April 21 2021

Colin Jones, General Manager at Mainline Coaches writes this week’s blog post for CPT, looking to the future of coach tourism in Wales and how the industry can thrive.

Back in 2003 there was a research carried out by Leger Holidays and coach manufacture Setra to measure public perception of coach travel and coach holidays, which unearthed a variety of opinions. In the industry's favour, passengers said “they felt safe and liked the idea of travel without the fear of lost luggage”. Of the less than positive reviews, travel sickness, cramped seats and bad driving were raised.

Now in 2021 I like to think we have moved on, we have listened to those reviews and built a reinvigorated coach tourism industry, however I believe we are still lacking the once great image of coach travel – we are a professional body, a proud industry and tackling some difficult challenges which we will face in the next few years, such as congestion, air quality, decarbonisation, social and economic inequality as well as rebuilding the tourism economy from the impacts of the pandemic.  Key to tackling these is support from all within the industry, attracting more youth to join our industry, training incentives for future technicians, tour guides, drivers, receptionist - a better understanding of our industry, improve our image and development, improve our IT structure and importantly higher professionalism throughout.

It was not long ago I contacted a hotel in Wales to request a rate for a group booking, my answer at the time was “you will have to phone back the boss is not here” – it was not just hotels, coach operators, venues and attractions have fallen into this, but I am sure we all agree it is not acceptable – so we  now have an ideal opportunity to reinvent it, to work together hotels, coach operators and attractions for the future image and development.

Strangely enough the lockdown has definitely helped, the zoom meetings arranged by Visit Wales have brought many organisations back together to talk, to act and to progress – understanding the requirements of coach travel to Wales tourism is very important, from coach access, easy parking, toilet location, even down to clean and presentable bins!  As one operator mentioned “there is nothing worse than turning up at a venue and the bins are overflowing and my group have to walk a considerable distance to the toilets”.

Wales tourism is listening, developing ideas and acting, so going forward the message from Wales is “Welcome” – Welcome from coach operators, venues, attractions and our group hotel partners, by working together we are eager to get our message out to group organisers and tour planners – there is a team working for tourism into Wales and working together.

The economy in Wales is very much depended on tourism, over the next few months and year much will depend not just on the hotel availability but also upon venues and destination being able to welcome groups – at the moment as long as we keep the group size to under 30, and socially distance then the welcome will be there.

It is important to understand the contribution that tourism makes towards preserving Wales’ identity, heritage and culture and by judging on performance over the last three years, the Tourism industry in Wales is in very good shape.

We at Mainline Coaches have been very encouraged by the overseas markets and the visits to Wales have increased considerably over the past three years.  Despite these successes, there is absolutely no room for complacency and our mission is to remain competitive, improve our professionalism and standards and most important continue the hard work and commitment in a rapidly changing global marketplace.