Group Leisure & Travel was one of the 20 new members of the Coach Tourism Association to attend its annual conference weekend in Newcastle. 

Carol Southall, Ian Thomas, Robert Shaw and Lyndsey Turner Swift at the CTA Conference

From left: Carol Southall (head of department of business at Staffordshire University), Ian Thomas (director of visitor economy at the NewcastleGatesheard initiative), Robert Shaw (CTA chair) and Lyndsey Turner Swift (VisitEngland deputy director) at the CTA Conference.

More than 200 Coach Tourism Association (CTA) members came together at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead Hotel for the event at the end of January, which also included fam trips around the North East.

The Meet the Buyer Workshop saw a total of 860 10-minute meetings between coach tour operators and wholesalers, and industry suppliers, including attractions and hotels. This was an increase of 60 meetings on last year’s event, previously the highest total at 800 meetings.

The Conference weekend included fam trips to Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, as well as Raby Castle in County Durham, both locations having invested in facilities to encourage coach groups. A tour of Newcastle also featured, and while a destination in its own right, Newcastle and Gateshead are seeking to attract coach groups as an accommodation hub to explore Northumberland and County Durham.

GLT publisher Rob Yandell, who attended the event and enjoyed a fam visit to nearby Bamburgh Castle, said: “I really enjoyed attending the conference, catching up with lots of travel trade colleagues and making new connections. Newcastle is a wonderful city and the North East has so much for groups. I took the opportunity to visit Bamburgh Castle through one of the many fam trips on offer, which sits in the most spectacular setting. I even won a family trip to Chester Zoo, so that was some nice news to share when I got home.”

Rob Yandell at Bamburgh Castle

GLT’s Rob Yandell enjoyed a fam visit to Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. 

During the Conference session, Ian Thomas, director of visitor economy at the NewcastleGateshead Initiative, explained how North East England has been chosen as the first Destination Development Partnership with the goal of doubling the region’s visitor economy over the next 10 years. Ian explained that coach tourism would be a valuable aspect, with a new travel trade initiative coming soon.

Lyndsey Turner Swift, deputy VisitEngland director, explained how the Destination Development Partnership would fit into the national programme. Lyndsey also reported on market prospects, saying that domestic visits were up in 2023, while giving a balanced forecast between domestic and overseas travel in 2024.

Brendan Sheerin, star of Channel 4’s Coach Trip series, gave an entertaining after-dinner talk on the first night of the Conference. Brendan also hosted the evening’s fundraising event, which raised £2,000 for St. Oswald’s Hospice, serving the North East.

The next CTA event is the Spring Networking on 19th - 20th May in Oxford. Bookings for this event will be launched shortly. For more information click here.