The greatest show: Coach tourism celebrated at the BCTAs

Countdown’s Carol Vorderman presented the gala celebration

Johnsons, Bluebird and Acklams are among the winners in this year’s British Coach Tourism Awards

Once again the cream of Britain’s thriving coach tourism sector were celebrated in style last week at Birmingham’s Motorcycle Museum, attended by an audience of hundreds of industry professionals.

The biggest winner at the British Coach Tourism Awards (BCTAs), taking home the accolade for Coach Tour Operator – Large Fleet, was Johnsons Coach Travel of Henley-in-Arden.

Bluebird Coaches of Weymouth won Coach Tour Operator – Medium Fleet, while Coach Tour Operator – Small Fleet went to Acklams Coaches of Beverley.

Reays Coaches won the prize for Holiday Programme, with Bakers Dolphin ‘highly commended’ in the same category.

And Richmond’s Coaches won for its Day Excursion Programme, as Lucketts Travel’s was recognised as ‘highly commended’.

The Coach Tourism Innovation of the Year award went to United Minibuses & Coaches for its Online Live Pricing Tool.

Coach Tour Driver of the Year went to Ken Cato of Masons Minibus & Coach Hire.

The prizegiving came to a poignant close as the British Coach Tourism Special Recognition Award was posthumously awarded to Chris Wales, Chief Executive of the Coach Tourism Association and a long-serving judge of the BCTAs, who died last year.

Fantastic atmosphere

This was the 13th edition of the BCTAs, the only award scheme dedicated to the British coach tourism sector.

It was hosted with effortless style by the great Carol Vorderman. Entertainment was provided in partnership with Viva Blackpool – a singing and dancing extravaganza inspired by The Greatest Showman.

Winner in the large operator category: Johnsons Coach Travel 

The awards were judged by a panel of industry pros: Steve Whiteway, former MD of Epsom Coaches; Andy Warrender, Coaching Manager of the Confederation of Passenger Transport; John Wales, Chairman of the Coach Tourism Association; Wendy Hartley-Scarff, CEO of the Association of Group Travel Organisers; and Chair of the Judges David Maguire, Event Director of the BCTAs.

David Maguire says: “Huge congratulations to all our winners in this year’s British Coach Tourism Awards.

“With real emotion among our highly deserving winners and a fantastic atmosphere of celebration, I believe it was one of our best awards yet.

“Once again, the quality of the entries reflected the quality and importance of the amazing coach tourism sector and the inspiring professionals working in it.

“The awards are a great way to reward them for their hard work and dedication to the UK tourism sector, so it’s an honour to be a part of that.”

Moving tribute

Bluebird Coaches took home the medium operator award

There was a standing ovation when Chris Wales, an instantly recognisable figure to anyone who worked in coach tourism, was awarded the Special Award.

Carol Vorderman introduced the award by saying: “He was one of the biggest characters in coach tourism and touched so many lives with his one-of-a-kind humour and zest for life. In his own words he said ‘growing old is compulsory – growing up is optional’, which is something you most definitely felt when you met him.

“He has been a true supporter of the British Coach Tourism Awards, acting as head judge for the last three years and his absence is most definitely felt in the room here tonight.”

High standards

Established in 2007, and now running alongside the annual two-day British Tourism & Travel Show at the NEC, the awards are a valuable opportunity for the coach tourism industry to showcase its incredibly high standards and uniquely personal approach.

The small operator award went to Acklams of Beverley

John Johnson, Commercial Director of Johnsons Coach Travel, says: “Our success is a testament to the amazing team we have at Johnsons and their commitment to provide the best possible experience for everyone who steps on board our coaches.

“The coach tourism industry is becoming ever more sophisticated, and customers have high expectations, so we are delighted that the quality and variety of our holiday and excursion products have been recognised by our industry peers.”

The event raised over £1,000 for the charity Variety’s Sunshine Coaches, which provide vital school trips for children with disabilities and special needs.

The British Coach Tourism Awards will return to the Motorcycle Museum on 25 March 2020.