Derbyshire-based price comparison website Coach Hire Comparison is on track for a record year in 2022.
The website provided over 26,000 quotes between January and March with bookings totalling some £1.4m. March saw the highest monthly total (approximately 10,000 bookings) since the business was established in 2010 by husband and wife team James and Laura Stokes.
Mr Stokes expects the year’s bookings to equal around £5.5m, double its 2021 figure, itself a record when the travel industry revived after COVID-19 restrictions eased.
“We anticipated that 2022 would be our busiest ever year, but I don’t think anyone in the industry would have predicted the first quarter would see as much demand as there has been,” says Mr Stokes. “It certainly surpassed our expectations.”
Mr Stokes puts some of the growth down to improvements made on the website, which include an Away from Base service that allows operators to use their vehicles while they are staying at a destination.
“Our enhanced Away from Base offering has stimulated bookings, as it offers operators an excellent way to utilise vehicles which are in another part of the country for a few days awaiting a return journey,” he explains. “They are able to advertise the availability of their coaches and minibuses while they are there.
“For example, one operator taking a party from the London area to Blackpool for a weekend opted to have the driver and coach remain in the resort rather than return to base empty and then having to go and pick up the group three nights later.
“The company took advantage of Away from Base to advertise that the coach would be there, and secured a booking within 24 hours to take fans from the Northwest to Wembley and back for the FA Cup Semi-final between Liverpool and Manchester City.
“Away from Base has been really well received and has had a marked impact on booking levels.”
Other initiatives are “bearing fuit and driving activity” such as a rebrand undertaken during the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and investment to enhance user experience. “The work we have done during the pandemic with creative agency Fluid Ideas is really paying off. Our strong performance in the first three months of 2022, the development of our website and technical enhancements, as well as the increasing number of operators using our service, gives us great confidence for the full year and beyond.”
Coach Hire Comparison is based in Shirland, Derbyshire, and works with over 200 independent coach and minibus operators across England, Scotland and Wales. Operators pay a monthly fee to be listed on the website.