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Continuum Attractions buys GreenWood Forest Park

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.”

Continuum attractions
Continuum Attractions has bought GreenWood Forest Park in North Wales. Enjoying the park’s facilities are Kevin Smith, group attractions director; Andrew Pawson, group finance director; and Juliana Delaney, chief executive.

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).

Continuum Attractions
The Continuum Attractions team of Kevin Smith, Andrew Pawson and Juliana Delaney.

Popularity of UK’s gardens and zoos continues to rise

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.

Popularity of UK's gardens and zoos
Gardens and zoos are attracting record numbers of visitors. This is one of the collection of royal cars at Sandringham House and Gardens in Norfolk.

British Coach Tourism Awards 2018 – a look at the award categories. What’s new and what’s gone

 

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.

For more information, go to www.britishcoachawards.co.uk

 

Comment

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.

www.britishcoachawards.co.uk

 

Here’s the full list of award categories for the British Coach Tourism Awards 2018 (in alphabetical order):

  • Accommodation Provider – Hotel Groups
  • Accommodation Provider – Independent Hotels
  • British Coach Tourism Recognition Award
  • Coach Friendly Destination of the Year
  • Coach Friendly Visitor Attraction of the Year
  • Coach Tour Driver of the Year
  • Coach Tour Operator of the Year – small fleet
  • Coach Tour Operator of the Year – medium fleet
  • Coach Tour Operator of the Year – large fleet
  • Coach Tourism Innovation
  • Coach Tourism Professional of the Year
  • Cross-Sea Carrier
  • Day Excursion Programme
  • Dining Experience
  • European Coach Friendly Attraction of the Year
  • Heritage Railway
  • Holiday Programme
  • River and Inland Cruise Operator
  • Theatre Production
  • Tour Wholesaler and Industry Supplier

 

 

 

New partnerships aims to encourage more groups to visit Leicester and Leicestershire

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.

Martin Peters, Chief Executive, Leicestershire Promotions, and Katherine Worsley, UK Product Manager with Greatdays Travel Group

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.

 

Group Travel Awards winners

Group Travel Awards

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
Bournemouth
Eastbourne
Kent
Liverpool
Manchester
York

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
Royal Ascot
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
DFDS
Eurostar
Irish Ferries
Stena Line
Wightlink, Isle of Wight Ferries

Best Ocean Cruise Line Operator for Groups

Winner: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Runner Up: P&O Cruises
Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV)
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)
Royal Caribbean
Saga
Thomson Cruises

Best Coach Operator for Groups
Large Fleet

Winner: Bakers Dolphin, Weston-super-Mare
Runner Up: Shearing Holidays, Wigan

Small Fleet

Winner: Platinum Express, Wolverhampton
Runner Up: Lucketts Travel, Fareham

Alfa Travel, Chorley
Crusader Holidays, Clacton-on-Sea
Daish’s Holidays, Torquay
David Ogden Holidays, St Helens
Dunwood Travel, Dudley
Edwards Coaches, Pontypridd
Epsom Coaches, Surrey
Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel, Henley-in-Arden
Kings Coaches, Colchester
Scotland & Bates, Ashford

Best Airline for Groups

Winner: Jet2.com
Runner Up: British Airways
Aer Lingus
easyjet
Flybe
KLM
Ryanair
Virgin Atlantic

Best Railway Operator for Groups

Winner: Virgin Trains
Runner Up: CrossCountry
Eurostar
GWR
Southeastern
South West Trains
Thameslink

Best Group Dining Experience

Winner: Planet Hollywood, London
Runner Up: Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Bateaux London
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
BBC Tours
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
www.justforgroups.co.uk
www.royalcollection.org.uk
www.tripadvisor.co.uk
www.visitkent.co.uk

Best West End Production for Groups

Winner: The Lion King
Runner Up: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Half a Sixpence
Jersey Boys
Kinky Boots
Les Misérables
Motown The Musical
The Phantom of the Opera

Best Best Group Ticketing Agency

Winner: Group Line
Runner Up: Encore
Delfont Mackintosh Theatres
Groups Direct
See Groups
The Ticket Factory
Ticketmaster

