Category

Coach hire

Using passenger WiFi on demand-responsive bus services

Fleet management made easy with the Sygnal Portal

By | Coach hire, Coach operator, Onboard advertising, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

At the risk of stating the obvious, the bus and coach industry is undergoing a period of rapid change. The growth in onboard technologies, coupled with new vehicle emission standards, have added further layers of complexity to the already demanding job of running a successful coach hire business.

That’s why, alongside consistency and cost, convenience is an essential aspect for operators considering new onboard technologies. Sygnal understands just how vital convenience is to operators. Sygnal X, our flagship 4G data-wireless server, was designed specifically to maximise range and reliability while enabling easy installation.

Using the Sygnal Portal for effective fleet management

Of course, simple installation and maintenance is essential for a modern transport firm, but hardware is just one element of service. Sygnal understands that the most convenient onboard WiFi solutions give customers the freedom to manage their own technologies. The custom OS enables simple setup and secure sign-in for passengers, but it’s in the management system that the Sygnal X really shines. With every Sygnal order, customers also gain secure access to their own remote management platform; the Sygnal Portal.

With access to Sygnal’s custom streaming library, fleet management, vehicle status updates, route designation, WiFi analytics and a viewing portal for CCTV & Dashcam footage, the Sygnal Portal puts operators firmly in control of their fleet.

Every aspect of the Sygnal Portal user experience (UX) was designed with the operator in mind. With a dedicated sign-in, operators can remotely access their Sygnal Portal from anywhere. With business and networking events requiring regular travel, remote access is essential for operators looking to maintain visibility of their fleet on the go. Updates to the Portal are rolled out remotely, meaning there’s no disruption to the operator. Of course, the Portal is fully optimised for mobile.

With the Sygnal Portal, operators can simplify the many processes required to run a modern, efficient coach service while providing the latest onboard amenities to passengers.

Want to try Sygnal’s fleet management software on your own vehicles? Get in touch today and find out more!

Running coach travel for sports events

Coach travel for sports events: The ultimate guide for coach hire firms

By | Coach hire, Onboard advertising, Sports events, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Running coach travel for sports events is a great source of revenue, but it can be a lot more challenging than you think. Not only are you transporting large groups across the country (and beyond), you’re often doing it to a tight schedule. That’s why Sygnal put together this handy guide. If you’re already running services for sports events, what lessons have you learned? Let us know in the comments!

Hiring coach transport for sports events

So what’s different about coach travel for sports events as opposed to say, weddings, festivals, or corporate events? Well, that depends on the type of sporting event, and who you’re transporting. Transport for athletes is usually managed through the club or sporting body, while transport for sports fans is often managed by an individual or representative.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s down to the operator to establish the level of demand they can accommodate. It’s also worth remembering that vehicles will need rest periods for maintenance, cleaning and safety checks.

Coach travel for sports events bus pulling into stadium

Pick up and drop-off

The secret to an efficient pick-up and drop-off process is in the planning. That means:

  • Designate a pick-up-point well in advance
  • Leave clear instructions on how to reach the pick-up point
  • Set clear departure times
  • Make sure both points are accessible to vehicles and passengers.

With the majority of sporting events held in urban areas, congestion can be a major issue. It’s vital operators take delays into account in advance – particularly as passengers who miss the start of an event are entitled to request a refund.

Most stadiums have their own designated drop-off zones. Operators must make sure their drivers know the location of these zones, and the process of drop-off and collection before and after the event.

Two coaches on coach tour holiday driving along empty road

Regular bookings

With 38 games per season, running coach hire services to football fans is a great way to increase bookings. Building relationships with sports clubs can also lead to return bookings; a fantastic way of ensuring regular custom throughout the autumn and winter months.

Taking bookings for sports fans comes with its own unique opportunities. Whereas services for sports teams are usually organised on a contract basis, there’s no such guarantee with individual groups of fans. Offering deals to private passengers for booking multiple journeys at once (for instance, for all away games in a football season) can be a great way to gain return custom.

Couple chatting enjoying the onboard technologies

Seasonal sports events

Many, although not all, professional sports are seasonal. With the football season ending in May and beginning again in late August, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – these off-months are also the most popular for weddings, overseas tours and corporate events.

Other sports have their own schedules. Get ahead of the competition by regularly updating your calendars with key dates and keeping an eye out for one off events. Running efficient and reliable transport services is all about managing demand, and that only works when you anticipate peak periods.

Overseas sports travel

Running international coach hire services can be a great source of revenue, but it also comes with added responsibility. If you don’t already, add an on-boarding process to ensure no passenger is left behind when the vehicle stops. Simultaneously, clearly communicating boarding times is essential to keep journeys on schedule.

International journeys also come with challenges in managing passengers over long distances. It goes without saying; driving long-distances without a functioning toilet is courting disaster. Couple this with the potential for passengers to consume alcohol on the journey and you have a recipe for angry passengers.

Passengers sat on bus using coach travel for sports events

Additional revenue streams

Of course, where there are passengers, there’s an opportunity for additional revenue. Onboard advertising is a great way to boost income and develop new partnerships with local businesses.

Opportunities can range from advertising local bars and restaurants to official club merchandise. Of course, these partnerships are easier to establish when you have an official contract with a sports club, but that shouldn’t stop you from sourcing your own advertisers. You can also use the data from your onboard bus WiFi to make a case to advertisers.

