Future of coach tourism revealed at conference.
Delegates attending this year’s Coach Holiday Conference found themselves in the company of George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
The annual event, organised by the Coach Tourism Association (CTA), and held this year at the Hilton Bournemouth on Sunday 29 and Monday 30 January, attracted more than 160 coach operators, industry suppliers and guests.
Messrs Clooney and Pitt found themselves centre stage in a memorable presentation from Geoff Ramm, a keen proponent of excellence in customer service and the creator of ‘Celebrity Service’ and ‘OMG’ marketing.
In a 45-minute tour-de-force, delivered without notes, Geoff focused on the fact that although most companies say they “go the extra” mile when talking about customer service, the actual level of service delivery almost always falls short.
Standing in front of a screen filled with an image of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, he asked the audience whether the level of service they offer would change if they knew that Messrs Clooney, Pitt or any really famous celebrity, were to walk into their office tomorrow? He made the very reasonable point that there’s almost certainly a gap between your existing customer service, and what you could deliver if you put your mind to it.
Engaging directly with the audience, he asked. “Do your drivers welcome people aboard the coach with a smile? Have you looked at every single customer touch point to see how you can improve the experience?”
He explained that there’s a tendency for businesses to gloat when a competitor does something wrong.
“Don’t gloat,” he said. “It’s a waste of your time and energy. See it as an opportunity to deliver an even better level of service yourself. And don’t spend too long looking at what your competitors are doing in the first place. Look at different industries. See how they handle customer service.”
This was an inspirational presentation delivered by a master of his message. An indication of just how strong those messages were was evident afterwards when, instead of heading straight to the breakout area for coffee, delegates queued to meet Geoff to hand over a business card in exchange for video examples of his own campaigns.
The importance of looking at what you do and identifying ways to do it better was picked up by Peter Stratton, managing director of tour wholesaler ICT. Peter was reporting back on the findings of the first ever nationwide Coach Tourism Survey. The survey, commissioned by the CTA at the end of 2016, was sent out by more than 20 CTA coach tour operator members. Magazines (print and online) including Choice, Mature Times and Silver Travel Advisor also issued the survey to their readers while Visit Kent, Bournemouth Tourism and CalMac Ferries issued the survey to their web users.
In total, the survey was issued to more than 430,000 recipients, making it the biggest-ever survey of its kind.
A total of 25,752 responses were received, a response rate of around 6%, significantly up on the usual response rate to surveys of this kind of between 1% and 2%.
Around 65% of recipients were aged 55 to 74, reflecting the core coach tourism market. Around 10% were age 45 to 54, and 18% were over 75. Around 80% had taken a coach holiday during the last five years, leaving 20% who hadn’t. Of those who hadn’t, 48% indicated that for a future choice they would like a fully inclusive tour; 37% said a luxury holiday; and 32% said they would be interested in a special interest holiday.
Of the 80% of recipients who had travelled on a coach holiday in the last five years, 92% said they would be likely to do so again in the next five years. The survey revealed the top five reasons for choosing a coach holiday, in order of popularity, were: destination; modern comfortable coaches; good accommodation; ample leg room on board; and, perhaps surprisingly in fifth place, price.
Summing up the survey results, Peter Stratton said: “We’re all familiar with the often negative view that coach holidays are for older people. What’s clear from the figures is that far from being a negative, it’s actually a positive. But what’s also clear is that with the growth in the number of older people, the market opportunities are there for the taking. The key benefits of coach holidays identified in this survey: good value; sociable; comfortable; safe; and less hassle than air travel, are likely to prove even more attractive. However, this new so-called baby boomer generation have higher expectations. To capture this new business, the product needs to improve.”
A full analysis of the survey results will be published in the next few weeks.
Other speakers at the conference included Jon Weaver, head of resort marketing and events at Bournemouth Tourism. He highlighted the town’s many attractions, including the seven miles of sandy beaches, the annual programme of events and festivals, and the extensive gardens. He also highlighted Bournemouth’s neighbours; Poole Harbour, the Jurassic coast and the New Forest.
“We have around 150 attractions on our doorstep,” he said. “From Easter, we’re also introducing new overnight beach lodges. If you’re looking for a destination that mixes the traditional with something new and exciting, come to Bournemouth.”
Deirdre Byrne from Failte Ireland (pronounced follcha) brought delegates up to date on the country’s latest tourism initiative, ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’. With an imaginative strapline ‘wonder through time’, this addition to Ireland’s well established ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ initiative on the west coast aims to reduce the capacity pinch at some of Ireland’s tourism hotspots.
“Ireland’s Ancient East offers iconic experiences and hidden gems,” said Deirdre. “We have 10 story-led itineraries for tour planners to look at and tailor to their own requirements.”
On the Sunday afternoon, around 20 delegates took advantage of a ‘fam’ trip to Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum. Brian Way of Bournemouth-based Wayahead Travel proved to be an excellent tour guide on the journey aboard a coach supplied by local operator Sea View Coaches. At Beaulieu, Mandy Lane, Sales and Business Development Manager, welcomed the group with a typical Beaulieu meet and greet, and lunch. A second fam trip a saw delegates make the short walk from the Hilton Bournemouth to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. A raffle held during the dinner on the Sunday evening raised £930 for the CTA’s chosen charity, Something to Look Forward To’.
On the Monday, the popular CTA Workshop brought coach tour operators and suppliers together with a full afternoon of scheduled business appointments.
This was a very successful event bringing coach tour operators and suppliers together in a business and social environment. A special thank you must be made to Bournemouth Tourism and the Hilton Bournemouth for hosting the event. Thanks are also due to Bournemouth Tourism and Tourism Ireland/Failte Ireland/Ireland’s Ancient East for their sponsorship, as well as Plum Publishing/Bus and Coach Professional for designing and producing the Conference print.
Thanks are also due to the support given by the CTA’s 2017 ‘Partners’: Caledonian MacBrayne; Condor Ferries; DFDS, made Tourism Marketing; Towergate Chapman Stevens; and VisitScotland.
For more information about the Coach Tourism Association, and what, as a coach tour operator or supplier, the benefits are in being a member, go to www.coachtourismassociation.co.uk
To see more photos from the event, go to www.facebook.com/stuartrendertourism
But one question remains on the table. Just what would you do if you knew that George Clooney and Brad Pitt were going to visit your business tomorrow?