Most Group-Friendly Hotel Chain or Group

Winner: Daish’s Hotel Group
Runner Up: Warner Leisure Hotels
Abacus Hotels
Best Western Hotels & Resorts
De Vere Hotels
Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts
Leisureplex
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
Cardiff University
Leeds University
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
Amsterdam
Dublin
Germany
Iceland
Malta
Prague

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

Geoff Holt

The Little Treasures of Britain Award

The Peto Garden, Iford Manor, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

The Development of Incoming Group Visitors to the UK

Clovelly, Devon

The Editor’s Award for Innovation in Tourism

Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage

The Editor’s Award for Technological Innovation

St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury

New name and new editor for Group Leisure magazine

Group Leisure magazine has changed its name to Group Leisure & Travel magazine and appointed Keeley Rodgers as its new editor.

Commenting on the change of name, Rob Yandell, of publisher Yandell Publishing says: “We feel that this small change to our name better reflects who we are and what we offer our readers and advertisers today. The change will also signal a fresh design, new ideas and original features.

“Remarkably, it has been ten years since our last major change to Group Leisure. We are very excited by our new look and updated magazine title which has been carefully planned over several months. I hope you like the changes which we think will make finding great ideas even easier, as well as delivering an even more enjoyable magazine to read.”

Group Leisure
A change of name for Group Leisure magazine, but only slightly

The change in name brings the magazine title in line with its October trade show – the Group Leisure & Travel Show. It also means a change to another event in the coach and group tourism calendar. The Group Leisure Awards, which becomes the Group Leisure & Travel Awards.

This year the awards take place on 11 October, on the eve of the show that takes place on 12 October.

Keeley Rodgers joins the magazine from the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times newspapers where she was assistant editor.

Group Leisure
Keeley Rodgers joins Group Leisure & Travel magazine from the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times newspapers where she was assistant editor

Commenting on her appointment, she says: “I’m delighted to be joining Yandell Media and look forward to building on the success of its well-established publications. The last few years in Oxford have been an incredible adventure but the lure of making a difference in the growing field of travel magazines and websites was just too compelling.

“I have heard great things about the team, the products and of course the many readers and customers, and can’t wait to be a part of it. With a passion for travel I will be bringing my enthusiasm and experience in journalism to the role and I’m very excited about the times ahead.”

Rob Yandell says: “We’re really looking forward to her joining the team and bringing her wealth of experience and new ideas to the magazine. I am confident we have found an editor who can not only retain our status as the leading magazine in its field, but further improve it for the benefit of both readers and advertisers.”

Keeley joins the title on 5 June and takes up the reins from Sarah Holt who left the publication in March.

For more information, go to www.groupleisureandtravel.com

 

 

City Cruises acquires YorkBoat

River Thames sightseeing operator City Cruises has expanded with the acquisition of York River Boat Cruises (YorkBoat) from Chester Boat Company for £2.5m.

The acquisition adds to City Cruises’ existing portfolio that includes its main London River Thames operation, and City Cruises Poole, based in Dorset. The enlarged company will now operate 25 boats offering a wider choice of river cruise products for tour operators, group travel organisers and travel agents.

City Cruises York
City Cruises has acquired YorkBoat, adding to its existing operations in London and Poole

General manager of York River Boat Cruises, Jo Dykes, who has been with the company for more than 20 years, will remain in position and oversee the company’s transition to become City Cruises York.

Kyle Haughton, managing director of City Cruises, says: “Our objective is to grow the business beyond London and the new acquisition is a step towards achieving this. There are significant opportunities to work with the trade in York and the success we’ve had packaging attractions with cruises is something we want to develop there too.”

Brian Clarke, owner and managing director of Chester Boat Company, says: “It’s been a fantastic opportunity over the last ten years using my wealth of experience to develop the business. It is with great pleasure that it can now be passed on to a larger operator that can take this business to its next level.”