Man using bus WiFi on coach journey

Keep it simple: The secret to reliable onboard WiFi

By | Coach hire, Onboard advertising, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Onboard WiFi doesn’t need to be complicated, but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Operators looking to install passenger WiFi on their vehicles are confronted with a myriad of choices. Every option is invariably described using industry jargon that would perplex all but the most tech-savvy operator. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Sygnal strives to keep the entire process of ordering and installing onboard WiFi as simple and transparent as possible.

The connected future

Passengers now expect onboard connectivity as part and parcel of their journey. Onboard WiFi is no longer a ‘luxury’ amenity – it’s for everyone. Despite this, the majority of bus WiFi systems on the market are designed for national operators, with a price tag to match.

The bottom line; just as passengers expect accessible and consistent connection, operators expect reliable and affordable service. That’s where Sygnal comes in. With an intuitive online layout, remote monitoring and streamlined installation process, Sygnal simplifies the onboard browsing experience for everyone. Great technology, as they say, should seem simple, even when the processes behind it are remarkably complex.

Women using onboard WiFi on a bus

Balancing costs

The introduction of new transport technologies has also highlighted the rift between large and small operators. Nationwide operators usually have engineers on staff or, failing that, a trusted professional on call. But many independent operators simply don’t have the time (or the staff) to install, maintain and repair new technologies.

Sygnal’s robust design and simple install process were specifically developed to limit time spent fitting and maintaining units. Likewise, remote updates enable operators to add new features without uninstalling units. Additional features like CCTV and GPS can be retrofitted as and when operators require them.

The Sygnal Portal offers an additional revenue source in the form of onboard advertising. Operators can offset their monthly data subscription by sourcing advertisers and promoting local businesses through their passenger WiFi.

Using passenger WiFi on demand-responsive bus services

Reliable service

Great technology should be adaptable to the unique needs of customers. The one-size-fits-all model rarely works for everyone, particularly in the age of personalised service. What works for the nationwide transport group, might not work for the local, independent operator. For instance; onboard entertainment, where passengers enjoy TV and movies, is essential for long journeys on inter-city services. For local urban services where journeys last no more than half an hour, however, onboard entertainment would be largely redundant.

Simultaneously, these onboard technologies should require little technical knowledge on the customers part. Independent operators are less likely to have their own engineers on staff, so installation and upkeep should require minimum effort.

Just as importantly, modern, connected technologies should be reliable. After all, inconsistent technologies will lead to more complaints than if the technology wasn’t there at all.

How to connect your vehicles

In keeping with the focus on simplicity, Sygnal developed a straightforward four-stage process to connect your vehicles:

  • Contact Sygnal
  • Choose your package & order
  • Receive your order & setup
  • Switch on and enjoy access to rapid, reliable onboard WiFi

Sygnal’s compact design allows operators to choose their preferred method of installation. Of course, installation can be affected by different factors, including vehicle layout and powering. Operators who require a unit for each vehicle often choose to power units through the vehicle wiring harness.  Operators looking to quickly move units between vehicles, however, tend to opt for the cigarette lighter adapter socket. Thankfully, our team of experts are always on hand discuss the best option for you.

The Sygnal Standard

At its heart, Sygnal’s mission is to remove the technical barriers from acquiring, installing and using onboard WiFi. It’s only by simplifying these processes that we can create a truly connected world. Sygnal strives to make the connection process as simple and cost-effective as possible.

Get in touch with Sygnal today to find out more about adding passenger WiFi solutions to your vehicles.

Couple chatting enjoying the onboard technologies

Festival coach hire: The ultimate guide for operators

By | Coach hire, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | One Comment

It’s springtime and that means the festival season will soon be upon us. Whether you’ve offered festival coach hire for years or you’re just starting out, it’s important to stay informed of the latest information. And 2019 looks set to be the busiest year for festivals yet, with over 500 large-scale events scheduled to take place in the UK alone.

With that in mind, Sygnal has put together a handy guide for this festival season. Read on to discover the secrets to keeping festival-goers happy and establishing your company as the go-to for festival transport.

Booking

Transport hire is often the second port of call for festival attendees after booking their tickets. Festival organisers often partner with respected transport companies to combine ticket bookings with transport. The biggest festivals will likely have established business relationships with known operators. Smaller event organisers, however, could be receptive to developing new transport partnerships.

If you do procure a festival coach hire contract, it’s vital you can meet supply so pencil in tickets sale dates well in advance. Managing bookings is only possible with a coherent booking system, so check out our guide to streamlining the booking process on your website.

Only take bookings over the phone? Make sure you have an efficient system (and enough staff) to process the orders in a timely fashion. Remember, every missed call is a missed opportunity for more sales.

Simultaneously, it’s not unreasonable to request a deposit on large bookings, particularly if festival-goers want to book an entire vehicle.

Man booking festival coach hire through laptop

Pick up

Designate a pick-up-point well in advance. Of course, this point should be easily accessible to your vehicles and allow your vehicles time to idle. The pick-up point must be accessible to passengers too, especially as most will arrive with several days worth of supplies.

Simultaneously, make sure your drivers maintain ample space surrounding the vehicle so passengers can reach the underneath compartment to stow their luggage safely.

