show collated by Diversified Communications include:
“Another great show highlighting the best of British tourism, giving a great opportunity to meet attractions and customers and catch up on what is going on in the tourism world.” Roger Bailey, Coventry Blue Badge Tourist Guide.
“Although a 200-mile return journey, the show was a great way to source new ideas, make new contacts, put names to faces and catch up with long standing and current contacts.” Geoff Allen, director, Travallen Travel & Events.
“As a U3A organiser we found all the stands representatives very helpful, organised, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. They were experienced in putting together suitable packages for day trips, giving us lots of ideas on how to organise our excursions. A very helpful and useful day out, which was also very enjoyable.” Barbara Ashworth, U3A groups organiser.
“It was super to see so many GTOs as well as tour operators at the show; many thanks indeed to Happy Days Holidays for their great efforts [in providing the shuttle coaches], and thanks to the brilliant attractions.” Steve Reed, Steve Reed Tourism and director of AGTO (Association of Group Travel Organisers).
The show also presented its first ‘GTO Special Recognition Award’, in partnership with AGTO, to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of group travel organisers within the tourism sector. The award went to Mary Gotts, GTO for Ver-Colne Valley U3A. The citation praised her “methodical” and “professional” attitude to groups, commenting that “she works tirelessly to ensure her group have the best holidays ever”.
More than 150 coach tour operators, tour wholesalers and industry suppliers gathered in Blackpool at the weekend for the Coach Tourism Association’s Coach Holiday Conference.
This annual event, held this year at The Imperial Hotel and supported by Visit Blackpool, brought CTA members together in a well-planned programme of events that combined business with pleasure. A familiarisation visit hosted by Blackpool Pleasure Beach provided the opportunity to find out more about developments at the 42-acre park. Delegates also enjoyed a VIP reception on board Blackpool Transport’s heritage trams. The social activities included two dinners, one of which was gate-crashed by Sponge Bob Square Pants and friends, courtesy of the Pleasure Beach, and a very realistic waxwork of Ed Sheeran, courtesy of Madame Tussauds.
However, while the social elements gave delegates valuable opportunities to network, the two business-led activities undoubtedly delivered the real benefit of CTA membership.
The well-attended CTA Workshop held on the Monday morning provided a series of more than 500 10-minute business-to-business appointments. Its an effective format prompting suppliers and coach operators alike to focus on their core business propositions.
On the Monday afternoon the main conference sessions proved both informative and entertaining. Anita Rani, a familiar face to viewers of BBC One’s Countryfile, revealed some of the stories and secrets from behind-the-scenes of the popular Sunday evening programme. Along with executive producer Tim Etchells, she offered delegates a glimpse behind-the-scenes. Topics covered included the importance of keeping out of the way of “poo and pee” when interviewing a farmer in in a cowshed (it was the cow’s poo and pee!). Anita also revealed that in each programme, the Countryfile weather presenter, in a live feed, changes from a suit into casual wear just before going on-air to link in with the countryside feel of the programme.
However, the main reason for her appearance at the conference was to remind delegates about BBC Countryfile Live, the group-friendly event now held at Blenheim Palace each August. In 2017 the event attracted more than 120,000 people and 10,000 dogs. For 2018, CTA member Encore Tickets is the main ticket supplier and there are special rates for coach operators and groups.
Leading the speaker line-up was Debbie Marshall, a fluent and enthusiastic speaker who set up Silver Travel Advisor in 2011. This online portal provides a one-stop shop for travel information and advice for the over 50s. She reminded delegates that there are more than 23 million over-50s in the UK today, and that 17,000 people turn 50 every week. She indicated that while use of social media site Facebook might be waning among the young, there was a surge of interest among older people.
She explained that by 2050, there will be more than half a million people aged over 100. She noted that with people living longer, the traditional three-point life model of education, work and retirement will change, with many people changing their career, and enjoying a two-stage retirement that may include a period of volunteering before settling down with the slippers. She reminded delegates that longer life presents new physiological challenges, pointing out that holiday styles might change as people work out how many healthy years they might have left.
Silver Travel Advisor produces an industry report, using research carried out among 1,000 members. A key finding was that quality and added value comes above price when choosing an operator and product. Debbie identified the opportunities that exist for products aimed at multi-generational family groups, and for single travellers who find themselves on their own through circumstances, and who would benefit from the social and customer care elements that a coach tour can deliver. She was also keen to see more ‘care-assisted’ tours, although she recognised that the move by government to ensure all coaches are accessible, rather than just one or two in a fleet, was a step too far. She reiterated a point that the Coach Tourism Association has made before that older holidaymakers are looking for certainty, safety and security, three elements that are at the heart of coach touring.
Representing Blackpool, Philip Welsh, head of visitor economy for Visit Blackpool/Blackpool Council, highlighted the investment that is transforming the town. Speaking with a clear passion for the town, he explained how the town was re-positioning itself, creating a year-round resort. He pointed out that the aim was to protect the town’s rich heritage and assets, preserving the Winter Gardens and Blackpool Tower, but investing in new projects.
He reminded delegates about the re-modelling of the sea-front, the building of a new shopping centre and business district, and the introduction of the new tramway. He said the tide was turning, with the perception of Blackpool as it was in the old days now being replaced by a new optimism, and private sector investment. Talking about the fleet of new trams, he revealed they have brought about a new interest in the heritage tram fleet. He said the trams were synonymous with what Blackpool is doing, giving something traditional a new twist.
He highlighted the £16 million development of a new rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach as a great example of this new-found confidence. Commenting on the change he reminded the audience that people shouldn’t believe what they might be told, or what they think they know, but for them to come to Blackpool and see the changes for themselves.
Looking ahead he gave details of new projects that will see the opening of a new five-star and four-star hotels to cater for the changing conference and leisure demographic. He also reminded delegates that rail electrification is nearing completion, offering improved connections to London from a new North Station.
“We have a very loyal audience,” he said, “but we need to generate new audiences. We need to challenge perceptions and make Blackpool cool.”
Simon Smith, the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK’s tourism and coaching executive, provided a valuable update on the plans to introduce Clean Air Zones. He explained that in addition to London, more than 50 other possible locations have been identified. These range from a single road to a town or city. He said five zones have been identified in the first tranche of the planning: Leeds, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham and Southampton. In each case fines of £100 will be levied for all coaches that aren’t Euro 6 compliant. However, he also pointed out that it is simply unreasonable to expect coach operators to retrofit all coaches to conform to the new regulations, and that, as a result, some operators will find themselves having to pay the financial penalties.
Simon left the audience in no doubt that this would result in a likely increase in hire costs, and the costs of day trips and tours. He indicated that touring itineraries may end up passing through more than one clean air zone, resulting in more than one fine for operators whose vehicles weren’t compliant.
The presentation also touched on developments in London. Simon gave clear advice to visitor attractions to think very carefully about making their coach parking and driver benefits as attractive as possible to avoid tour planners looking elsewhere.
While the coach operators in the room will have been well aware of much of the content of Simon’s presentation, it was the industry suppliers in the room who left the conference with a greater understanding of the issues facing the industry.
The event included the CTA’s AGM. Denise Bridges, managing director of Albatross Travel, stepped down as chairman after three years in office. Taking her place is John Wales, the founder and former CEO of Encore Tickets. He is joined by three new board members: Daniel Kirby of Kirby’s Coaches; Roger Bull of RB Travel; and Colin Fawcus of DFDS Ferries. Robert Shaw of Harry Shaw takes over as vice chair from Jane Duffelen of Shaws of Maxey.
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.