Robert Shaw, director of Coventry-based coach tour operator Harry Shaw (City Cruiser Holidays Ltd) has been appointed chair of the Coach Tourism Association (CTA). He succeeds John Wales who has stepped down after nearly three years in the post.
This is the first time the CTA has been led by a coach operator. Previous chairs have included Sean Taggart and Denise Bridges from tour wholesaler Albatross Travel.
Today, the CTA, which was established in 1989 as the Coach Tourism Council to bring the coach tourism industry together and to promote travel and tourism by coach, represents around 130 UK coach tour operators and coach tour wholesalers, and around 150 coach tourism suppliers.
Writing to members, Robert Shaw says: “As a coach tour operator, I understand only too well how difficult 2020 has been for our sector. It has been heart-breaking to have to cancel holiday programmes when we know how desperate our loyal customers are to travel. And the stop-start approach to the rules has been a great frustration for us all, especially given the incredible work our sector has put into ensuring that coach tours and excursions are Covid-Safe.
“But above all, the abiding memory of 2020 will be the friendship and camaraderie that our industry has provided. We all know that the coach sector is special and is like a ‘family’ to which we all belong and can turn to in times of need. And I feel the same about the industry’s associations which is why I have been such a passionate supporter of the CTA for so long and been delighted to have served on its board to play a part in helping it grow and prosper.”
Looking ahead to 2021, the CTA says it will be hosting a series of online sessions, including ones in partnership with national tourism bodies, and a range of training and inspirational topics to keep members informed, engaged and entertained.
The annual Coach Tourism Conference and Workshop, planned for February 2021, has been postponed to May.
Chairman of the Coach Tourism Association, John Wales, says that not only does
the coach industry need government help urgently, it offers the country the
best opportunity for tourism when the market recovers.
CTA says it has a seat at the table of TIER – the Tourism Industry Emergency
Response group – talking directly to ministers to mitigate the tourism crash
and plan for recovery.
Wales, the CTA’s chairman, told Bus and Coach Buyer that the key to emerging
from the health crisis strongly later this year will be for every element of
the industry to share the problems and remaining risk, expressly to avoid coach
operators going out of business.
fact is, the coach tourism can spearhead a tourism recovery,” he said. “There
won’t be a quicker route to market than coaches,
able to deliver 50 customers to hotels and attractions. The travel industry has
demonstrated an admirable ability to adapt to some of the most severe
conditions. These have ranged from natural disasters to attacks by terrorists.
The Coronovirus pandemic does however represent the
greatest challenge our businesses have had to face for several generations. At
the time of writing it would seem that almost all non-essential travel is being
recently wrote a letter to all the members of the Coach Tourism Association in
which I sympathised with both those coach operators and suppliers who are now
experiencing the immense financial impact, saying: ‘There has never been a time when
we have been more in need of flexibility and understanding during these
extraordinary circumstances so we can mitigate costs and ensure we have strong
partnerships going forward.’ Yet I am still getting reports of some hotels and
tourist suppliers enforcing strict cancellation terms on future bookings of
coach operators, even though there is no actual operating cost to them…. it’s a
are obliged to refund their clients in 14 days (PTD), due to the situation and
comply with trading standards, which makes it even more astonishing that these
generators of business are then ‘fined’ by large corporations who do not share
the real impact on the front line and accelerate the financial disaster most
operators are experiencing.”
said that the CTA is launching a website portal this week offering advice to
group tourism operators.
want to reassure operators that we will do everything in our power to put your
voice across to the TIER group – we’re at the table every week,” he said.
particular, John said, CTA is appealing to government to get coach operators to
be considered leisure businesses, and get the business rates holiday and grants
promised for that business sector.
right now, we must wait to see the full impact and timescale. All we can do is
control and reduce our costs and plan for a recovery, which we all hope will be
in the shorter term. We must wait and see what government support is pledged to
enable the coach operators to survive.
the media will show as much enthusiasm on the positives when the pain clears
and helps boost tourism – we will be sharing information on the CTA website to
assist all members and planning some PR stories ready for the recovery and
welcome any assistance and input from suppliers and operators.
hundreds of millions of pounds privately invested in low carbon emission
coaches, delivering the cleanest form of transport, has been a massive burden
on operators, magnified now as all incomes have dried up in this crisis. There
was a sense of long-term optimism voiced in the CTA’s
Conference and Workshop in York in February.”
CTA is appealing to government to get coach operators to be considered
leisure businesses, and get the business rates holiday and grants promised for
that business sector.
and this is a big but, survival through the effects on our industry from this
pandemic is the only short-term focus for operators, suppliers and all services associated with tourism. I believe our coach tour
operators and supporting suppliers in our close-knit industry can spearhead the
recovery, capitalising on the stacked up demand generated from lock down,
delivery of mass numbers around the country easily and in environmentally friendly way.
would say that, in all my 38 years in various tourism sectors, I have never had
the privilege to be associated with a more hands-on, robust, friendly and
forward-looking group of people than the coach operator members of the CTA who
can react swiftly to changing circumstances. With help
from Government, partner supplier support and determination to survive, we will
overcome the dark clouds on the immediate horizon. Working together we can
navigate, deliver and quickly drive down the road to tourism
recovery the country needs, hopefully in the summer.”
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.
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
The Coach Tourism Council has become the Coach Tourism Association as the trade organisation moves to better describe its purpose.
Announcing the change at the CTA AGM held on 8 August, Chairman Denise Bridges said that the term ‘Council’ was misleading and that the new name more accurately describes the trade organisation. A new logo has been designed that maintains the organisation’s green theme.
Brian Way, the owner of Wayahead Travel in Bournemouth, was elected to the CTA Board. He joins chair Denise Bridges of Albatross Travel, vice chair Jane Duffelen of Shaws Coaches, Robert Shaw of Harry Shaw, and Louise Fitzpatrick of Marriott Hotels who were all returned unopposed.
Members heard that the CTA is to support an initiative for a comprehensive survey to help the coach tourism industry plan for the future and exploit the potential to increase the number of people taking coach tours. For more information, go to www.coachtourismassociation.co.uk
The AGM formed part of a weekend hosted by QHotels at its 4-star Cheltenham Chase Hotel. Members enjoyed familiarisation visits to Gloucester and the WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, as well as the traditional CTA summer barbeque.
Dan Kelly, general manager of the Cheltenham Chase Hotel, says: “We were delighted to welcome CTA members to our hotel. With 122 rooms, and our location just off the M5, we regularly welcome groups of all sizes.”