Be very clear on the departure time – particularly if you are travelling a significant distance to reach the festival grounds. If you’re supplying multiple vehicles, try to stagger them to arrive and depart at different times to prevent congestion.

Bus coach with onboard passenger WiFi

Route navigation

The bigger the festival, the more logistics have (usually) been designated to assist traffic flow. However, larger festivals also mean more attendees, which mean more vehicles on the road. Either way, festival routes often become congested, sometimes days in advance of the event itself. It’s your job as a transport operator to figure out the least circuitous route for your passengers.

Of course, festivals are often staged in remote areas with limited access points, forcing vehicles to converge upon one particular route. There’s not much you can do once your vehicles hit this point. There are, however, ways to optimise the journey prior to this.

Sygnal’s fleet tracking software allows you to study journey times and identify bottlenecks on specific routes. Traffic updates provided through the GPS and onboard WiFi enable drivers to adapt routes according to anticipated journey times. Not only does this ensure passengers reach their destination in good time, but it also saves on fuel consumption.

Using onboard wifi & GPS to navigate traffic

Parking

At most major festivals, you as the coach provider will be responsible for sourcing your parking spaces. Smaller festivals may not have particular designations for specific operators, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. Festival organisers will have a detailed layout of the festival grounds, which they should provide upon request.

The onus on establishing a reliable, safe parking procedure falls, of course, to the festival organisers. However, there are several steps you can take to simplify the process. Designating seating prior to boarding, along with organised luggage storage in the underneath compartment, enables passengers to disembark in an orderly fashion. Likewise, it’s important to make any requirements known in advance; for instance, if you are travelling with any passengers that require wheelchair access. These precautions help ensure an efficient drop-off process and show passengers you recognise them as more than just a number.

Buses using Sygnal fleet management with vehicle tracking

Passengers

The type of passenger depends largely on the festival, but there are a few golden rules every operator should abide by.

State bus T&Cs on your website and ensure passengers are aware of them before boarding. This way, both driver and passengers can enjoy a safe, comfortable journey.

If you’re travelling a long distance and don’t have toilet facilities, make sure to stop every few hours. After every deboarding, run through a passenger check again (leaving passengers behind doesn’t exactly make for good PR).

If you allow alcohol to be consumed on board, be prepared for your passengers to get a little louder. Similarly, passengers drinking alcohol are likely to use your onboard facilities more frequently. If your vehicles don’t have onboard toilets, drivers should expect more frequent requests to stop, which risks disrupting your schedule.

Girl using festival coach hire to attend event

Advertising

Festival coach hire also represents a unique opportunity for coach hire companies. Onboard advertising can bring in additional revenues all year round. But when deployed through onboard WiFi on festival coach hire, operators have a specific audience with specific requirements. Attending a festival, especially one held in a rural area, requires provisions. Camping supplies, food, water, clothing, toilet roll, even electronic extras like power banks. Coach hire companies can gain an additional revenue stream through the sale of these provisions.

Coach hire operators can also gain advertising revenue by providing links to partner businesses. These businesses could be anything from companies with a festival stall to clothing from bands appearing at the event. Of course, these partnerships can take several festival seasons to develop, but they are worth investing in.

Personalisation as an essential travel trend of 2019

Return journeys

It’s fair to say that some passengers may not be in the best of shape for the return journey. That’s why it’s important you specify a pick-up location and time and stick to it. Multiple vehicle pick-ups, set over a staggered schedule, increase your chances of rounding up all passengers for the journey home.

It also helps to consider the mindset of your passengers on their return journey. They’ll likely be tired, elated and, if they’ve been camping, not as clean as they might like to be. Simultaneously, depending on the venue, many may have been without WiFi for days. This offers you another unique opportunity. Passengers can quench their thirst for data with your onboard WiFi, while you as the operator can promote suitable products through the advertising platform.

It’s not all about pushing promotions, however. Little touches like free bottled water or hygienic wipes can be a great way to end the trip with a smile. And happy passengers mean customers that are more likely to book with you again.

To find out more about festival coach hire, get in touch with Sygnal here.

Sygnal partners with Prentice of Haddington

By | Coach hire, News, Press release | No Comments

Sygnal is proud to announce a new partnership with award-winning bus and coach hire operator Prentice of Haddington to provide onboard WiFi to passengers in and around East Lothian. The partnership represents an exciting opportunity for both parties to further enhance the travel experience and create a new level of connectivity across the Prentice fleet.

As a leading developer of transport technology for the bus and coach industry, Sygnal is ideally positioned to provide robust passenger WiFi to one of the foremost coach-hire operators in Scotland. Despite launching less than a year ago, Sygnal has already established a reputation for innovative and cost-effective transport solutions.

Natalie Crayton, Business Development Director for Sygnal, said:

“We are very pleased to partner with Prentice of Haddington. As are a multi-award winning local bus and coach hire company, Prentice has developed a reputation for providing a consistently reliable personal and professional service to a range of clients. The addition of Sygnal WiFi ensures the company can provide passengers with the highest standard of service and increase overall operational efficiency.”

Managing Director of Prentice of Haddington Ross Prentice said:

“We are extremely impressed with our Sygnal WiFi units; they are very powerful and easily support multiple passenger uses and allow us to further enhance our passenger’s onboard experience. Sygnal is very easy to deal with, provide a cost-effective solution for our WiFi needs and through the built-in analytics give us great insight into passenger use.”

