Operators have welcomed the move by the Jersey government to open borders.
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays welcomed what they called the “clarity and common-sense approach shown by Jersey”, after the publication of updated requirements for travelling to the island this summer. The updated travel advice can be found here.
The operators have experienced a surge in demand and have expanded their flights and holidays programmes to Jersey, meaning the companies will operate to the island from six UK bases this summer, with up to 11 weekly flights departing from the UK .
It will operate weekly Saturday services from Birmingham, East Midlands and Newcastle; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday services from Leeds Bradford and Manchester; and Tuesday and Saturday services from London Stansted.
On April 26, Jersey reintroduced its Safer Travel Policy, allowing the Channel Island to re-open its borders and welcome back British holidaymakers from the UK and other Crown Dependencies in a phased manner. As part of the Common Travel Area, travellers do not need to complete the UK Government Travel Declaration to enter the island.
We sat down with the chairman of the Coach Tourism Association, to talk about the return of coaching holidays, green travel and the trade
ABTA Magazine: Coach tourism is a big part of the travel industry – but sometimes it’s overlooked. Is that fair to say?
Robert Shaw: Coach holidays have always been somewhat unfashionable, haven’t they? Let’s be honest, it’s just one of those unfortunate things. But it is a very useful part of the business, and for travel agents, it’s one way that they can tap into the staycation market this year. There are some great companies out there, most of them are CTA and ABTA members – Leger, Alfa, Bakers Dolphin, Johnsons. And they do offer great products, great prices and great service. I think it could be an area that that agents perhaps overlooked [in the past] and they should really visit it and see it as a potential to earn commission.
It’s never been a particularly fashionable part of the business, which is unfortunate, but that might be changing. We’re doing our best to appeal to what I call the ‘Greta generation’. You know, coaching is a green way to travel. Believe it or not, the average co2 emissions per passenger on a plane are five times higher and it’s 1.5 times higher on a train. So, we really want to emphasise that and get younger people to go on coaches. One product that particularly appeals to the younger market is theme parks – we carry a lot of customers to Disneyland Paris, for example, because it’s ideally positioned in price for the coach customer – and we’ve always travelled by coach to Spain, which we’re hoping to continue soon. Those sorts of products will always appeal to families, so it’s not the older market that has traditionally travelled by coach. I think it’s quite difficult sometimes to get that over to the travel trade.
You see touring companies – particularly Australian ones – aiming at the backpacker market with coach holidays.
Without question, it can be aimed at a younger audience, and we’re constantly finding ways of tapping into it, through the use of social media, for example. German tour operators are featuring coaches more in their programmes now, because it’s seen as a green way to travel, and their customers are posting on Instagram, saying ‘Here I am, I got here by coach because it’s greener to travel that way.’ That message is starting to come across now. You look at the support for Greens in the recent local elections, and you can see that people are [increasingly aware of climate issues].
What’s the demand like for coaching now?
Over the last 12 months, we’ve only been able to operate coaches for about two and a half to three months. We had a window that was, really, only part of August, September and October where we could actually operate. A few operators ran one or two trips to Europe, but not many, so the bulk of that was UK – so there is a huge pent-up demand for it. People just want to get away, go to a coastal resort and see some different scenery. Of course, demographically a lot of our customers have been vaccinated and they’re raring to go. That could really benefit the coach industry, the fact that a lot of customers have had two vaccines by now. People are just wanting to travel.
What is the coach industry’s position on mandatory vaccinations?
I think that’s discriminatory; I think it should be up to the government to insist on that. I’m not sure how it sits with legislation, but you can do it as part of your health and safety procedures. We don’t really want to encourage that, and a lot of members are not insistent on asking people. Most of our members have got enhanced air conditioning on board the coaches so it’s safe in that way. Everybody’s insisting on mask wearing; there are lots of protocols in place on board coaches, so we just try to make it as safe as we can.
What other trends are you seeing?
Clients are concerned about financial protection. I still think that the ABTA-bonded coach holidays badge is seen as the gold standard. I think they want flexibility when it comes to their holiday arrangements, so that if they have to cancel, or if we have to make changes, they’re not worried about anything. Clients are now more concerned about quality accommodation – I think it’s now truer than ever, the narrative that ‘mass follows class’. People are looking for a better standard of accommodation, a better standard of travel. In terms of destinations, I think coastal resorts are more popular, perhaps, than populated cities at the moment. But that will change, in places such as London, where effectively the domestic market has been priced out by the incoming markets, there are now huge opportunities this year.