Peter Bradley converses with Anthony Marett, who is the new Vice Chair of UKCOA
Anthony Marett is best known in the coach industry as the proprietor of Marett’s Chariots, Don’t Travel Empty, Coach Hire Directory and Sell My Coach, based in Norfolk.
However, when I speak to him, it is his new role as Vice Chair of the UK Coach Operators Association (UKCOA) that he most wishes to talk about.
“It is a very proud moment,” Anthony says, “to be elected by your peers, as someone who has gained sufficient experience in the industry to be considered acceptable to fill a position of this nature.
“When I first started, I looked with envy at other coach operators that had been around for many years and had gained a good reputation for what they did for their local communities and nationally. Now, maybe I have got at least some of the way to be considered in a similar light. It is a very humbling moment in one’s life.”
I ask Anthony three key issues that he would like to see UKCOA achieve over the next year or so.
“Firstly,” Anthony reflects, “I would love UKCOA to continue to effect change; perhaps even more so than it does now. I would love coach operators to feel empowered to be active and to be heard throughout their community and the industry itself. If UKCOA can work alongside operators to allow them to achieve that, then I will have a broad smile on my face.
“Secondly, I want UKCOA to assist operators in their online marketing. As society reawakens after the pandemic, we will all find that many more people now use the web and social media to communicate than they ever did before. If you are looking to develop your business and move forward, your online presence will do much to help you achieve this. We have already run some masterclasses in this field, and more is planned, all tailored to the coach industry.
“Thirdly, we need to continue to be an association where our members do not feel alone when they are facing a challenge. When I first started up, I felt very isolated at times and did not know who to turn to for advice. Now I have plenty of colleagues across the UK who I can approach, whatever the issue. We are unashamedly a coach trade body which specialises in coach only issues, run by coach operators.”
Anthony touches on his entry to the industry: “I come from a very different background,” he muses. “Our family ran a field study centre for schools, where I joined as an instructor. We organised all aspects of visits including the transport and I felt that we could do better if we organised it ourselves.
“So, in 1998 I took my Certificate of Professional Competence and purchased a coach. However, the costs of running the vehicle were more expensive than I had originally calculated, so we did some private hire work to supplement our income.
“I also realised that we did a lot of one-way trips (such as delivering the students back home after their week’s visit, and then travelling back empty). I thought that if we could find an operator that was doing the opposite journey, we could both benefit, and the concept of Don’t Travel Empty was born. Although this was done for freight, there was no equivalent for the coach industry. I did not have the skills to build a bespoke online platform, but I knew a man who did (James Howells, Anthony’s business partner) and we have worked together ever since.” Don’t Travel Empty was formally launched in 2008.
Anthony has a ‘can do’ attitude and his enthusiasm for the coach industry is very infectious. I am sure he will keep us on our toes.