Passengers increasingly expect WiFi as standard on their coach service. Likewise, custom services aimed at improving efficiency and reducing costs are fast becoming a fundamental feature on all transport networks. That’s why Sygnal and Prentice are committed to developing a reliable, sustainable service that utilises the latest transport technologies. With this new partnership, Prentice of Haddington has once again exceeded passenger expectations while gaining new opportunities in fleet connectivity and vehicle performance.

Click here to find out more about Sygnal passenger WiFi.

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Retrofitting your public transport

5 ways onboard WiFi increases brand loyalty

By | Coach hire, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Onboard WiFi is a near-ubiquitous amenity for transport networks today. Passengers expect connection as a standard feature on their journey, and companies that are unable or unwilling to provide it could find themselves losing customers to their more tech-savvy competitors.

For coach hire companies considering onboard bus WiFi for the first time – we’ve compiled a shortlist of the biggest benefits of installing bus WiFi on your vehicles.

Happy passengers = Return custom

With onboard WiFi, passengers can pass the time exploring the world from the comfort of your bus. Not only does this increase the likelihood that they’ll book with you again, but it also makes it more likely they will recommend your services to other people. Onboard WiFi is no longer a novelty feature for the executive coach sector – it’s an essential amenity that almost every passenger expects. A failure to meet this expectation could result in negative reviews and even lost sales.

Modern technology = Modern brand image

Like in any business, effective brand identity in transport relies on maintaining a relevant corporate appearance. This means staying up to date on new innovations and ensuring passengers are given access to the latest technology. Of course, customer service, cost and convenience are major deciding factors in which company passengers book with, but it’s essential you don’t overlook the power of new technologies in winning and retaining new customers.

Analytics = Insights

Onboard WiFi is now seen as an essential feature of commercial transport, but it’s also a great way to better understand your passengers’ preferences. With Sygnal’s passenger analytics, you can begin to build up a detailed picture of your customer base and develop or adapt services accordingly. For instance, if you find the highest number of WiFi users is during the morning commute, you can ascertain that demand for service is greater during this period and adjust your WiFi settings, or even deploy additional services during this time.

Optimised efficiency = Increased appeal

It’s not just passenger-facing features that benefit from the presence of onboard bus WiFi. Your coach service can also increase brand loyalty by improving boarding times, reducing delays and optimising journey times. We’ve talked before about how bus WiFi can assist in traffic navigation, but it’s important to remember that these improvements, aside from saving on costs, are ultimately for the benefit of the passenger. Like in any business, the trick isn’t earning your customer’s trust – it’s keeping it. That’s why translating your onboard WiFi into improved operational efficiency is so crucial to maintaining the loyalty of passengers.

Targeted advertising = Unique deals

Data isn’t just a valuable resource for improving operations – it can also be used to personalise promotions to passengers. Sygnal’s bus WiFi comes with dedicated access to the Sygnal portal, where bus and coach operators can upload everything from third-party content to custom ads from local and national business partners. The Sygnal Portal also allows users to tailor ads to specific routes, times and even passengers. These promotions give passengers access to exclusive deals and make the most of their time in a location – be it through ads for local taxi firms, venues or accommodation.

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Increasing accessibility for passengers on transport

A guide to increasing accessibility on your coach service

By | Accessibility, Coach hire, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

The past few years have seen some major improvements in accessibility on transport. The Equality Act guarantees that transport providers will make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers, while a 2017 supreme court judgment pledged to increase rights for wheelchair users on bus travel.

Private coach companies, however, are still lagging behind in providing safe, comfortable travel for everyone. This is a major issue for disabled people, not to mention a negative reflection on the industry as a whole. After all, if travel isn’t open to everyone, passengers will begin to look elsewhere. Thankfully, there’s a glut of new solutions to improve your own company’s standards of accessibility. Read on for some simple but effective tips to increase accessibility on your vehicles and create a more inclusive travel experience for everyone.

Integrating accessible features

Most coach companies rent or buy their coaches, and so have little say in the design features. However, should you be in a position to have some input in the layout onboard your coaches, there are some key features to consider in order to optimise accessibility.

For starters, make sure stop buttons are within reach for everyone. Placing clear, height-appropriate buttons that allow passengers to alert the driver – whether to stop the bus or for assistance – should be a no-brainer, and go hand in hand with support rails/handles that should be included as standard. Secondly, try to dedicate the front few rows on your coach to priority seating. This doesn’t mean the seating has to be entirely off-limits to other passengers. Instead, ensure signs are clearly displayed alerting passengers that they will be asked to move in the event a disabled passenger requires a seat.  

It’s vital to include ample space for at least one wheelchair in the seating layout. Likewise, extendable ramps are essential to enable passengers with mobility issues to board, while in-built wheelchair lifts can be crucial to a safe and efficient boarding process.

Using passenger wifi to improve accessibility on transport

Pre-trip

When taking steps to improve accessibility on your coach service, the first aspect to consider is often the most overlooked. Before passengers begin to use your service, they’ll likely take a look at your website. That’s why it’s vital your website lays out exactly what amenities you have available to assist passengers with disabilities. Remember, clarity is key to avoiding complaints.