The expansion adds to City Cruises’ recent successes that has seen overall revenues for 2016/2017 increase by 6% year-on-year. Contributing factors include a new private hire service that delivered 168 private hires in 2016-17, generating a 17% increase in revenue. Revenue from Showboat sailings on the Thames increased 16% with revenue from afternoon tea cruises increasing by 10%. Increasing the frequency of the popular ‘Jazz Cruise’ to every Friday delivered a revenue increase of 117%. At the same time, a major £2.4m refurbishment of the City Alpha on the Thames and the launch of a third ThamesJet boat has brought an improved London product.

City Cruises York will continue to operate sightseeing cruises from the two existing boarding points along the River Ouse: King’s Staith and Lendal Bridge. The company says the product will be developed to offer a similar schedule to London. The new cruising options will include the early evening Sundowner as well as Lunch and Dinner Cruises. York will also operate the ‘Sail with Santa Cruise’ and ‘Christmas Night Cruises’ throughout the festive season.

For more information, go to www.yorkboat.co.uk

Epsom Coaches name to disappear

RATP Dev UK, the parent company of Epsom Coaches, is to rename the Surrey-based operator, and end its tour operations, just three years before the company was due to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The surprise move, announced on 3 April, will see the company become Quality Line, currently the trading name of the company’s bus division. The company is to be brought under direct management of RATP Dev London.

The changes, which will take effect from 25 June 2017, are understood to mean that the well-respected Epsom Coaches name will disappear completely, and coach tour operations will come to an end.

It is also understood that Steve Whiteway, Epsom Coaches’ managing director, is to retire.

Epsom Coaches
Steve Whiteway, Epsom Coaches’ managing director, is to retire in June

It is understood that Epsom Coaches existing day trip and tour programme will continue until 24 June. After that, the programme will cease. Customers already booked on tours after that date are being notified and monies refunded.

Tim Jackson, Chief Executive of RATP Dev UK, says: “I would like to thank Steve Whiteway who is retiring in June after 37 years of service. Steve’s dedication and leadership over the years has been the foundation for this successful business.”

“In an increasingly competitive market, I’m confident that the closer integration of Quality Line into the RATP Dev London operation will enhance the company’s competitiveness and create opportunity to develop it further. That should be good for its passengers, employees and local stakeholders.”

Epsom Coaches
After 97 years, the end of the road is in sight for the familiar maroon and cream livery of Epsom Coaches

Fiona Taylor, managing director of RATP Dev London, says: “The changes enable RATP Dev London to speak with a stronger voice and deliver a consistent product, so that we can better serve our customers every day. We very much look forward to working with the excellent staff of Epsom Coaches as they join the RATP Dev London team.”

RATP Dev London currently has two subsidiaries: London United and London Sovereign. Quality Line’s existing TfL routes will continue to run from the Epsom depot. RATP Dev UK says that from June it will have a single interface with TfL to cover contract and account management, tendering and business development. It will also deploy best practice across all ten of its London bus garages.

Epsom Coaches was established by H.R. Richmond in 1920. In 1986 the company made the move into the bus market. In 2003 the bus division was rebranded as Quality Line with the fleet repainted from the traditional cream and brown into all over red to comply with TfL requirements. In April 2012 the company was purchased by the Paris-based RATP Group.

Epsom Coaches
In 2015 this 1951 Bedford coach helped Epsom Coaches celebrate its 95th anniversary

In June 2015 the company celebrated its 95th anniversary with a well-attended open day at its Epsom premises. Commenting at the time, Steve Whiteway said: “Our visitors enjoyed the variety of attractions we laid on and especially enjoyed the nostalgic displays of old vehicles and photographs from our long history. We have had some wonderful comments, our staff team and vehicle owners together with our suppliers really went all out to make this a very special day for all concerned.”

It is understood that staff are saddened that the changes mean they won’t be able to celebrate the company’s centenary. Talking at the open day in 2015, Steve said: “I am very proud to lead this business, which has always had the community at its heart. We now look forward to our centenary in 2020.”

Stuart Render, who has worked closely with the Epsom Coaches team for a number of years, and has shared many of their successes, says: “Epsom Coaches is one of this country’s most respected coaching names. It is therefore disappointing and not a little sad that the brand and the tour operations are to disappear. It is equally disappointing that the team of professional, enthusiastic and hard-working staff are being denied the opportunity to celebrate what would have been a hugely important milestone in the history of the company.

