Coach operators sought for meet-and-greet trial in Arundel

A tourist organisation in the historic town of Arundel is asking coach operators to help trial a new meet-and-greet service to help attract much needed coach tourism.

Martin Alderton and Karen Tunnicliffe of Arundel Historic Tours decided to launch the meet-and-greet after coach operators began turning their backs on the town due to parking issues. It will run free of charge for the next year.

Problems have centered around the only car park in Arundel with available coach spaces closing its barriers on weekends and bank holidays for half the year. Combined with a decision not to allow coaches to offload passengers outside the castle entrance, it means coaches entering the town at weekends have had nowhere to park.

Complaints have also been raised about the castle car park charges for groups not visiting the castle itself, which at £10 for the first hour for any coach has disincentivised many tour operators from stopping on their way to other destinations.

According to Mr Alderton, Arundel is very much a “short stop” for coaches typically heading from locations such as Eastbourne onto Winchester, and such a charge is too high to foot on such a trip. “They are finding elsewhere to go rather than Arundel, but we want them in Arundel – it’s a tourist town. We need those people, even if it is just for an hour. It keeps the town alive off-season when the castle is closed.”

Organised through West Sussex County Council, Arundel Historic Tours plans to use a bus stop at the top of the town near the cathedral as a coach stop. The stop is used at 1015hrs by a bus, then remains quiet for the rest of the day, leaving the opportunity for coaches to use the space.

“It’s a trial, so if we can get one space for now we can look in the future to enlarging that to two or three spaces,” adds Mr Alderton. When the coaches arrive, tour guides will meet and greet passengers and offer a refreshments package for the driver in partnership with a nearby venue.

Two trials have been completed, with nine more signed on. Mr Alderton has an ambition for at least one visit every day for the next six months to help iron out timings and adapt the offer for each coach company.

“There has been a lot of disheartened people that have turned their backs on Arundel,” adds Mr Alderton. “As a tourist town it needs coaches, it needs people going through it just like everywhere else. And to have coaches not being welcomed or seen to be welcomed in the town is very wrong.

“Our offer needs ironing out and getting right, so we’re going to do it for free to see who we can get, how many we can get and prove to the town that it works. We’ve got to gather the best responses and reviews and take it to the town and say this is the way to go forward.”

Operators looking to take part in the free trial should email arundelwalkingtours@yahoo.co.uk for a consultation.