Reliable data to show the size and importance of the UK coach industry has been notoriously difficult to compile.
However, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT)’s Operations & Tourism Executive Alf Scrimgour [pictured] has come to the rescue with a stack of very revealing statistics.
Trends in the coach tourism market point to growth at both ends of the quality spectrum as the ‘baby boomer’ population seek up market specialist tours, while the younger generation want short breaks. This upbeat prediction follows careful analysis of the latest available statistics and surveys.
Mr Scrimgour presented his findings to the Coaching Conference held by the CPT in the North West at Ribby Hall near Blackpool on Tuesday (14 October).
Although the UK coach holiday market fell by 13% between 2008 and 2013 and one survey concluded that trips away by coach held no appeal for two-thirds of the population, Mr Scrimgour has no difficulty in pointing to a bright future for the sector.
However he qualifies this prediction by saying that short-term economic difficulties may stall what looks like inevitable growth on the back of an increase among those of â€œthe traditional coach age.â€
Growth in the over 65 population â€“ those born in the baby boomer years â€“ is among the demographic changes expected to stoke demand. For example, the number of over 75s is set to double.
Mr Scrimgour is also encouraged by the surprise revelation that consumer spend on recreation and leisure continued to grow throughout the recession.
Meanwhile, according to a joint Mail Group Newspapers/Coach Tourism Council consumer survey, 16% of those who had never taken a coach holiday are prepared to consider it in the future. â€œThat’s equivalent to 1.6m people,â€ says Mr Scrimgour.
Other trends revealed by his analysis include:
- Escorted tours continue to do well
- Hop-on, hop-off mini gap-year tours to grow in popularity with youthful passengers
- Strong demand for themed-based tours
However, in order to capture the growth, Mr Scrimgour advises operators to respond to the rapid uptake in online bookings (currently 20% of all coach bookings, according to a Mintel survey) and the extent to which the over-55s are adopting social media. â€œWhen it comes to writing reviews, they are just as active as younger people,â€ he says.