Many transport networks now include an option to specify in advance if any passengers have a disability. This way, the transport providers can prepare vehicles and staff in advance to ensure a simple, straightforward boarding process for everyone.

Before sending new drivers out on the road, make sure they know the protocol for boarding passengers with disabilities and mobility issues. Even if you have access for wheelchairs and mobility scooters on your coaches, you must be clear if there are other restrictions for onboard amenities. Are the toilets accessible? Are there adequate safety precautions in place in the event of an evacuation? By being up-front, you can avoid disappointed passengers and maintain brand trust.

Increasing accessibility on your coach service
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Boarding

Buses are the most commonly used type of public transport by Londoners with disabilities; with 91% of learning disabled Londoners stating that they use buses regularly over a 12-month period.

When it comes to boarding your transport, the requirements differ from passenger to passenger. For drivers, it’s important to respect the individual requirements and wishes of each passenger. Some people prefer to be boarded first in order to secure a seat, while others may ask to board after everyone else.

The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) 2002 require bus drivers to provide reasonable assistance to disabled people, including wheelchair users, to board and alight. While these regulations only apply to vehicles regulated under the PSVAR, bus companies from all parts of the industry should consider adopting these practices for vehicles.

There are also a number of initiatives underway to educate drivers and members of the public in how best to assist disabled passengers. Training days, in which recognised accessibility advocates talk your staff through the different forms of assistance to offer passengers, can go a long way to clearing up the confusion.

Using technology to improve accessibility on your coach service

Recognising hidden disabilities

Of course, there are many different forms of disability, some of which aren’t immediately obvious. Some passengers may have hearing aids or be partially sighted. Similarly, passengers with learning disabilities may face problems in navigating timetables and fare information. Others may suffer from muscular issues that don’t require a wheelchair but will still require a ramp and a seat close to the front of the bus.

Initiatives to increase awareness around these ‘hidden disabilities’ have gained momentum in the past decade (including the Blue Badge program in the UK), but coach companies are not necessarily bound to recognise these symbols. Instead, it’s important to ensure your drivers are aware in advance of any requirements. If this isn’t possible, then even a simple instruction to make any requirements known to the driver at the point of boarding can allow everyone to board safely.

Increasing accessibility on your coach service through a badge scheme

In-journey support

Clearly identify the disabled seating locations on your vehicles, with disclaimers explaining that non-disabled passengers may be expected to vacate their seat in the event it is needed by somebody with a disability. Drivers play a key role in ensuring these practices are maintained, so make sure every member of your team is aware of the protocol.  

Additionally, new technologies are stepping in to provide additional support to passengers with hearing and sight difficulties. We’ve talked before about the potential of tech like the vibrating wristband to aid passengers with hearing and visual impairments, but the simplest solution for transport companies could lie in integrating with existing technologies. In California, for instance, researchers developed an app to help blind bus passengers navigate routes to their destination. The app doesn’t even require GPS, needing only a WiFi connection. The app alerts passengers to where to go for a specific service and them alerts them in advance when they’re approaching their stop. Even Google Maps now comes with an option to alert passengers when they are approaching their stop.

Of course, many coach companies may find such integrations costly and unnecessary, particularly if they run a ‘one-stop’ single destination service. That doesn’t mean, however, that, they shouldn’t consider methods to make journey’s easier and more accessible. For instance, the Assist-Mi app allows passengers to request assistance on arrival. Provided coach companies can accurately state where their service will terminate, passengers can schedule assistance to be waiting for them when they arrive. Of course, if the coach company wanted to go the extra mile in their service, they could integrate options for passengers in need of assistance to automatically contact the Assist-mi app. In doing so, passengers could be assured of assistance on arrival and the coach company could further build their reputation as an innovative business that’s accessible to all.

Adding a boarding ramp to increase accessibility on your coach service

Of course, people with disabilities just want the same things as any other passenger – to be treated with respect and dignity and to be assured of the same level of accessibility as everyone else. If your drivers and facilities are capable of ensuring this, your transport network will earn its status as a safe, comfortable and inclusive organisation.

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Creating your own onboard transport technology package

Domestic tourism is on the rise: How can coach tour companies capitalise?

By | Coach hire, Sygnal Bites, Tourism | No Comments

According to recent World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) figures, UK travel and tourism grew at four times the rate of the country’s economy in 2017. Likewise, small businesses catering for holidaymakers saw turnover jump 8.3 per cent in the first half of 2017.

In short, domestic tourism in the UK is on the rise once again. This is good news for the UK economy as a whole, but particularly for the hospitality and transport industries. With more UK citizens looking to their own backyard for travel opportunities, transport networks are in a unique position to capitalise. For coach hire and tour companies, it’s an opportunity that can’t be passed up.

Several factors have contributed to the boost in domestic tourism, including:

  • The drop in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote
  • An increased awareness of the cultural/historically significant UK attractions thanks to TV shows and movies
  • The threat of terrorism
  • A growing backlash against ‘global tourism’ in popular tourist cities
  • A rise in the cost of holidays abroad following the introduction of the ‘tourist tax’
  • Greater investment in local attractions

Of course, these factors are liable to change in time. That’s why coach companies would do well to make use of the opportunities now, or, as the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines.