“However, there is little room for sentimentality when it comes to the harsh commercial environment. This is a straight commercial decision, and is in no way an indication of the team having done anything other than work their socks off. All the team at Epsom Coaches can be rightly proud of what they’ve achieved. Come 25 June, the coach and coach tourism industry, and the many loyal customers of Epsom Coaches, will have lost something very special.”

 

Miss England helps Southport celebrate awards success

Miss England 2016, Elizabeth Grant, visited the British Tourism & Travel Show at the NEC in Birmingham on 23 March to help the Southport tourism team celebrate winning a national tourism award.

Southport won ‘Coach Friendly Destination of the Year’ at the British Coach Tourism Awards held the previous evening. The town saw off stiff competition from Beverley, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Poole and Wells to win the award for ‘Coach Friendly Destination of the Year’.

The award recognises a town, city or region that demonstrates a commitment to welcoming coaches, coach groups and coach drivers. Previous winners have included Liverpool, York, Burnham-on-Sea and the Isle of Man.

The judges praised ‘Southport Welcome’, a new initiative launched in 2016 to highlight and remind tour planners and coach operators why the traditional seaside destination is coach and group friendly.

Elizabeth Grant was crowned ‘Miss England’ in Southport in July 2016 and was visiting the trade show to help highlight the many attractions the popular seaside town has to offer.

Southport
Miss England 2016/17, Elizabeth Grant, is joined by Sammi Rudge and Steve Christian from Southport’s tourism team

 

Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton launches ‘The Real Yorkshire Experience’

The Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton, North Yorkshire, has launched ‘The Real Yorkshire Experience’, a new and unique short break tour package for tour planners and group travel organisers.

‘The Real Yorkshire Experience’ combines traditional Yorkshire hospitality at the hotel with a choice of day trip itinerary options that can be tailored to offer a bespoke tour.

Rendezvous Hotel Skipton
The Rendezvous Hotel and Visit Skipton teams, with help from ‘Ena’ the sheep, launch ‘The Real Yorkshire Experience’ at the British Tourism & Travel Show on 22 March

The Real Yorkshire Experience package includes:

  • Arrival drinks with Yorkshire treats and Yorkshire tea
  • Dinner, bed and breakfast with a ‘Yorkshire’ dish each night on the menu
  • Yorkshire tea on return from your day out
  • Yorkshire goody bag on departure
  • A selection of Yorkshire-themed evening entertainment including: long sword dancers, folk band, gin tasting experience, themed quizzes, and local guest speakers

The day trip itinerary options include the Yorkshire Dales, Bolton Abbey, Bronte Country, Saltaire and Salts Mill, and the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. There’s also an opportunity to travel around the region by vintage coach.

The 96-bedroom, award-winning Rendezvous Hotel sits alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal a mile south of the market town of Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. As part of the package, groups can be picked up by boat and taken into the town. The hotel has also joined together with a number of local visitor attractions and tourism suppliers to offer exclusive discounts.

Commenting on the new package, Malcolm Weaving, owner of the Rendezvous Hotel, says: “Yorkshire is already well known for its friendly welcome, it’s spectacular scenery, and its group-friendly visitor attractions. Skipton itself was presented with the award for ‘Top Town for Courtesy 2016’ by the National Campaign for Courtesy, of which we are members. This new package brings all of that together in a way that allows tour planners and group travel organisers to put together a bespoke itinerary and to truly experience what this part of Yorkshire has to offer.”

The Rendezvous Hotel is family owned and run by Malcolm and Karen Weaving who live in the hotel. It received the award for ‘Accommodation Provider of the Year’ at the National Coach Tourism Awards 2014 and 2016, and was a finalist in 2017. It was a runner-up in the category for ‘Individual Hotel for Groups’ at the 2016 Group Travel Awards.

The hotel has a ‘Group Charter’ and ‘Tour Charter’, and function rooms that can be used by groups for evening entertainment or afternoon events. There’s free wifi throughout the hotel and free parking for coaches.

For more information, go to www.rendezvous-skipton.co.uk