Operated from a tiny office in a village in Dorset, Crossways Travel has made quite an impact on local people with its personal touch and innovative tours
Ten-year anniversary celebrations abound in the seaside town of Weymouth where Dorchester-based travel operator Crossways Travel is well known to local groups.
When founders Matt and Kadi Crocker started the company, it was initially planned to be a few coach trips to help the elderly people in the local community get out and about.
“We started doing a few day trips for some 25-30 people,” says Matt. “We operated the first tour with an old vehicle from South West Coaches and for the first 18 months every penny of profit was donated to local charities and scout groups.”
Both Matt and Kadi were working full-time and found themselves getting home in an evening to more and more missed calls. Matt says: “Sometimes the phone was ringing and because of our work shifts we were trying to juggle our days around someone being here to answer it.
“Out here in Crossways we are in the middle of nowhere. Initially we started to give the people in the village something to go out for. Then as it got more and more popular, we would get people asking for more and more pick-ups. Could we go to Dorchester? Bere Regis?
“We would get in from work to 100 messages and were ringing people back until late at night.”
The couple realised that they could do this as a business and if they wanted to carry on one of them would have to give up their current job.
Kadi left her job as a teacher first, and for a couple of years threw herself into evolving the business. Then as the business grew bigger Matt gave up his railway job.
“It was a gamble,” he says. “I had been there a long time and was earning good money.”
Initially the couple hired in their coaches, but over time they used different ones including the most recent operator which was based in Tiverton. Unfortunately, because of the distance away from Crossways this caused some issues which have now been resolved with a new coach provider JFS Travel of Blandford.
“We approached JFS and it was happy to accommodate us.”
“We needed to move quickly because of our previous distance issues and the only thing available was a Mercedes-Benz Tourismo which was a brand-new stock item. It fitted the bill perfectly and is a lovely coach.”
“We have one coach with our livery on,” adds Matt. “And then we hire in the other coaches in JFS colours.”
“We met its drivers and selected four of them to do our work. JFS is a great company to work with, we get on brilliantly with the father and son who run it and find them really focused and excited to have our work. We are looking forward to growing our business together with them.”
The personal touch
Crossways is hoping to brand another vehicle in the near future and, in the meantime, keeps costs down working from its office at home in the small village of Crossways, six miles east of Dorchester.
The company uses Roeville Reservation Software and passengers pop in during the day to book and pay for trips. Last year Sonia Abbiss joined the team, with her business background making her the perfect candidate for the position of Office Manager.
Matt says: “Although we do take out a lot of groups, we are essentially a tour operator.
“We pride ourselves on using top-notch vehicles and specifying which drivers we use in a bid to offer an experience nothing short of exceptional.
“Every tour we do has a driver and a tour manager, even on day trips. That means we can serve refreshments, we can talk to the passengers and make sure that comfort standards are met.”
Crossways has a high level of repeat bookings and on the day routeone visited a passenger told us he was just booking his 21st trip this year.
Unique trip ideas
Kadi originates from Estonia and the firm recently put on a two-week tour of the Northern European country. Matt says: “Apparently we are the only coach company in the UK who has taken a coach to Estonia. We did a proper tour – not just the capital – and Kadi spent months planning the itinerary, as well as going over there three times beforehand.
“We write our own tour itineraries and are often guided by lots of good ideas from customers – places that you don’t necessarily think about going to.”
Crossways is popular with the local WI and U3A groups. Matt says: “Sometimes they struggle with numbers and don’t have enough people to fill a coach. So we give them a discount and give them a set number of seats. Then we sell the rest to the public, so the group doesn’t have to take the whole cost.”
The company is proactive with its advertising and marketing. “We give out brochures on the streets, we drop off leaflets door-to-door, we go to holiday parks and give brochures to passengers on day trips,” says Matt.
“It’s work, work, work. The last two weeks since I’ve been back from tours I’ve been in the office from the early hours of the morning until very late at night keeping on top of everything.”
Celebrations and the future
Crossways is planning more bespoke tours similar to the Estonia one. It hopes to become more and more elite in the future.
Kadi says: “I believe that you have to pick your narrow market and be really good at it. By somebody else looking after the coaches we can be really good at putting the tours together and giving excellent customer service.
“JFS is a really good fit for us. It has fantastic drivers and coaches and it makes sure they are maintained to the standard we require.”
The 10-year celebration party was held on Sunday evening (22 September) at the Centenary Club in Weymouth where hundreds of people gathered for drinks and nibbles, along with getting their first glimpse of the Autumn/Winter tour brochure. The event was very successful and generated a lot of bookings.
Matt says: “As a small family-run business we are able to offer a truly personal and professional service where determination shines through on all our tours making every tour a unique and memorable experience.
“All of our tours have been carefully planned with a varied mix of hotels and we work closely with suppliers to ensure the highest quality and service that our customers have come to expect.”
Reviews of the company include the words ‘helpful,’ ‘friendly’ and ‘willing’ with many praising the unique and authentic trip to Estonia and the Baltics. “Feeling safe with Jeff’s careful driving, we relaxed and had a holiday to remember,” says one.
All in all, living up to the company’s strapline: ‘Executive coach travel with a personal touch.’