Retrofitting your public transport

The top UK attractions

Great Britain boasts several popular attractions for local and overseas tourists. Some of the top attractions include:

  • The British Museum
  • The National Gallery
  • The Natural History Museum
  • The Scottish Highlands
  • Northern Ireland
  • London
  • Chester Zoo
  • The Lake District
  • Theme parks, including Drayton Manor, Alton Towers, and Legoland Windsor

Coach companies have an opportunity to take advantage of the boost in domestic tourism, providing they’re willing to make use of the latest technology to streamline the travel process and stand out from the competition.

Domestic tourism trips t the British Museum
Photo courtesy of Ham GNU Free Documentation License 

Domestic tourism in numbers

In 2017, residents took 100.6 million overnight trips in England, totalling 299 million nights away from home and expenditure of £19 billion. Unsurprisingly, the car was the preferred form of transport, with 76% opting to drive themselves for overnight trips and 65% of day trips. In 2017, British residents took 100.6 million overnight trips in England, totalling 299 million nights away from home and expenditure of £19 billion, with an average trip length of 3 nights.

Public transport was used in 20% of overnight trips and 23% of day trips. The majority of these trips were by train – 15% of overnight trips and 10% of day trips, while regular bus services were used in just 8% of day trips and only 2% of overnight trips.

Meanwhile, organised coach tours were used in 2% of overnight trips and 1% of day trips in 2017.

Over half of trips made by public transport are to a large city or town (56%). However, in terms of the region from which the traveller comes, there is little difference for both public transport and car transport to the national profile. Meanwhile, 47.2 million holiday trips were taken in England last year, 6% higher than in 2016.

Of course, these numbers only paint half the picture. They don’t explore what people do whilst they’re holidaying, and, more importantly, how travel companies can take advantage of the staycations new-found popularity.

Public transport vs. ride-sharing in London

Capitalising on domestic tourism

For coach tour companies,  for ways to take advantage of the latest tourism trends? You’re going to need a keen eye for the most popular spots, not to mention some social media savvy to get your marketing out there.

Understanding your passenger

First and foremost, of course, you have to understand your target demographic. Comparing the metrics from your site analytics alongside data from your bookings, allows you to build a detailed understanding of your customer base. These ‘demographic snapshots’ should inform the kind of tours and routes you run.

For instance, travel companies that specialise in providing tours to the 18-30 bracket have found real success in running tours based around popular TV and film themes. ‘Game of Thrones’ tours have become hugely popular in Northern Ireland, while tours of the Scottish Highlands increased significantly following the release of the James Bond film Skyfall, much of which was set around Glencoe and nearby Glen Etive.

Likewise, offering deals on transport for popular festivals can lead to an uptick in the number of young adults using your service. With so many festivals around the UK, there’s no shortage of opportunities for coach hire businesses (just make sure you take a cleaning deposit before letting the revellers at Glastonbury back on your coach).

Train on viaduct Explore Scotland by train

Marketing your services

Of course, in order to entice new passengers, you first have to reach them with your message. As mentioned above, the type of tour you’re looking to run will play a key role in defining the kind of passenger you hope to attract, and the same goes for the channels you use to engage with them.

For youth-oriented trips, social media channels like Twitter and Facebook can be a great way to find new customers. Online ad-platforms like Google Adwords can also play a key role in winning new customers, especially when combined with information garnered from analytics tools. By selecting specific regions and age groups based on the kind of visitors to your site, you can hone in on specific markets and increase your overall uptake.

Knowing when to market specific services is also crucial to optimise your reach. The summer season is one of the best times to push promotions for festival transport services. Look at the kinds of festivals and seasonal events on at different times. Visitors will usually search for transport services a few months in advance of the event, so make sure you have a marketing schedule in place well before the major dates.

For tours aimed at families, traditional media and online promotions are a dependable avenue of new custom. If your promotions can offer discounts for children under a certain age, you stand even more chance of being able to tempt parents away from using their own vehicles.

Using Analytics to increase your domestic tourism marketing range
Image courtesy of Senior Living

Developing transport networks

With more UK tourists opting for a holiday in their own backyard, travel companies have an opportunity to experiment with new technologies in the pursuit of a truly unified travel experience. Coach companies, in particular, can benefit from developing relationships with other forms of transport to streamline journeys.

Multimodal travel, the unification of myriad transport modes under one easy to navigate system. For coach companies, the opportunity lies in linking up with local taxi firms, bike sharing companies and even sightseeing tours to provide additional transport in new cities and towns. In this way, passengers can explore further and utilise end-to-end transport. This approach isn’t just good news for the passenger. The relationships developed between different transport networks can be mutually beneficial for both sides of the business partnership. Local transport firms gain more custom from the passengers you bring in, while your coach tour benefits from providing a turnkey transport service.

Tour bus travelling along Scottish Highland road

Cultivating business partnerships

Just as partnerships with other transport networks can benefit your coach company, partnerships with local venues can play a part in building brand loyalty. Promotional deals on meals, attractions and accommodation add an extra incentive to passengers to book through you while enabling you to further curate the holiday experience. By creating relationships with trusted local businesses, coach companies can develop stronger relationships with their passengers while channelling more revenue into the local economy.

Of course, neither multimodal transport nor partnerships with local venues are limited to domestic tourists. But with tourists travelling from across the UK, this new trend for national holidays represents an opportunity to create a locally centred service that gives tourists a true reflection of the region while boosting the local economy.

