Denise Bridges is managing director of Albatross Travel and recently stepped down from her role as chairman of the Coach Tourism Association. She hails the encouraging trends in coach tourism.
Last weekend saw the start of British summertime, a time when many people are planning their summer trips or, in the case of group organisers, trips for summer 2019.
During my tenure as chairman of the CTA, I found every reason to indicate that the future looks good for coach travel despite the challenges that are currently facing some tourism businesses.
You might wonder what the cause of my optimism might be?
During my time at the CTA, I was fortunate to meet a lot of people working in the industry and we carried out our first industry-wide survey, which reached about 25,000 people of all ages.
However, most of those surveyed were aged from 55 to 74, which covers the core coach tourism market.
Many interesting findings came out of that survey, not least the top five reasons why people like to choose a coach holiday. These were:
Hassle-free travel without having to worry about luggage
A sociable way to travel
Value for money
Comfortable, modern facilities
A safe way to travel
Like many sectors, the coach tourism industry is having to deal with increasingly demanding customers.
They want higher grades of accommodation and price is always an issue.
Of course, it is important to attract younger customers, otherwise the industry could just fade away.
However it is also important to recognise age requirements and not automatically lump 60-year-olds with clients that are 20 years older and possibly suffering from mobility problems.
Having said that, it is estimated that the number of people aged 60 and over will increase 25% to some 18.8 million in the next 10 years, so that is quite a potential audience out there.
Brexit is having an impact on the industry, too, with its accompanying uncertainty and currency issues.
Sterling is down against the euro, affecting operators to Ireland, for example.
Despite this, I believe prospects are looking good and companies have to try to ride the storm.
The industry also has the challenges of General Data Protection Regulation and revisions to the Package Travel Directive to contend with.
In the time that I have worked in the tourism industry there have been regular events that have had either a good or negative effect on coach tourism.
Recent terrorism incidents in British cities, for instance, is just one example.
However, the industry bounces back and continues to improve its customer offering.
We must keep on our toes and continue to look for new and innovative ways to get customers on board (literally!).
But by offering sociable, hassle-free travel at value-for-money prices on comfortable, modern transport to great destinations for a potential audience of 18.8 million customers, I think the future has to look very rosy.