Coach travel – building towards recovery

FAQs from our fourteenth webinar, ‘Coach travel – building towards recovery’, recorded 14 January.

Please note information provided in these responses was correct at the time of recording.

­Robert Shaw­­­­: Things seem to be changing daily - hopefully this is already on the Chancellor's list of things to do­.

John Johnson: We’ve decided to see how this summer goes.  If we lose much of it, (and I’m basing my financial forecasts on 2021 being only 65% as good as 2019 overall!) ­then we certainly will need to for another year.

John Johnson: We are repeating many of our ‘new’ tours from 2020, because of course they were never tried.  The same goes for new day trip venues. And we have some ‘new-new’ tours in too!

John Johnson: I don’t think that destinations and attractions can ignore the groups market for long.  Everybody needs them.

­John Johnson­­­­: ­April 1st I think! ­ As I don’t think as I write this, that we’ll be able to do much in March.  And I don’t think customers are very keen on March either. Our customers are mostly booking June onwards.

John Johnson: I don’t think it will. The rule of 6 was deemed to not apply to groups when we were operating in August and September, so if it does come back then again, I don’t think it will apply to groups.

­John Johnson­­­­: ­We look at all media and trade magazines. To stand out, provide something new or different...provide experiences! ­

John Johnson: We don’t do as much detailed research as we’d like to, due to time and resource cost.  That’s why I ask destinations and attractions to ‘put it on a plate’ for us.

Lucy Osborne: We research as extensively as we can, taking into consideration what our competitors are offering, what is new and unique in an area, what trends we’re seeing in the industry and in our own sales. Often we’ll include added extras such as meet & greet services or a cream tea, or perhaps it’ll be including something that would be hard to do individually.

­John Johnson­­­­: ­BCH is going in with ABTOT to provide better security.  But yes I think many in the industry will have to move to trust accounts.­ I also think that the Government, being fundamentally unhappy with the complaints received by consumers, about the wider travel industry’s reluctance and delays with returning deposits and final payments in accordance with the PTR’s; and that they are not happy with the wide use of RCN’s, that in the next couple of years, new legislation will be imposed.

Robert Shaw­­­­: ­Quite a complicated area. Bonding capacity is limited following the demise of Thomas Cook. BCH and ABTA also guarantee trading standards etc­.

­John Johnson­­­­: ­All of them! And join CTA!­  And feel free to contact us with your suggestions and ideas.

John Johnson: We based ours on the original WHO guidelines, which were indeed based on the 1 metre rule.  This gives us about 50% capacity.  I’m happy to send our SOP and Coach capacity guidelines to anyone.

John Johnson: Yes, I think we’ll have to reduce our break even figure, because average loadings will be down.  Therefore, we’ll have to increase prices, but I think customers will understand and be happy to pay more. We have already built in such price increases for our 2021 departures.

 

Lucy Osborne: Smaller groups don’t necessarily mean smaller vehicles. It’s important to maintain the size of the vehicle to ensure for proper distancing on board, so we don’t have any plans to significantly change the coach sizes we hire from operators and in fact, you’ll see plenty more coaches in our liveries this year as a commitment to this!

John Johnson: Customers will receive their brochures by the end of February latest.  This is when the main drive of marketing will start too.

John Johnson: Yes, indeed, sample itineraries please!

Lucy Osborne: Example itineraries are always interesting, but I’m sure most operators would tweak them considerably as we all want to offer unique experiences to our customers. Having an awareness of attractions nearby would work better for me so I can create our itineraries that fit perfectly to our specific customer bases’ interests and our brand values.

John Johnson: Yes, nature and our need to look after it and appreciate it has been highly featured these last 10 months.

Lucy Osborne: It is likely, as coastal resorts and countryside escapes are viewed as less busy and easier to social distance, plus walking and getting out in nature has seen huge popularity recently, so I would imagine these areas may recover quicker. That’s not to say that cities won’t have enduring appeal, and with the vaccine programme rolling out, I’m sure all destinations will thrive again with the pent up demand for holidays.

John Johnson: Yes to group-specific guide leaflets that we can pass on. And yes to clear help and info about drop off points…. that are very close to the attraction, town or city centre!  Our customers are seniors and many of them can’t walk far; that’s why they go on a coach holiday.  Yes please to new attractions and what about ‘welcome services’ like the Red Coats at Exeter used to do. (Not sure if they still do!?)

Lucy Osborne: Destinations and attractions which produce a digital travel guide which is kept up-to-date are always my favourites! Having a one-stop-shop for information about coach parking or coach friendly attractions is so important and efficient when we often work to tight deadlines. FAM trips are great but not knowing when we can get back on the road, and with so many companies having restructured with smaller teams nowadays, it might not always be possible to attend – instead I’d rather complimentary entrances that can fit in with an operator’s personal schedule – I know whenever I’m on holiday or in an area I’ll always pop my head into hotels and attractions!

John Johnson: Join CTA and then contact directly all the tour operator members.  Make it easy for them, with info, visit times, refreshments, on board welcome…Do a talk to groups, like Quince Honey farm do!

 

Lucy Osborne: I would look for new ideas in various places, such as trade magazines or workshops (whether they’re in person or virtual!) and of course user-friendly easy-to-navigate websites are essential. Personally I always look at the CTA first and foremost, and we work with many of their supplier members. The CTA Project Restart was set up after VisitBritain launched the We’re Good to Go campaign and it lists suppliers that were ready to receive groups, so this has been an invaluable tool. Of course, you can always reach out to companies directly as well, but do be mindful we typically plan 12+ months in advance, so it’s a case of making those introductions and looking for future opportunities.