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The biggest travel trends of 2019 for the coach tour industry

By | Coach Tour, Feature, Holiday, Travel | No Comments

As we near the end of the decade, travel is shifting to offer a more personalised experience. Fuelled by the rise of social media and a new appreciation for unique cultural experiences, today’s traveller expects to be able to create their own adventure. 2018 was the year for TV tourism (think Game of Thrones tours in Northern Ireland) and eco-tourism. 2019 will see more of the same, but new developments in technology and changes in traveller attitudes will inspire new trends. So what should tour companies expect this year, and, more importantly, how can they deliver the best experience to their customers?

Wellness holidays go mainstream

‘Self-development stays’ have existed in some form for decades, but they’ve become increasingly popular in the past few years. Wellness tourism worldwide was worth £500bn in 2017, and last year grew at more than twice the pace of tourism overall. An emphasis on better emotional self-care, driven in part by the rise in Instagram-inspired wellbeing retreats, has brought the wellness trip into the mainstream.

In January, VisitScotland published its annual review of travel trends. The review noted an increase in demand for holidays centred around improving oneself, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. The UK coach tour industry, then, is well placed to respond to this trend. 2019 is the year to start offering trips that cater to this new client base, whether through curated retreats, ethically-minded hideaways or traditional local events.

Wellness travel becomes the next travel trend

Eco-conscious excursions evolve

Just like the wellness travel trend, 2019 will be a big year for “green getaways” – trips focused on getting back to nature and respecting the environment. Sure, eco-friendly travel has been a hot topic for a few years now, but it’s only in the past year that travel companies have begun to grasp the potential value of them. Not only do they help conserve the environment for future visitors, but a travel company’s eco-credentials can also entice a new generation of environmentally aware travellers.

A recent study by Booking.com found that 86% of global travellers would be willing to spend some time on activities that offset the environmental impact of their stay. That’s why coach tour companies should use 2019 to begin integrating more eco-friendly features on your tours. If you can adapt your vehicles to reduce the environmental impact, do it. Adding tree-planting, wildlife conservation or wild camping to your tour itineraries could open up a whole new world and simultaneously conserve our own planet. What’s not to love?

Travelling on an eco-friendly coach tour is the new travel trend

Authenticity beats package

Just as eco-holidays grew from an increased awareness of the impact of travel on our environment, the demand for authenticity in travel has been fuelled by an increased focus on the impact on local cultures. Travellers in 2019 don’t want to be a spectator, they want to be an active participant, and, just as importantly, they want to learn. In fact, over half (56%) of global travellers claim they learned invaluable life skills while travelling.

This push for authenticity was apparent in the rise in domestic tourism last year. Travellers want to be immersed in a culture, even if it’s the culture of a neighbouring town or city. For coach tour companies, that means pushing activities over sight-seeing. Partner with local businesses to allow travellers to develop new skills based on local knowledge and practices. The more visual the activity (think pottery-making or gin-distilling) the better. After all, behind the push for authenticity is the ever-present desire for social-friendly photo opportunities.

Personalisation is the travel trend

The one-size-fits-all model of holidays will no longer cut it. Travel companies have responded by shifting to curated experiences that deliver hyper-relevant individualised content direct to the customer. Coach tour companies might want to study the following statistics found in the Booking.com study:

  • 34% of travellers now expect travel recommendations for them
  • 41% want travel brands to use technologies such as AI to make travel suggestions based on past travel experience.
  • 52% would be excited about tech travel innovations such as a digital tour guide

New technologies are at the heart of helping travellers create their own adventures. For coach companies, this means identifying a customer’s interests and catering subsequent offers to them. A customer who books a hiking tour in the Scottish Highlands, for instance, would be more receptive to additional offers for hiking gear than someone who’s booked a city break.

Personalisation as an essential travel trend of 2019

Social media is still essential

That means try to get your coach tour company included in the post, either by a direct @ of your company or through a hashtag (for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Of course, you can offer incentives to passengers, such as being entered into a prize draw, if they include your custom hashtag in their posts.

Social media will also continue to be an invaluable marketing tool. The only real difference will be a bigger focus on targeted content. Even the smallest of tour companies now have access to tools that allow them to optimise their message for different audiences. Customer personas and social analytics software allow you to narrow down your branding to laser precision. After all, it’s not just about getting your content in front of as many people as possible; it’s about targeting the right people at the right time.

