Ray Spiller speaks to GLT about why he and wife Jan decided to form Broomfield Coach Trips in a bid to bring the local community together.
Tell us how the group started
We wanted to do something for the benefit of the local community and bring people together again after the pandemic. Jan formed a Knit and Natter group and it was such a success that she wanted to take them to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. She decided to hire her own coach and within 72 hours she had sold all 53 places and managed to get discounted tickets for the show.
The intention was to have two or three days out last year, but by the end of December, we had hired 27 coaches for different outings and sold out 19 of them. Jan will be 68 this year and I will be 70 so we haven’t done too badly for a couple of senior citizens! We only wanted a hobby and now it’s a full-time business, you’re never too old to try something new.
Ray and Jan’s group at a glance…
Group name: Broomfield Coach Trips
No. of members: 2,000+
Time organising: 1 year
How did you grow the group and what financial considerations did you have to make?
We started with posters in the village hall, then we moved on to things like Facebook, but most of our promotion is through word-of-mouth. We live in a large area surrounded by villages so there’s around 10,000 people in total, and now we’re finding that people are phoning us up after hearing about a trip through a friend.
We have made sure we have a reserve in place to ensure all our members’ money is covered and that if anything should go wrong, they will receive their money back. When booking the day trips through a coach provider, the company takes care of the insurance side of things, so all our members are covered too.
What difference has your group made to people so far?
It’s fantastic to know that we are helping local people enjoy themselves, although some are now travelling for miles to be with us! We’re helping people make new friends and meet old ones, while giving them that general feeling of not being left on their own. On top of that, by buying in bulk we can get tickets and days out at such a good price that we offer our group members exceptional value and a door-to-door service.
Have you got lots coming up?
We have 60 coach trips planned (18 have already sold out with another eight of the others having less than six places left on them). It will likely reach almost 100 by the end of the year. We’ve also dipped our toes into UK holidays with two Warner Leisure breaks – one to the Isle of Wight and one to Somerset, plus a short Christmas holiday near Liverpool. Next year we’re looking to go bigger and better but there just aren’t enough days in the week. We could easily do four or five a week, but with our age against us, it’s nice to have a day or two off in between each visit otherwise we wouldn’t be able to walk!
“We have a mailing list of well over 2,000 people and we send out a newsletter every two weeks detailing the latest trips on offer.”
What has been your most memorable trip?
That’s a difficult question, but I would say our first proper trip to Windsor. It was completely new to us; we didn’t know how it was going to pan out, but it ran like clockwork which gave us a buzz. We went inside Windsor Castle and I booked up a river cruise on the Thames. It was an all-round great day.
When we got back, we knew this was the way forward as everyone enjoyed it and gave us feedback that it was a marvellous day when getting off the coach. We’ve also done a few social things since then, like going for dinner at a local hotel or a dance with a live band where around 85 people came out for it. We still get that buzz when a coach turns up ready for the group and I hope it will always be there.
Are there any lessons you’ve learned since becoming a group organiser?
Look at what every other group is doing, listen to what your people want, learn every time you run a coach trip, but most of all, enjoy every single minute. Do we have regrets? Yes, we regret that we didn’t start it ten or 20 years ago! We have made lots of new friends and age is not on our side, so we treat every trip as if it’s the first trip.
People are also very important - they are not just a number. They have paid good money to join you so it’s important to show them respect and that you care about how their day is going.
Do you do anything special for your members on a trip?
On the outward journeys we give every passenger a couple of sweets and on the journey back home everyone is given a bag of crisps. We also do a free raffle draw with the winning ticket holder taking home a £10 voucher that they can use towards another trip with us. Sometimes we even offer a solo traveller a lift home at the end of the day. It’s the little things which make a big difference.
Would you like to tell us about your work as a group organiser? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com.