Travelling by coach is an essential component for groups, keeping all members together while enjoying a day trip or holiday. We spoke to some of our readers to find out what they look out for when booking a coach operator and what the future holds for the industry.
With 2022 expected to be a busy year for groups who are looking to make up for lost time, group travel organisers have been sharing their wisdom about what to look out for when booking a suitable coach operator.
Lis Bird, who organises trips for Yatton Outings Club, said that other GTOs should “definitely contact several companies and compare their prices.” She continued: “If they do day trips of their own it is worth going on one to see how their drivers and coaches operate. Coach comfort can be important on longer journeys too and these vary from company to company. It’s also worth contacting other group organisers in the area to ask for recommendations.”
Geoff Allen, organiser for Travallen & Events, said: “After being in my position for 54 years there are many tips I would offer, the main one being always to choose a professional well established company local to your area if you can.”
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Head of The Valentine Club, Richard Preston, who has more than 15 years’ experience in the role, thinks that a regular provider is the best way to go. He said: “For my group, we always try to keep to the same coach company that has provided us with great service in the past and not look for a slightly cheaper option. We use one provider and can usually ask for a particular driver who has been with us before and gets to know the group members to a degree.”
Sheila Furniss, GTO for the Rolls-Royce Retired Employees Association, felt that a ‘try before you buy’ attitude is a good way to build business. She said: “I would say that other group travel organisers should check out the coach before they book and if possible, create a good working relationship with the coach company.”
Another of our readers, Barbara Tester of the Day Explorers Group, explained that having the right coach driver and a plan B is essential, adding: “Get to know your driver and always ask for a recommendation. Having said that, I always have a second company just in case the main one cannot make the date we want.
“I think the group likes knowing the driver as he becomes part of the gang. Adaptability is the name of the game.”
Group Leisure & Travel has also been hearing from GTOs who are concerned that coach companies and holiday providers may well rise prices to make up for missed business during the lockdown months. Although prices for different types of trips are influenced by a number of factors, we put the question to our readers.
Lis Bid said: “Both before and during the pandemic, my personal experience with the coach companies we use has been great. Since travel has been opened again, the companies have been wonderful at understanding when dates and times, and even sometimes pick-ups, have to be changed at short notice.
“Prices may well go up, particularly because of fuel and wage costs, but as long as the service is indeed a quality service, and we don’t feel we are being ripped off, we would continue to use the companies we do now. It is always worth checking around if you do feel you are being taken for granted, as we managed to get cheaper prices with a different operator on one occasion.”
Sheila Furniss said: My personal experience has been great. When the pandemic first became known and we were going into lockdown, we had to cancel all the trips we’d booked for the whole of 2020.
“The company we had booked with cancelled without any financial penalty to ourselves, although we did make a donation to them in the spirit of goodwill. We immediately booked them for the couple of trips we did in 2021 and we have said they will be our supplier of choice.
“I think it is inevitable that prices will increase, you only have to see how the price of fuel has gone up. However, it’s one of the things you have to accept if you want to continue offering trips and using good coaches. I know that my members will be quite willing to pay a little more to continue the days out that they so enjoy.”
Geoff Allen agreed with Sheila that paying slightly more is worth it if the standard of service is high. He added: “It’s always worth paying for peace of mind and knowing that you will not be let down in any way.”
What do you think the future holds for the coaching industry? Let us know by emailing email@example.com