Improving the environment

Just as domestic tourism is becoming a hot button in travel, sustainable tourism is finding a new audience. Travelling within the UK ticks many of the sustainable boxes, particularly if the traveller eschews air travel in favour of rail or road transport.

Of course, tourists and travel companies alike should strive to minimise their impact on a location, particularly if it’s a place of natural beauty. Coach tourism is one of the cleanest forms of transport. A coach carrying 50 passengers takes the place of more than 20 cars, freeing up space in car parks and improving travel times.

In order to successfully promote your coach service as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional transport, look at easily integrated technologies that can curb your vehicle’s emissions such as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) units and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF).

Using onboard wifi & GPS to navigate traffic

Domestic tourism represents a major opportunity for every type of transport in the UK. Increased tourism helps the local economy too, with domestic visitors on organised coach tours (day trips and overnight stays) spending £1.4 billion last year. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to reach the new wave of staycationers, you too could reap the benefits of the domestic tourism boom.

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Optimising your coach hire website to increase bookings

Streamlining booking through your coach hire website

By | Booking, Coach hire, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Your coach hire website is often the first port of call for new customers. It’s essential you make a powerful first impression and, above all, make the booking process as simple as possible.

Chartered bus journeys still lag behind other transport modes in terms of booking technology. As a coach hire operator, any improvements you make to the booking process will put you ahead of the competition.

Site layout

When it comes to your website, keeping it attractive and on-brand is a base requirement. You’ve also got to make it as simple to navigate as possible. After all, visitors are there for a reason – to see if you’re the right transport operator for them.

Think about how you engage with similar systems – when do you want information presented to you, and in what format? How many steps does it take for a potential customer to get from first clicking on your site to buy a ticket? Bear in mind that every step in the process increases the risk a visitor will go elsewhere.

Feature your call to action (CTA) buttons clearly throughout the website. If a visitor is in a rush to book, they could click out and look to another operator if they don’t see a link to your booking immediately. Likewise, a progress bar is a good way of breaking down the booking process into manageable steps and keeping visitors on-site.

Above all else – build a site that works for your customer base. This means regularly updating your site according to what works. Check your Google Analytics for bounce rates, click-throughs and conversions. For customers, booking coach transport online often requires complex coordination with multiple parties. The simpler a task you can make it, the more likely they are to book again.

Woman using smartphone airline app to book flights

Payment

Providing intuitive payment is integral to the online bookings process. Visitors to your site want to place payments quickly and securely. Customers should immediately receive a confirmation of purchase email along with all relevant details regarding the trip.

It’s vital you use an established, trusted payment platform for all bookings. The more options for payment you include, the more likely a visitor to your site will book with you. Most transport companies now include an option to pay through a trusted online payment platform like Paypal, alongside options for card payment or using cash on the day.

As with all online payment processes, the most important element is security. Assure visitors their payments are managed through a secure payment platform. The secure approach won’t streamline bookings, but it will increase the likelihood that visitors book with you again.

Mobile

OK, it’s 2018 – you really have no excuse for having a site not optimised for mobile. After all, 85% of travellers use mobile devices to book travel activities, while 66% prefer to use their smartphones, rather than their desktops, for travel research.

When it comes to booking tickets online, however, travellers are often wary of completing transactions through their mobile. Only 30% are made on mobile devices, although this figure is increasing at a rate of 1% per quarter. A key reason for the reticence of visitors to book through mobile is the difficulty in entering details into a mobile device. Transport companies can overcome this through direct booking portals – taking the customer direct to the booking page in one click.

Additionally, a mobile app can have a dramatic impact on sales. While coach bookings are still higher from a mobile browser than an app, figures suggest if the service is used regularly, an app can lead to an uptick in bookings. The popularity of the mobile app for coach hire bookings is down, in large part, to the single-entry format for details. Saving payment and passenger details for future bookings spares visitors the rigmarole of typing out the same information each time.

Using your mobile smartphone device on public transport

Tickets

In 2018, passengers expect you to have some kind of mobile ticketing system in place. If your coach transport doesn’t yet have any kind of mTicketing hardware onboard, implementing an email coding system can work. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that these onboard checks take up valuable time and aren’t 100% reliable.

Likewise, trusting passengers to print their own tickets from an email, featuring either a numerical or QR code, relies on passengers remembering their print-off. As any coach operator will tell you, there are inevitably forgotten or mislaid tickets, leading to delays and unsatisfied customers.

Similarly, it’s important to understand your customer base. If the majority of your trips involve tours for over-65s, a mobile-only ticketing system is more likely to cause issues than tours intended for the 18-30 market.

Personalisation

Personalisation is key to providing a streamlined service in transport. A personalised response not only lets a return visitor know you recognise them, but it can also simplify bookings and give you a better understanding of their behaviour and booking habits. Personalisation software can even go so far as to suggest relevant offers to returning travellers. This allows you to flag-up additional features requested in their last booking and creates more opportunities for up-selling.

Personalisation is all about understanding your customer – which means more than simply as a customer. From where do they usually log-on?? What device do they typically use to browse your site? Discovering the preferences of your visitors allows you to cater your approach and develop a clearer understanding of how to engage with them in future interactions.

Increasing accessibility on your coach service

There are a number of solutions to improve the booking experience on your coach hire website. Every solution comes with its own unique opportunities and challenges. It’s only through studying your passengers, routes and business model that you find the best solutions to streamline the booking process and encourage return custom.