Smartphone in travel

Micro-trips become more common

2019 will see a rise in the number of travellers looking for short-breaks. And when we say short, we’re talking as little as one to two days. This is in part due to financial constraints – paying for two weeks in the sun is not an option for everyone, after all. But it’s also due in part to travellers opting for a genuine ‘travel’ experience over a ‘holiday’. Travelling to multiple locations requires more planning and is usually more expensive than staying in a single setting. That’s why modern travellers will often opt for several short-stay trips spread across the year.

The popularity of the micro-vacation can also be attributed to the rise in ‘bleisure’ trips, where the traveller combines a business trip with a few days of leisure. It makes sense, after all, to take advantage of time in a new country that you might not otherwise visit. But these ‘bleisure’ trips offer coach tour operators a unique opportunity too. Single day round-trips and even half-day packages could be just the ticket for time-strapped passengers. Be warned, however, as one- day round-trips can entail a significant amount of time on the road, so make sure to stock up on onboard entertainment features.

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To find out more about the top travel trends of 2019, get in touch with Sygnal today.

Man using his smartphone on a coach hire service

Using your bus WiFi abroad: The smart guide

By | Coach operator, Coach Tour, International travel, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

As a coach operator, it’s important to ensure passengers can always access their favourite sites. This often leads to questions from customers about what happens when their vehicles leave the UK. Using onboard WiFi overseas can present its own unique set of challenges, but for every issue, there are a number of solutions.

Thankfully, Sygnal provides rapid, unlimited WiFi anywhere in the EU, at no extra cost to the coach operator or their passengers. For the privacy and security of Sygnal users, all internet traffic is routed through UK servers. This means all data provided by the Sygnal server, even when received through different providers across the EU, will be subject to UK regulations.

Even if your coach is scheduled to cross international borders (for instance, between the Alpine regions of France, Germany, Italy, etc.) there should be no loss of network coverage as the Sygnal Server switches between different network providers. Any disruption would be most likely attributable to the coach passing through an area of poor coverage, rather than to the transition between different countries. If a server does experience any issues, Sygnal servers will maintain a cache of popular sites to ensure accessibility.

Using bus wifi abroad to improve accessibility on transport

Even with international network compatibility, however, it’s important to know the different website restrictions in each country before providing passengers with bus WiFi abroad.

To prevent bandwidth throttling, Sygnal servers restrict access to video streaming sites. These are often the sites where content can be restricted, so any restrictions placed upon video content by specific countries should have minimal impact on the passenger’s browsing experience.

To find out more about using your onboard bus & coach WiFi abroad, click here.

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Using passenger WiFi in your international coach tours

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

If you run a tour company in the UK, you’ve probably grappled with the question of how best to accommodate overseas visitors. It’s a tricky task. Tour guides must be ready to adapt to new situations, answer any question and provide information on a huge range of subjects in a way that’s informative, fun and accessible to all.

Fortunately, there are tools to help the modern tour guide, and one of the most recent additions could also prove to be the most significant. Passenger WiFi is already transforming the travel industry, but its value as a device for adding new dimensions to coach tours has been largely overlooked.

For groups participating in guided tours, Sygnal’s onboard wireless server can provide tour information directly to passengers. Not only this, but any information can be delivered in a passenger’s native language through their personal devices. In this way, every passenger has the opportunity to enjoy the tour without the barrier of language difficulties. Passenger WiFi can add an interactive element to coach tours, allowing passengers to engage with materials through quizzes, polls and other activities.

Group sat on coach using onboard wifi

For coach tour companies in the Scottish Highlands, for instance, providing information on the different distilleries, attractions and historic landmarks become more inclusive when everybody is capable of digesting the information in the language they feel most comfortable with.

Sygnal’s onboard server also makes sharing supporting tour guide materials easier. Returning to the Scottish Highlands example, guides can enhance their tour with short, custom videos sent directly to the passengers’ phones. Will the tour involve a trip to a distillery? Share tour materials on anything from the history of whisky to the distillation process to whet the appetite of your passengers. Conducting a tour of Highland lochs? Provide short videos with language-specific subtitles to give passengers an insight into how the lochs were formed. These extra touches show you’re willing to go the extra mile for your customers, something that won’t be forgotten when it comes to their post-tour review.

Tour bus travelling along Scottish Highland road with passenger WiFi

Of course, the coach tour is all about taking in your surroundings. It’s understandable why tour operators want to avoid technologies that encourage passengers to look at their phones. But passenger WiFi isn’t meant to replace the traditional tour guide. By using passenger WiFi as a supporting tool, coach tour companies can enhance the travel experience and redefine the meaning of true hospitality.

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