Looking down bus aisle in need of new transport technology

5 technologies to revitalise your coach hire service

By | Coach hire, Feature, Technology, Transport | No Comments

The commercial coach hire industry has weathered its fair share of obstacles in the past 50 years, including increasing costs, fluctuating demand and increasingly stringent safety and security regulations. But as we push further into the 21st century, urban transport is increasingly falling behind the innovations available. Some of these are unaffordable to all but the biggest companies, but there are still plenty of opportunities for independent coach hires to revitalise their fleet and bring their service into the 21st century.

Onboard WiFi is a must

These days, connectivity is seen as a basic human right on par with access to clean running water and free healthcare. It’s no secret that a country’s broadband speeds influences how it’s infrastructure is judged. Most people now don’t leave home without a mobile device, and while most of these devices will have some data to help people connect while on the move, this data is often in short supply, particularly on long journeys.

Providing your passengers with onboard WiFi shows you’re willing to ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure an enjoyable ride and keep them connected. By giving your passengers access to the outside world through their smartphones, you also remove some of the monotony from those long journeys – making it more likely that customer will book with you over a coach operator without an onboard connection.

It’s not just the passengers that benefit from an onboard connection – connected drivers are better placed to communicate with each other and manage pickup and drop-off processes, further streamlining journeys.

Man using his smartphone on a coach hire service

A mobile app

It’s hard to believe that only twenty years ago if you wanted to board pretty much any vehicle you would have to book your tickets in person from a travel agent or travel office. Nowadays, not only can you book online, you can book on the move, directly through a company’s mobile app.

Even if an official app is out of your company’s price range, ensuring your website is optimised for mobile and streamlining the online booking process can significantly increase the number of passengers. In the modern traveller’s world, convenience is second only to comfort.

A mobile app comes with several other benefits, including the direct line it provides to the passenger. An app can provide useful analytics on your passenger’s needs and enable you to better understand where in the sales funnel your company is losing potential passengers.

Of course, a mobile app is only useful if it works. Make sure to shop around for the best app developer for your particular needs. Your app should, above all, make browsing, booking and boarding easier for the customer.

Woman using smartphone airline app to book flights

Transport safety & security

As far as advanced mobility services go, safety and security technologies are often the last to be considered but they’re often the most easily accessible for independent firms. Onboard security features can cover any number of technologies, but CCTV and dashcams are the most commonly cited.

With a Sygnal CCTV system onboard, you can record every boarding and disembarkation and store it for future viewing, adding an additional level of security to drivers and passengers alike. Likewise, the Sygnal dashcam comes with a G-force sensor to store specific video if prompted as a result of increased G-force to prevent crash footage being recorded over.

These features don’t just increase security, they can lead to lower insurance rates, saving your firm money while ensuring total coverage in the event of an accident.

CCTV on bus and coach hire

Green transport features

Of course, the modern coach fleet comes with additional responsibilities – to the public and the environment. The transport sector today makes up around 23% of greenhouse gases internationally, with around 75% of that coming from road vehicles. That’s an awful lot of emissions – but green public procurement (GPP) initiatives have helped push green technologies to the fore – and could net adherents a handy tax break.

With more cities pledging to tax or ban outright diesel automobiles within the next ten years, now’s the time for coach hire services to look at upgrading their fleet. Some companies have even begun integrating photovoltaic solar cells onto their vehicles to power lighting and other onboard elements. They can be a costly investment but energy-saving technologies, particularly those based on harnessing renewable energy resources, can equal substantial savings in the long run.

Other technologies including hydrogen and biofuels should become more affordable, and thus a more viable alternative, in the future. Hybrid coaches are already reaping rewards for those willing to invest the time and money.

Onboard the vehicle, there are a number of features to reduce wastage. Most sectors are moving towards paperless operations, but almost 70% of UK coach hire companies revealed they still use paper ticketing for boarding passengers. Switching to e-ticketing doesn’t just benefit the environment, it provides long-term cost-cutting solutions to the business.

Public transport with green features on a coach hire service

Fleet management technology

With the developments in vehicle tracking, quantitative journey data and traffic flows, transport companies are slowly coming to realise that not every technology has to be prohibitively expensive or invasive.

Even today, ground travel management is too often rooted in traditional means of communication, vehicle monitoring and passenger tracking. The benefits go beyond a reduced corporate footprint – with onboard systems like that found in Sygnal’s standard consoles providing satellite GPS to track entire fleets and optimise travel times.

In fact, fleet management can be as simple as tracking overall usage of vehicles, distances, fuel consumption and passenger intake, all of which can be done through a simple data analysis. Big data is fast becoming an integral asset to transport companies. Its ubiquity as an optimisation tool among the big transport companies shouldn’t put anyone off, however.

Big data can be a simple and affordable means to gain valuable insights into passenger behaviour and vehicle performance. With additional technologies like e-ticketing and mobile apps, this data will only become more accurate as time goes by, for both large and small companies within the coach hire service sector.

Using data to control coach hire service fleet

None of these technologies is a substitute for recognising your passengers as people. The thing is, appealing to your customers as people is a key element of developing and integrating new technologies. By adding new levels of comfort, connectivity and security, coach operators can begin to entice customers away from the rails.

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